So my daughter has gone to Paris. Actually that’s a lie. She’s gone to EuroDisney, near Paris, for a trip that her school has cunningly sold to the cheque-writing parents as ‘an educational Design and Technology visit to study theme park design’.
U-huh. And my 5th form ski trip was to study chair-lift design. Honest.
Aaaanyway, it’s her first school trip abroad and to avoid being labelled Meanist Bastard Parents In The World, Like, EVER we decided to cough up the money and lie to ourselves that she’d probably pick up some essential French while she was there too.
Like , Minnie Souris. And Donald Canard. And le popcorn.
There was, shall we say, some excitement leading up to departure day. This excitement started in October 2009, way back when the trip was first announced and we all still thought England could play football (ouch), and has grown steadily in the nine months since to reach a level of pre-teen hysteria of such magnitude it produced ground tremors measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale.
It’s fair to say she was looking forward to studying theme park design quite a lot.
The night before she left I thought I probably ought to check what she’d packed in her Volkswagen Beetle-sized suitcase, for the 3-day life-changing expedition on a coach and Le Shuttle.
It proved to be a good move:
“Darling, can I have a quick check in your suitcase please?”
“No! Why? Why? No.”
“Just to CHECK. It’s important that you have everything you need.”
“Oh God.” Sigh. “O-KAY. If you MUST.” Sigh. “But I’ve done it all already, Mum. It’s FINE.”
“Good. I’m sure it is. Now then…what’s this? Aha, a woolly hat. Because…?”
“Because you said to take a hat.”
“Yes, but it’s going to be 32 degrees in Paris. I was thinking more….sun hat?”
“But this is a NICE hat!”
“Yes, it is a nice hat. But it’s a WOOLLY hat. For when you need WOOL. Like, when it’s not 32 degrees.”
“OK, so not the hat. Do you have any suncream?”
“OK. NO sun cream. But you seem to have…..let’s see here….one, two…three pairs of shoes.”
“For 3 days.”
“You don’t think that’s a little excessive, do you?”
“No. I might want to wear my pumps, or my sandals or my Converse.”
“Well can we decide on two please? I’m not sure the coach is able to transport 40 tonnes of footwear for your class.”
“Fine. I’ll leave the pumps.”
“Thank you. Well done. Now then, what’s this? DVDs.”
“Yes Mum. Look, we might want to watch on the coach, OK? Or in the evenings.”
“But you already have your ipod, and, I see here you’ve also packed the DS. And the biggest Harry Potter of them all, and an Alex Rider book. Honey, you’re going away for 3 DAYS, not 3 MONTHS. When are you going to use even a tenth of this stuff??”
“But….but I might want to read. Or play on the DS with my friends!!”
“Yes, yes you might.”
“OR, and this is just a thought, you might want to, oh I don’t know…..stop texting the person sitting next to you, look out of the window and actually SEE FRANCE!!”
“But I…I…look, everyone is bringing DVDs and shoes and phones and stuff. You don’t understand!”
She’s right. I really don’t understand at all.
And so the process went on, until half an hour past my bed time, which these days is just about hers.
In the end I let one DVD and one book stay in the suitcase (now half empty, having had two unnecessary changes of clothes and a dressing gown the size of a small elephant removed) and added the sun cream, her toothbrush and some pants.
What stuck with me most after this re-packing experience was not how much unnecessary stuff she’d packed (you want to see MY suitcase when I go away!) but how pained she had been to be parted from some of her on-board entertainment. The concept of going without films, incessant music, computer games, a shoe collection to rival Imelda Marcos’ and a mobile phone for three whole DAYS was almost unbearable to her.
On a schol trip! With her best mates!
How about switching it all OFF, looking out of the window, listening to the new sounds around you and actually learning something about France? Whatever happened to talking to your friends, seeing who could smuggle the most alcohol on board (I don’t condone this at all, and have never ever smuggled alcohol onto a school coach. Obviously. Tut tut tut.) and living in the real, 3-D world for a while??
Oh, I know. I know. I’m too old-fashioned. I need to ‘get with it’ more. But still….
Aller, a bientot mes amis.
Liz : -)