Monday, 11 June 2018

Isle of Wight 2018

Day 4

Good evening to you all! 

I can report that the pancakes went down well here at the Tarvic 2 Hotel, as did the Weetabix and unlimited supplies of toast.  Although a few children still appeared tired this morning, the opportunity to breakfast in pyjamas afforded those weary souls some relaxation time, as did the shorter walk that we undertook.

All in all, Day Four was a triumph of Team EB’s determination despite some adversity.  With strong winds forecast and a bleak grey sky looming in the present moment, we opted for a more straightforward walk along the seafront from Shanklin to Sandown.  This meant extended ‘downtime’ in the rooms- an activity which has forged some really strong friendships this week.  With the wind at our backs and the drizzle dying down, we embarked on the walk.  I must say the children are very kind to an aging squirrel, and often carry me along with them so I can really appreciate the view.  And what a view!  The brooding skies, the crashing waves, the bobbing buoys… fantastic!  After a brief ‘elevensies’ of Kinder chocolate (the children are eating some fruit this week but are perhaps not averaging the optimum ‘5 a day’), we tried out the local playground.  This was extremely popular due to its zipline, large climbing structures and skate ramp.  One thing I have learned from my years as a mascot is that Edward Betham pupils are nothing if not imaginative, and today was no exception.  In the absence of skateboards and scooters, the children created their own game, trying to reach the highest levels of the ramps.  As yesterday, the team spirit on show made the teachers very proud, as children drew others into the game until the majority of the year group were playing it, with many pulling other children up so that everyone could succeed.  Well done Edward Betham!

We then returned to the hotel and ate our picnic whilst looking out to sea and observing the clouds clear and a lovely sunny afternoon emerge.  Perfect weather for swimming!

Another problem arose when the coach transporting us to East Dene pulled over to the side and started making some very strange noises.  It had broken down!  Once again, the team were not put off by this, instead climbing aboard another coach with little swimming time lost.  The walk from the coach stop to the secluded East Dene Activity Centre was absolutely gorgeous; we spotted ducks, fish and even terrapins in the woodland-dappled pond.  The views at East Dene did not disappoint and nor did the swimming experience, with games of water-basketball and limitless noodles and other swimming aids on hand.  Those ex-pupils who came on the residential in 2014, 2015 and 2016 will remember the amazing hillside with a vista spreading far out to sea.  It was heavenly.

Following a meandering journey back, we began packing for tomorrow’s return and preparing for the disco.  Dinner was delicious and the votes are in: the week’s most popular meals are (from most to least):

1.       Turkey roast dinner

2.       Barbeque

3.       Pasta bolognaise

4.       Pizza

Then there was no time to spare- the DJ was cranking up the volume and the first children to be ready would be the first to request their favourite tracks.  Once again, I have received an education in popular music from Edward Betham pupils.  Is it Big Jack?  And does he sing (or rather shout, if the children’s versions are anything to go by) Spam’s the Top?  Here on the Isle of Wight, Spam is very popular with our elderly residents, but I had no idea it was so popular with the youth of Greenford!  I am not the only one to learn new things.  I am currently watching the teachers being initiated into the modern ways of dance by the children.  Without the macarena, they seem to be a bit out of their depth!  I hope they don’t see my whiskers shaking with laughter, as it is important to carry on moving as you enter your advanced years.

This year, Monday’s birthday girl provided the disco refreshments, which are going down a storm.  This is quite surprising to me as the children only finished their enormous dinner a short time ago.

With the delighted sounds of children’s singing resonating through Sandown tonight, it is time for me, your faithful mascot, to bid you farewell for another year.  All the teachers agree that this year’s Year 6 are very special and will be missed when they move onto high school.  It has been a wonderful week and we thank the parents back home for allowing us to look after their lovely children.  We know that, despite the many good times, the children have missed you and are really looking forward to that coach pulling up in Oldfield Lane tomorrow afternoon (hopefully not too late this year!)


Day 3

Last night on the pier, Year 6 really enjoyed themselves.  Once again, Edward Betham took control of the end of the pier, where the best rides are.  Actually, a few members of the public did approach our area, and yet having observed (and definitely heard) the children on the dodgems and the helter-skelter, those same people moved away.  Mrs. Curzon, Miss Dodd and Mr. Carney also took a turn on the dodgems; to be honest, it is amazing to me that some of these teachers actually have a driving licence!  The children appeared to be far more adept at mastering the corners and avoiding each other (in most cases).

Today was the best day ever!  The first destination of the day was the Needles and I was very excited as I was going to be a sea-faring squirrel.  It was a steep climb down to the boat and I was impressed by the children’s improved spatial awareness as they politely made room for members for the public on the narrow descent.  The boat was big enough to hold 58 children, six members of staff, two boatmen, one squirrel, one fussed-over dog and a bemused member of the public who was obviously not used to seeing nautical squirrels.  The sea was blue, the sun was yellow and the cliffs were pink, grey, cream and apparently twenty other different colours, according to the tour guide captain.  The boat ride was calm and interesting and we learnt all about the history of the Needles and the lighthouse.  And although he was his usual happy self, myself and the children were concerned that the last thing Mr Davis’ red neck needed was more sun!  The most ingenious idea of the day came from a 6AD Sports Ambassador who put the viewfinders of two disposable cameras together to make a monocular that enabled him to see the rock formations in close-up.

