Year 8 Trip to France

All photos will be put on to a disc for everyone and there are more photos!


Off the boat now and just about to swap drivers for the last leg back to Copthorne! ETA is 9.15am, as we got an earlier ferry! Don is looking forward to handing his crew back!

Just arriving in Calais, smooth journey but little sleep as usual from the adults – children always sleep like babies! We have got the earlier ferry so we will be back an hour earlier. I will send a clarion when we are certain of our ETA.

Day 6

We have enjoyed our last supper, loaded the coach, said our goodbyes and departed La Rive in glorious sunshine! The last supper was a jacket potato with cheese, beans, chilli, salad, coleslaw, ham, burger, bread, and fruit. Selected Children all dosed up with travel sick pills.

The nuns on our coach are missing their Mother Superior, as she had to fly home for a family emergency!
Mrs Don already asleep! ABM sitting behind her so I hope he has got his quiet voice on! Only 12 hours to go till Dover!

All returned from cycling happy but sad that it is almost over! Cycles returned, helmets returned and now it is time to pack and tidy up! It is at these times that you see the children who are independent and can organise themselves, and those who seem to rely on mummy or daddy doing it! Eventually, almost without me getting my angry voice out, we packed, sorted out unnamed kit, cleared out mountains of sweet wrappers and sand dunes almost as big as the dune!!!!! We are just waiting for tents to be inspected! Our children seem a little better organised than the other group and we have packed and tidied in half the time.  Miss Trunchball has definitely got her angry voice out!!

The sun is still out and somehow we have managed to secure the outdoor eating area. Another moral victory over Miss Trunchball from the other school. A little sunshine makes everything seem better – short shorts, T shirts and sun glasses all make an appearance for our last session of Mountain biking. The bank opened so everyone had money to buy an ice cream or two! Children laughing and joking as they cycle off into the sun! Oh happy days! And Don sitting in the sun reading the final chapter in his book.

The sun has come out!!!!!

It rained all night. No thunder and lightening just lots and lots of rain and it is still raining as I type! The sky is grey/black and we may not see sunshine again until we are back in Blighty! Fortunately, tents are not flooded yet! Don’s trench, dug last night to protect Mrs Don’s valuables seemed to have worked!

Day 5

Evening events was the Rockley Challenge! Teams of 7 had to tunnel in the sand under a kayak and get the whole team through the whole followed by a series of relays, forward rolls, commando crawls etc. Charlotte claims it is the first time she has ever done a forward roll on flat ground (what do the teach them in PE lessons?) The challenge usually involves a swim, but as it was so wet anyway they skipped this part. Copthorne children showed there true competitive spirit and pluck and all threw themselves into the tasks only cheating a little!!! Back to camp to shower to get all the sand off, search for the last few dry clothes, brush teeth and climb wearily into sleeping bags ready to drift off to the wet land of nod! The rhythmic patter of rain on the tents sends everyone off to sleep quickly! Noisy neighbours seem ready for a long session! Mr Gibson has been invited to join the staff for a drink! Pass the cocoa Mrs Don, and I am tucked up reading a riveting chapter

Having to dig trenches … we are flooding!!IMG_5800 IMG_6773

Just like “Billy”s Boots” ABM swapped caps with Don and he turned into Crawley gangster talking like Aiden! The food was sic, Toby had “peak times” as Emma’s lid fell on the floor, he tried rapping, wore his cap back to front M&m style and generally tried to flick his fingers gangsta style! Fortunately, the camera was safely hidden at this point!!!!!! It is still raining so we are eating in shifts. Nacho’s with cheese, sour cream, guacamole and tomatoes as a starter. Children did not like the guacamole  but the staff did. Chicken fajitas to follow with chilli and rice on the side!! So much rain that Mr & Mrs Don were forced to open a bottle of red to drown their wet sorrows!

Afternoon session on the darts was a lot if fun according to the children. They played “commander says” (like Simon Says) and the girls are all walking around singing little ditties from the game. They taught the instructors the wang- a-Lang!!!! Mr Gibson made Zilly cry by flicking a bug on her, not realising that she has a real fear of bugs! She is OK after he apologised profusely and offered to buy her chocolate! Lily managed to get back on the boat but thinks they should have steps to make it easier! The little finches have been seen going into the tents looking for food and according to Toby, one poohed on Robbie’s towel. This is a sign of good luck, so Robbie should buy a lottery ticket! It is still raining and has been all afternoon! Storm warnings are still in place and the children have been told to lift everything off the floor as if it rains all night the tents may flood!!!!!!! Annie’s hair salon is open again with queues of girls waiting for French plats, Dutch plats, 2 – 18 strand plats, fish tales, 3 strand fish tales, braids, buns, waterfall braids and swirls! Take you pick and all for free! Interesting facts of the day – EMD’s grandma shares the same name as Mr Gibson’s gran and they are the same age!!!

