In the day to day business of school and only seeing kids for short bursts of time you don’t always see them as they really are out in the real world – which is probably as well or I might have run for the exit even sooner.
General habits like how to hold cutlery appears to be beyond some people with forks in the most unusual holds, shoelaces tied under the tongue if at all and what some people deems suitable as footwear for trekking around the likes of Pompeii and Vesuvius. It makes you wonder if they are like this at home and their parents just ignore their quirks, or if it’s done for their mates benefit to look “cool”.
Then there’s the downright careless kids who lose wallets and keys or only survive on sugar and chips. I swear there’s a kid living on Haribo and fizzy juice in the group; like an excited zombie they shuffle and skip around in equal measure. One kid has lost their wallet twice, luckily for them we found it on the bus both times but it took another few hours for them to notice it was missing. Some don’t appear to understand crossing a road either with a couple of them being pulled back at the last moment as they don’t look in the road to see what’s coming.
Finally the questions we get are so daft you couldn’t write them. Here are just a couple of my favourites so far:
Having discussed where we were going before setting off and being told in the info booklet a child asked whilst in the middle of Pompeii “Where are we?” Thinking they meant within the town I replied “Pompeii” sarcastically (not like me at all) and they said “Oh? Isn’t that the ruins place” as we stood surrounded by ruins.
Or when given a plate of chicken and chips in Rome a child said afterwards “What was that?” When told they replied, “Really? Like the stuff in mcnuggets?” They had never seen chicken like that before. Or the pork that they thought was steak.
Only one full day left and then another day to travel home. I might even miss the dafties a bit, they have made me laugh.
James Acaster is a great young comedian with a downbeat style but he’s adorable. I saw him a few years back when he was the support for Milton Jones.
He’s playing the Lemon Tree in October this year so grab a ticket while you can.
There are three things that strike you as you walk around Pompeii: the size, the silence and the atmosphere. There are very few places I’ve ever been with those feelings and you don’t know if you come to the place with preconceived ideas and impressions that are matched by your surroundings or whether it’s something the place itself holds. The size is extraordinary.
Before you go you imagine it was a village or small town but it was home to 20,000 people at the time it was destroyed which is the size of Elgin or Penzance today. It is huge and streets lead off in all directions from the main clear roads you walk through seeing far beyond where you are – it could take you days to see all of the area. And that’s when it hits you, why this place is known across the world – not because it was a town frozen and destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius but because of the scale of the damage and death.
Which brings the silence which is deafening at times. There are thousands of people walking around looking at the houses, the public buildings, the shops, the brothel and the civic square but you’re not aware of many of them and the quiet streets and the echoes of the past move round you as you look back in time to the places these people lived and worked. Whereas Rome feels a bit like a theme park, this is such a genuine place, a reality lost in time that you forget about the wider world here. You can see the constant work that is being done to preserve and protect the buildings as well as the care and attention each part of that process gets when you see the wall paintings and the small ornate details that have stood the tests of time.
The atmosphere is added to as you reach the summit of Pompeii’s streets all leading to the town centre where the volcano that paused this town looms over it. In the sheds and displays lie the casts of people, animals and possessions that the workers here have found and saved for us to see. From seeing the buildings to the human reality leaves you slightly empty and people of all ages look and wonder about the thoughts and emotions of those who were caught up in those earthquakes and eruptions. Even the kids we took have a moment of reflection inbetween laughing at the brothel’s pictures and the rows of pots and bowls.
With Vesuvius long overdue to go off again you wonder if this place will survive another attack by mother nature or if we are the last generations to see it like this. When you are standing at the top of the volcano you look down to the houses and towns below and wonder if they would survive a new onslaught and how much warning there will be for the next generation that faces the wrath of molten rock and lava.
Reached Sorrento and it hits me like a mallet that you shouldn’t be here with kids, it should really be with Jill. It’s not homesickness but a stark reminder that we haven’t been away somewhere warm to relax for four years now when we came here for Webby & Kat’s wedding.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day business of life that you don’t get a chance to switch off enough. When it’s the school holidays we do things for the kids which is the right thing to do but as a parent too often you forget that you need to be a little bit selfish too. Sitting by a pool with a pile of books, a cold drink and a warm welcoming sun as well as the promise of an uninterrupted hearty meal in the evening with wine and cocktails is something I really miss.