After this intrepid seaquest, we trekked back up the hill to Alum Bay, with only a few children requesting to use the chairlift.  This was refused on the grounds of safety, cost, and lack of parental permission.  Honestly, the teachers are quite fussy at times!  In the gift shop, children demonstrated their generosity in selecting gifts for family members back home.  Expect lots of lovely ornaments including sand sculptures arranged with the famous Isle of Wight sand on the children’s return!

Following a short coach journey, we arrived at Tapnell Farm Park; this was Edward Betham’s first visit to the attraction and we were very impressed.  The newly-built cafĂ© was lovely and we had sole use of it for the afternoon so the children were able to leave bags and water bottles there.  The farm owner, Charlotte, explained about the activities during the afternoon, including animal feeding.  I was slightly concerned that the wallabies might become confused and try to consume me during this session, but I had nothing to fear from these lovely creatures.  The children were delighted with the friendliness and strokability of the wallabies, and all who wanted to feed a wallaby were able to.  The albino wallabies need daily suncream to protect their nose and ears.  Miss Dodd and several children have requested that Miss Chamberlain convert the mini playground into a wallaby enclosure (with a possible donkey, although certainly not Dennis), so if Miss Chamberlain is reading this, please be aware: Miss Dodd is more than happy to be the ‘Wallaby Coordinator’ should another teacher wish to lead the humanities curriculum from now on. 

There were many delightful animals to observe and on occasion cuddle at the farm, with the cutest being the miniscule harvest mice, although the guinea pigs in their bespoke Guinea Pig Village came a close second.  A further thrill was spotting that one of the guinea pigs had the same hairstyle as Donald Trump (apparently)!  I cannot imagine that this was the look President Trump was aiming for, but I know little of politics and do not generally follow the news.

As well as the animals, Tapnell Farm boasted an enormous bouncy pillow and an adventure barn with zipline, go-carts, tunnels and hay bales to clamber over.  Some lovely girls encouraged me to have a go at the climbing wall- unsurprisingly, I was pretty good at this, but I tried not to show the girls up.  I was less confident about the zipline, but again with cuddles and encouragement, I tried and enjoyed it.  The teachers were so pleased to see many different pairings of children on the go-carts; boys, girls, 6AD, 6HB, and generally a range of children who may not have played together previously interacting positively- exactly what the residential is all about!

Another new experience was the Tarvic 2 Hotel Barbeque, as this was not on the agenda last year.  For this reason, the adults were trying to manage children’s expectations; perhaps this would just involve a burger in the hotel restaurant?  So we were thrilled to see an ACTUAL BARBEQUE on the front lawn when we arrived back.  On closer inspection, chairs and tables had also been set out there.  It really was as close to a ‘barbie on the beach’ as we could hope for.  With burgers, sausages, rolls and baps, fried onions, ketchup, mustard, chicken drumsticks and chips on offer at the buffet, it is no wonder that many children chose seconds (as the teachers crossed their fingers that everyone’ stomachs would then withstand the trampolining session at Isle Jump).  When the mini-Magnums came out, fingers were double-crossed.

Yet as I write this, I am happy to report that no children have seen their dinner again at Isle Jump tonight.  They are just too busy having fun with friends old and new.  On that happy note, I will sign off for now and send our best wishes to friends and families back at home from the team and children here on the ‘sunny isle’.

P.S. Apologies to those who are unable to see the photos being uploaded - my paws can't quite get to grips with new technology!

Day 2

Last night, with no trace of sand on the children (Mr. Carney confirmed this was because most of the sand on the island was on the floor of the children's bathrooms and in their shower trays), we enjoyed a lovely reflection reading my blog and the parents' heart-warming comments.  Each teacher praised a child who had really impressed them, with Mrs. Curzon unable to choose between any of the wonderful children in her group!  Generally, all staff agreed that this was the best 'first day' of the Isle of Wight trip ever, with marvellous behaviour and lots of fun.

After a reasonably good night's sleep, we feasted on a breakfast of scrambled eggs or baked beans, cereal and toast with jam.  Most children were fast asleep by midnight, although I did hear some complaints about being hot and hungry from a group of girls at quarter past eleven.  Removing the duvets from their covers and providing some emergency biscuits seemed to resolve that problem!

With packed lunches and water bottles in bags, we boarded the coach to the beautiful town of Ryde.  There, Year 6 split into two groups, and I had a change of scene and accompanied Miss Dodd and Mr Davis' groups for the day.  We visited the donkey sanctuary firstly, and completed our tree-climbing adventure in the afternoon.