Cold children returned to hot chocolate. The sun made a brief appearance to warm everyone up and then it was time to put wet wetsuits back on    and go back out on the water. It has started to rain again! Don has not finished his chapter on “leading by example” so has remained on terra firma with Mrs Don.

Children and Mr Gibson all cheerfully walking off to the beach in the pouring rain – oh for the enthusiasm of youth! Mrs Don cuddling her kindle under cover whilst Don is about to “lead by example”! The intrepid Don has decided to abandon ship this morning just like the real DC! The prospect of Dart sailing in little wind and lots of rain has lost a little of its charm – and the next chapter of my book on Headmastering is about “leading by example”!

Just had a real unexpected surprise! The coach driver with the other school (who got up close and personal with Don last night when he was brushing the sand off my legs before we got onto his new bus) has just appeared with a bacon and egg baguette. Mrs Don thinks she has died and gone to heaven! Perfect!!!

Head chef is called “Dude”. Don quite likes that name. Perhaps he should change his title to Head Dude!! Aiden’s up! Never looked better!! We have just shared the under cover eating area with our noisy neighbours staff but their children all got wet! Raining hard now and Don is not sure that a day sail is on! Storms still forecast and even Don knows that being on the water with a tall metal mast in a lightening storm is not a good idea!!

Mr Gibson is complaining that he has still got sand everywhere!!! Our noisy neighbours were up boozing until nearly 2.00pm. Mr & Mrs Don safely tucked up in bed with cocoa by 11.00 but Mrs Don had the last laugh this morning as her hairdryer wakes up the noisy neighbours! Dart sailing again today. Don needs to find a new crew who don’t quiz each other on TV shows all day and know a sheet from a rope, a mainsail from a gib, and the bow from the stern. Could be difficult!!!!

Raining again! The thunderstorm forecast for last night never materialised and we enjoyed a super and dry evening on the dune! ABM broke the record for the number of ascents by a child. It was held at 13 by Ben K from last year, but Aiden increased this to 14 and he forward rolled down at least 4 times. Hopefully he will be a bit quieter today!!!! The sunset that we thought we would not get to see was stunning and there was a quite special moment when all the girls ran down together holding hands for the last time! The coach drivers brushed the sand off everyone before we got back on the 8 week old, double decker coach, that seats 86 and cost over £410,000. We returned to camp at about 10.30 and as all the other children were already in bed we proved that we could all be quiet and brushed teeth and got into bed quickly.

Day 4

Not enough wind to windsurf so children went paddle boarding instead! Standing up proved difficult for some and then it started raining! Full marks for perseverance with Copthorne girls being “toughies not fluffies!” Storm forecast for tonight which looks surprising as the sun has emerged again! Just returned from the camp shop and everyone spent wisely!!!!!!! Supper soon then a trip to the Dune de Plya – the largest sand dune in Europe. Usually we get to see a beautiful sunset but not sure about tonight – we may get wet instead! I cannot see the record of 12 ascents being beaten tonight!

Sitting reading my “headmastering book” (the chapter on aspirational assemblies) at least 200 metres from the beach and I can still hear ABM!!!! Mrs Jones is fascinated by the birds who feed off the crumbs left by the children after lunch! Mummy and Daddy birds hopping on the tables picking up crumbs and then feeding their fledgelings. However one particular fledgeling is very capable of feeding him/herself!

Short wait until lunch – time for sweets! Rain has stopped and the sun is trying hard to shine. Lunch over and children are now having a water fight! Investigations over lunch indicates that Mr Gibson had an over the handlebars moment following an altercation with Toby!! Just now being called for windsurfing – sun still just about winning although there are dark clouds on the horizon! Not a metaphor, there really are dark clouds on the horizon! Nabil was the only one dry until Hannah soaked him with her water bottle. Mrs Don has taken off three layers and returned with crisps. Hoards of children suddenly appeared. Children with wetsuits encouraged to put them on as those dark clouds are not far away!

Tour de France safely returned all intact – EMD cycling into a fence was the only major incident of note- apart from the three ice creams that some children ate!