I love having the kids and enjoy my time with them but it is not the same thing to go away with them as you have to work to their needs and not please yourself. That’s something that no one really tells you enough when you have a family that the balance between yourself and your partner on one hand and the family unit is a never ending battle between doing the right thing by the kids and feeling guilty for leaving them behind while you go away. My cousin Donna always says that you need to remember that you were there first and you need to have time to yourselves but it’s not as easy as you hope it will be.
We’re lucky we have the support from both sets of parents, but you have to weigh up the babysitting tokens with them having their own lives and you taking responsibility for your own family. We’ve been very lucky that we have gone down to the Edinburgh fringe for the last few years for 4/5 days at a time which is one of my favourite times of the year – but it’s far from relaxing and this year we can’t justify going and not having the money to take the kids away as well.
Because this is the last time I’ll get away on a school trip we’ll have to make plans to get away as both a couple and a family next year, even if it is only for a weekend on a city break for the two of us. While it’s not a holiday it is a chance to get away for a few days from the routine and that’s a bonus to the job. Life’s too short to be sitting at a desk or dropping into the sofa at the end of a long day instead of getting out there and living your life.
One for the surrealists today – Mr Tony Law
One of the most bizarre comedians I’ve seen because you spend the whole gig laughing but you don’t always know why. His flights of fancy are unusual but he carries you with him. I saw him at the Lemon Tree earlier this year.
I love water parks! And being a big lad I do risk the chance of Greenpeace trying to save me by pushing me back in the water on occasions – but it’s worth it to go down the slides and chutes, to float round the lazy rivers and battle the wave pools. Thankfully Jill is like me ad is a water baby and loves these places too. I really can’t wait until the kids are old enough for us to take them to Florida and whizz round Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon in Disney.
As always the Americans know how to do things properly and the two aforementioned water parks are so vast and amazing that you can happily spend a whole day in them. And the real joy of a waterpark for me is that it allows you to be a big kid again in the play park. As an adult we don’t get that many opportunities to run around and go on silly rides and scream our heads off but these places give you license to not act your age for a day. I’m not a huge fan of indoor water chutes as they don’t tend to have the same atmosphere – then again it’s maybe because I associate the parks with holidays, sun and warmth.
One of my favourite parks is Waterworld in Ayia Napa, Cyprus. It’s a water park done with a Greek Mythology theme and some of the best rides I’ve ever been on. The Aeolos Whirlpool is the one where you come out of the tube into a giant bowl that you whizz round and round until you lose momentum and fall through the hole in the bottom into a plunge pool – a real one for adrenaline junkies. Fall of Icarus and Zephyr’s Breeze are also fantastic if you are ever across in Cyprus.
Last time we took a gang of kids to a water park in Italy we had a whale of a time and it’s a great opportunity to have a laugh with them, racing down the slides against each other and groups jumping into the giant rings to go down the open top chutes. Today we’re heading to Valle Dell’orso and I can’t wait!
You forget just how different it is travelling with a school party as opposed to as a family. It seems obvious really but the logistics of moving 54 people around one of the busiest capital cities in the world is a lot tougher than you remember!
With your own family it’s easy to just make a decision and move or go where you want to. Also you can plan a really busy day of things to do and get through them – today we went to the Vatican and Spanish Steps in the morning and then the Colosseum in the afternoon but we’d planned to more but it’s just not possible to move that many people as quickly as you think.
We were the same last year when we did Paris and had great ideas about squeezing in as much as possible to make the most of your time but the practicalities don’t match your plans! Tonight we head to Hard Rock Cafe for a feed – that’ll keep the kids happy – and then we’ll go down to the Trevino Fountain and the Piazza de Navona which has some beautiful sculptures and fountains too.
Tomorrow we move on to Sorrento via a water park in Naples which I’m really looking forward to. Kids have been brilliant so far, not too much moaning yet but there’s still time!