As you can see in the photograph, the instructors at Goodleaf were experts at ensuring that all harnesses, helmets and rope ties were secure, and I was very proud to see that every child had a go at tree-climbing, with many scaling the heights of the canopy until the rope ran out!  Some children in particular would make excellent squirrels, should they choose that career in the future.  One such child is yesterday's birthday girl!  Another is a 6HB girl with scouting experience, much like her travel group leader! The lead instructor at Goodleaf praised the Edward Betham children for their manners and enthusiasm.  Whilst groups took their turn at climbing, others played on the beach and in the park.  Teachers were delighted with the caring, team-focused attitude of the pupils, with one child lending his shoes to a child who had the wrong footwear on and countless children making encouraging remarks to spur their peers onwards and most definitely upwards!   Rain threatened to stop the fun at various points during the afternoon, however the grey clouds soon drifted towards the mainland.

Meanwhile, at the donkey sanctuary, the children got to meet some friendly, funny and furry friends, including some old favourites from last year's visit like Dennis.  Mr. Carney was concerned that Dennis would be too well-behaved, as his group were really looking forward to meeting this infamously badly-behaved donkey.  Fortunately, Dennis did not disappoint and almost immediately began barging and braying at his fellow donkeys in order to get to the children and the food, much to the children's delight!  Other popular donkeys were in the donkey 'slimming club' area, as they were on a strict diet to slim down their large (but cute) bellies.  Also, all children groomed the donkeys to help rid them of their winter coats, and led a Shetland pony around a slalom race.  In fact, certain Edward Betham pupils completed this event excellent time, setting a sanctuary record of seventeen seconds!  The ponies did look tired by the end, but they enjoyed a pat from the children as a reward for their efforts.  Again, the donkey sanctuary manager, Derek, praised our pupils both past and present, for their polite conduct and respectful attitude towards the animals, which sadly according to his reports not all schools can boast of.

On return to the hotel, the children enjoyed some downtime in each other's rooms, before eating a full turkey roast dinner and a slab of chocolate cake.  After some time to calm down following a slightly loud, excitable dinner, we are about to head for the pier.  I for one cannot wait to test out those dodgems again, although after that chocolate cake, I might give the teacups a miss.

I hope to catch up with you later,

Sandy x

Day 1
Good evening parents, carers and friends of Year 6!

First of all, let me introduce myself. I am the 2018 mascot for the residential visit to the Isle of Wight. After a short debate, the children have named me Sandy, after the lovely beach resort of Sandown where we are staying.  I am excited to be a female squirrel blogger, possibly the first in the world! I look forward to updating our friends and family at home this week.

I was beginning to wonder, crouched in a teacher's rucksack as I was from early this morning, when will the coach ever arrive to pick us up? Will it arrive? What will everyone say if it doesn't arrive?  I sensed a certain tension amongst the parents and teachers too - and I certainly detected a great sense of relief when the double-decker white coach turned the corner onto Oldfield Lane.

Despite the late start, we made amazing time on the journey down to Southampton. In fact, we had so much time to spare, that our lovely coach driver Dave allowed us a comfort break at the service station in Winchester. I'm pleased to report that the service station was of a better standard and some other ones I have had the misfortune to visit, and even had a Marks & Spencer's food section!  Children who had forgotten to pack a lunch were certainly well provided for.  At this stage, children were told which travel and activity group they would be in, and who was their lead adult.  

From that point onwards, the excitement was palpable.  After another traffic-clear drive, we arrived in Southampton with plenty of time to spare. Some children pointed out the luxury cruise liner The Oriana, asking if that was the vessel in which we would cross the Solent, and yet the same children were not too disappointed upon boarding our ferry, as it was lovely and clean and there was plenty of space for the children to spread their lunches out and dine in style.  Most exciting were our trips to the deck, and with the beautiful warm breeze around us, it was idyllic. 

The gorgeous weather continued once we arrived on the island.  Before very long, we had arrived at the beautiful Robyn Hill Country Park. Although the children spent time together, we did travel around in our travel groups for our afternoon there. The park also provided a good opportunity to break into our £20 pocket money, which the children were very keen to do, as toboggan rides were very popular.  As a red squirrel native to the Isle of Wight, I had never before encountered the wild animals in the African Adventure Playground.  I don't know what I was worried about- wild animals are not at all scary as they barely move! 

The journey to the hotel was hilarious – I heard lots of great jokes and excited whispers about who the children thought they might be sharing a room with!  Once the rooms are announced, the lobby was filled with delighted screams.  Everyone was happy. 

Dinner was delicious! Pizza, potato wedges and choc ices were exactly what was needed, although one child from reading booster was a little disappointed that the 1970s dessert Arctic Roll was off the menu this year, despite Mrs Lawrence promising the group that they would be able to try it.

The hotel manager, who I know from previous years has very high standards, was most impressed by the children's fire drill. There was no need to even repeat it!  Then, with a few wardrobe changes, we hit the beach big-time! Cricket, sandcastle-building, paddling and running races passed the time really wonderfully.  

Mr. Carney has yet to conduct his first room inspection, however an additional category of 'sand' will have to be added.  The children were completely soaking and covered in sand after their evening play on the beach! 

After hot chocolate and a lot of showering, it was time for reflection and bed. I have to say that this year's group seem very cheerful and polite. What a lovely start to the week.