Morning campers! It started raining at about 5.00 am and it is still raining now! Not cold but wet! Breakfast could be interesting as they have covered seating for about 35, and the rest of the tables are outside. Copthorne graciously conceded the outdoor tables to the other group (we are outnumbered) on day 1 when the sun was shining, so we should have the last laugh today now it is raining! Watch this space for an update! Harriet and Natalie are complaining that Charlotte has given them her cold – Charlotte now feeling much better and Harri now sounds like a Harry with a croaky voice. Toby complaining that the rain kept him awake! Zilly eating her choco balls breakfast cereal until someone suggested they look like rabbit droppings!! IMG_6934

Mountain biking this morning could be a little soggy. Andre wearing his pink shorts with his red hoodie – a real colour clash!! Nabil just appeared still in pj bottoms! We have successfully managed to secure the indoor eating area for Copthorne. A moral victory!!  Hannah and EMD still talking about “Pretty Little Liars”.Will and Karina are the odd ones out not wearing their red hoodies. Boys in the noisy tent ( told off by the night watchman at 11.36 and Mrs Don at 11.45) just beginning to appear led by Dylan who looks fine. Yonis seems on good form. Only Robert and Dan still to appear!! IMG_2476The last two for breakfast!

Just managed to get onto the school website and read the parent’s comments. Headmaster’s Commendation to the one who thinks Mr Jones looks like Colin Firth!! My first teaching job was in Teignmouth in 1981, I was Captain of Teignmouth rugby Club and most importantly, Mrs Jones and I met and got married in Teignmouth in 1990.

Day 3 

Children slowly getting into tents. Some have even brushed their teeth! The other group probably will not return for another half an hour, and then it will be 51 children and 7 staff noisy. Ho hum. Headphones on!!!

Children all on the beach playing games. Don has showered and feels quite human again. The other school has gone out to the dune so the site is very quiet- just how Mrs Don likes it! A little inter group interaction just beginning with the boys. Our girls are very self contained and seem more mature than them. Midges out in force gorging on my legs, they seem to prefer my blood to Mrs Don’s!! Weather forecast for tomorrow is not so good with rain forecast from 12 noon! We may get a dry mountain bike session in the morning but will definitely have a wet windsurf after lunch.

Supper time – We have just returned from the camp site pool and are waiting for the “French Affair” where the chef serves frogs legs, i’escargot and mussels for the children to try followed by beef bourginon! …. Robert on his 10th snail but Karina has eaten more! Aiden is looking for more snails to eat, Robbie tucking into the frogs legs with gusto! Lily has not eaten anything! Both Liliana and Harriet tried a mussel but just the one! Zilly is a vegetarian so claims she can’t try anything!

Dart sailing this morning was pretty dull not because I was sharing with Jemma and Natalie who certainly talked a lot, but because there was no wind (lots of hot air on our boat) but no wind! The afternoon was totally different. Don was with Elizabeth and Hannah (even more hot air) but the wind was blowing strongly and the sailing was fantastic!!!!!! Lots of very accomplished sailors by the end of the afternoon. Hannah and Elizabeth spent all afternoon talking about a TV programme (Pretty Little Liars) that I had never heard of – but can now list all the characters and the plots from all 5 series!!!!

0630 – Don is awake and still trying to sort out the difficulties with technology, just like the real DC. We can connect to the wifi but cannot seem to download any of the 250 photos we have taken so far. Big brains are working on it and we hope to solve this technical hitch soon. All the children are still sleeping soundly. Darts today, that usually means several pints, a bit of mental maths, and throwing little arrows at a board – sounds like fun!
Correction! Wrong sort of darts! These are catamaran yachts that sail very quickly if there is any wind. Crews of 4. We are out all day and will sail across the lake for lunch! Looks like it is going to be another b-e-a-utifal day here in paradise. Noisy neighbours from Bury St Edmunds kept Mrs Don awake until after 12.30 am last night!  Plotting her revenge!!!!

Day 2

Head Girl has just been demoted for jumping on an egg and splatting the HM’s leg with yolk. She claims it was an accident but I’m not sure!!!! At least the yolk was on me! Children in teams of 5/6 scored points for team name;  best joke ( I couldn’t understand why the frisbee was getting bigger until it hit me); best chat up line (hey, can I take a photo of you to prove to my friends that angels do exist)! All in tents getting ready for bed now!

Paper aeroplane that went the furthest; push up challenge (won by Robbie);  best dance move (Robbie again with the worm); weird and wonderful talent (won by Andre with his Rubik’s cube completed in less than 15 seconds)! Teams then bid the points they earned to buy stuff to protect the egg when it was dropped from a height. Team winners were Toby, Dylan, Nabil, Charlotte and Zilly!

