Day 1: 22nd July-Departure

I arrive in school by 8.00am with time to sort out the kit bags. We have 11 different ones. Mr Thomas organises his Btec group to help carry the bags down to Park Road. His and their help is much appreciated.
Everyone is in Park Road on time and we start to load the bus at 9.45. All seems on target until the first problem occurs. We can’t fit all the luggage on the coach – we tried to load it in the aisles, but that is clearly unsafe. So after the driver phones the depot they are to send a van for the extra cases. After some Henry Kissinger style negotiations, and with help from a number of parents, we load the van, say a teary goodbye and are en route by 10.30 am.
My Walters has caused the first stir by turning up wearing his green top “it goes better with my brown trousers” he said. I thought “I hope the brown trousers go well with the Donkey of the day shirt”.
Our first scheduled stop is always the services and so it proves today. However, it’s not Membury as initially planned but Penllergaer. Mr Lewis has had a phone call from his wife, his credit card has arrived in the post – talk about cutting it fine! His wife drops it off at the services. This gives me the opportunity to get out of the luggage van and join the rest of the group on the bus.
On the bus the students seem in good spirits and excited at the prospects for the next few weeks. Word has obviously circulated that it’s my birthday – yes 57 today, and many wish me a happy birthday. There’s a real sparkle in Brittany Jenkins’ eyes as she says it, you can tell she is excited about what lies ahead.
There are no rubbish bags available on the bus, but Rob James and Kira Button both impress me with their sense of community “do you want me to buy some bin bags in the services, Sir?” Rob says “no thanks Rob, the driver will sort it out for us, but that’s a great thought”. Kira searches her bag and finds a ‘bag for life’ that we can use until we get to Membury-Well done Kira.
We make good time and are at the bridge by 11.55am. we’re in England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ by midday-a heat haze over the Bristol Channel means that it doesn’t look that ‘green and pleasant’ at the moment.
The driver tells me that we have about 2 hours travelling time to Heathrow, so we are in good time despite our delayed departure and will have plenty of time for our stop at Membury.
We arrive at Membury at 12.15 and with plenty of time in hand have a 55 minute stop. We tell the students to be back by 13.45 and if they are late they will be ‘named and shamed’ in the diary.
The staff enjoy a light lunch in Starbucks while the students go upstairs to Burger King and KFC – so much for Mr Lewis’ healthy eating programme.
At 13.45, all are present and correct. Only one late arrival – Paul the bus driver. Before we set off the students give me a thank you present for organising the tour. It is a British Lions top embroidered with my name. I am really ‘chuffed’. Perhaps they think they can soften up ‘old grumpy’. Don’t worry Mums and Dads, it won’t work. Seriously, it is a really nice gesture and says a lot about the group, and that’s added to when bus driver Paul tells me “I can only say as I find, but they seem a real sensible group”.
We set off with about an hours travelling time to Heathrow our ETA there is 15.00. On the bus, Molly Kabia and Jayde Anderson make sure they look their best. Jayde sticks a new set of fingernails on “I’ve got more if they break when playing hockey Sir” she tells me. Molly applies her mascara, but as the bus jolts, Mr Walters is thrown against her arm and she has mascara right across her cheek.
Jack Cambriani causes some consternation amongst his mates when he asks “how long is it until we get to Gatwick?” – luckily the driver knows where we are going and we arrive at Heathrow in good time at 15.00.

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