Still no wifi yet so cannot upload photos! Travesty is we have run out of beer We have ordered some but it has not arrived yet!! Sacre bleu!! Panic over!! Beer has arrived but needs time to cool. We have taken the children to the pool/slide complex in the campsite and they are loving it! This photo just in! IMG_8243

Mr & Mrs Don have returned from the hilarity of watching the children fall off the windsurfers. Notable exceptions were Yonis who has clearly done it before and was clearly the best. Will was good, Dylan, Zilly, and Aiden all got up and got going.

Children all sorted out in kayaks and following some warm up games on the beach that involved wearing a buoyancy aid like a nappy and spinning around a saddle 10 times. Hilarious! In kayaks now and paddling in all directions except where they should be going. Lots of laughter. Mr &  Mrs Don have opted out and are back at camp sorting out some paperwork! A romantic novel on Mrs Don’s case and a book on “how to be a Headmaster” in my case! Don can paddle, (around the Isle of Wight when he was younger), so nothing to prove!!! Back to my book and the chapter on “dealing with difficult parents”. should be an interesting read !!!

Children still in tents, having slept very well following last night’s Initiative Exercises – more running around on the beach solving challenges. Staff from both schools had a cheese and wine social last night to get to know each other. We are not used to sharing the site with anyone else. There are 51 children, all year 8, from a Middle School in Bury St Edmunds. Don slept well despite the mystery of his missing pillow  – safely found now at breakfast time, but hopefully the crick in his neck will disappear before tonight. Kayaking this morning and windsurfing in the afternoon. Blue sky’s again, ready for breakfast. I will sort out the wireless network today so can start downloading photos!

Day 1

What a fantastic afternoon!

Beautiful sunshine and lots of wind. Robbie now knows why it is called a boom – he has a large bump as he did not move quickly enough! Even Don capsized in the strong wind when he could not manoeuvre his svelte frame across the Pico boat quickly enough!! Children tacking easily but jibing in this wind caused havoc – just ask Robbie! Will F has obviously sailed before, and knew that ropes were sheets, and the technical names of all the bits! He handled his boat well too! Some girls laughing so much they fell overboard. One member of staff looks like a young Dr Drew, Welsh with a beard. Sneaky photo to follow! Even Elizabeth agrees! Children showering, sorting out tents, before supper of spaghetti bolognaise and garlic bread. Mr & Mrs Don have found a complimentary cheeky beer before supper!! Tough job this!!!! The other school are from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. They have already been to hospital with a year 8 girl who fell off her  mountain bike. Suspected broken arm, but all is well.

Lunchtime on day 1

We have sailed Pico’s all morning, although that is not really correct as there was not much sailing going on as there was no wind! The weather is glorious and children were literally throwing themselves off the boats to cool down. Lunch was a buffet with salami, ham, cheese, tuna mayo, egg mayo, pasta, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, beetroot, bread and fruit! Wind has picked up this afternoon so hopefully the boats will move!! Don off to apply sun cream!

Arrived safely!

Tired, stiff, hungry but the sun is shining! Need a cup of tea!!!!

Midnight on the Coach!

Midnight French time. We stopped 15 minutes ago for a toilet break, everyone got off! 10 minutes after we drove off one Copthorne boy wanted the loo!!!! “Didn’t you go when we stopped?” “No” … Not very clever for a scholar! We watched “A Knight’s Tale”. All quiet now as we try to sleep. All electronic gadgets turned off. All comfortable except me! Roll on breakfast!!

Almost in France!

Children all suitably stocked up with sugar and E numbers ready for a quiet drive through the French motorway network! Don can’t decide which DVD to put on when we get back on the coach. Quantum of Solace for the boys (10 of them) or a chick flick for the girls (35 of them,  11 from Copthorne and 24 from the Convent). I think the boys will lose out!! France on the horizon!! Over and out !!

The Ferry!

On the ferry which is very busy – full of English Prep School schoolchildren on their way to water sports venues, and French teenagers returning from England! The boys seem to prefer chocolate in all sizes (extra large) and varieties. The girls have gone for skinny frappachino’s from Starbucks! Mr & Mrs Donald enjoyed a cheddar ploughman’s sandwich, a muffin and a cafe latte.


Everyone arrived on time, passports collected, EHIC cards collected, pocket money handed in. Emergency dash home to collect red hoodie but no panic – plenty of time to spare! All luggage loaded- quick toilet trip, photo. Final hugs and kisses with parents and we are finally off! A few seating manoeuvres so that every one is happy. Seat belt checks revealed that all secure but already tucking onto huge bags of tuck! Sick bags at the ready and we are not even out of Copthorne yet! The trainee nuns from the convent school are watching “Happy Feet”! Now we are underway I am a “Happy Head”! Only 16 hours to go – yippee!!!! Your happy sailing correspondent Donald!


All packed, Andy Murray is out of the French Open, and it is time for your intrepid sailing correspondent to start his blogs. Those skiers amongst you will recall the exploits of Franz (Klammer), but for the sailing experience I need a new identity. I could be Chris ( Columbus), or Francis (Chichester), Thor (Heyerdahl); Ferdinand (Magellan); James (Cook) or even a more modern Ben (Ainslie), but I have chosen the less well known but notorious Donald Crowhust ( a Headmaster’s Commendation to the parent of child who can identify the connection!) So Donald is officially excited and almost looking forward to 15 hours on a coach with a group of equally excited Copthorne teenagers sitting alongside the trainee nuns from the girls convent school we share the coach with. The weather forecast in France is a little mixed. Sunshine, cloud and a bit of rain, but roll of 3.00pm when we gather ready to depart. More later


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21 thoughts on “Year 8 Trip to France

  1. Is Mr Jones’ connection to Don that he’s from Teignmouth????!!!!! Great blog – keep it coming!

  2. Good to hear Robbie mentioned in despatches as usual 🙂 Perhaps now that he has had a bump on the head he will have an excuse for losing something!

  3. As the parent of an old Copthorne girl we still enjoy reading about the school. I know I wouldn’t be eligible for the Headmasters Commendation, but I still had to google Donald Crowhurst! What a fascinating life story. If Colin Firth is chosen to play Donald in a film , as suggested, it will be a great movie! Hope Year 8’s have a fab week.

  4. Ahh sitting here in my office with a view on to an attractive corrugated iron wall, soooo envious, sounds like they are having a ball, thanks so much for taking them.

  5. Pleased that Will has remembered something that I taught him about sailing! I think that the Don connection is that Mr Jones’ circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight was undertaken from the safely of a pub in Cowes whilst only pretending to paddle his way round! Great blog. Keep it coming.

  6. PS would Crowhurst’s ‘Complex and conflicted psychological state’ , as recorded in the logs discovered after his mysterious disappearance reflect our ‘Don’s’ feelings on getting off the coach………..just a thought…..

  7. Is Don wishing he were the amatuer sailor or Colin Firth?! Love reading the daily blog and wishing to be spending a week doing water sports instead of insurance! 🙂

  8. Don’s blog living up to all expectations established by our ski correspondent Franz, expecting many more laughs to come please. Luckily kids are on a lake so at least losing one or two on the water is not an option!

  9. If circumnavigation of the IoW is the thread perhaps a less notorious maritime Donald is apt !!
    Apart from his ‘later in life’ IoW exploits Donald Napier Buller RN DSC survived the sinking of his MTB off Holland by the Germans to be taken prisoner
    He duly escaped from the Prison camp
    Legend has it he then took an MTB/Frigate to occupied Noway to bring back the first Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square !!!
    Much enjoying the blog – sounds like the beers are much needed at the end of the day !
    Parents of the crazy cuber !!

  10. Perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket now (there’s always a first for everything) in case there’s such a thing as luck by association. Or maybe Robbie’s luck is that he hasn’t lost anything yet (yet!)

  11. So “Mr Gibson made Zilly cry by flicking a bug on her, not realising that she has a real fear of bugs! She is OK after he apologised profusely and offered to buy her chocolate! ”

    Interesting as she has never shown the least fear of bugs before and has a tendency to cry for chocolate.

    Ever get the feeling you’ve been had?

  12. Hooray…the sun is out! Sounds as if all have had a fantastic week despite inclement weather. I suspect that Mrs Don will be desperate to go camping again this Summer, preferably in a 5* Hotel with a Spa and swim up Bar! Safe travels home and thanks for the entertaining Blog. Evie

  13. What happened to the photographer or the camera? Was it buried in sand a la dune du Pyla or carried away with the floods? Thanks to the Dons for looking after Year 8 and all a safe journey home!

  14. Thank you! Seen those already! Secretly hoping still for one of those legendary, magnificent sunset group impressions – but suppose the photographer was rightly preparing the drenches or securing Mrs Don’s valuables.

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