Look At It This Way - June 19, 2015

Las Vegas Strip at night
Las Vegas Strip at night
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The furthest distance I ever got on a school trip was to France. And that was as a journalist reporting on a local school’s attempts to improve the pupils’ French, naturellement.

Today, if they visited France, they could probably improve on just about any language going – particularly if they stopped at Calais, but that’s a subject best saved for another day.

I remember the trip vividly because a) it had a very dishy (a word only women of uncertain years now use) teacher on it and b) I had lunch with him. We both drank so much wine we emerged giggling to find a pleasant town square beset by children demanding querulously of exhausted locals “quelle heure est-il?” and “ou est mon professeur?”

Back then, in the days when my heart was still soft and my liver marginally less harder than it is today, the hapless residents of Montreuil Sur Mer must have been heartily sick of being a regular pilgrimage point for English school children armed with a list of things to ask and tick off … primarily in order to see supervisory staff through to the other side of lunch.

They must have had a sense of déjà vu as the coach trips rolled off the ferries at Calais and into this beautiful walled town in time for dejeuner. The first ramparts were put up in the 9th century, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were still putting them up against English school visits now. Face it, Victor Hugo only spent half a day there with his mistress and made it the setting for Les Miserables. I’m not sure if his mistress felt flattered or insulted. They have been manning the barricades ever since.

The other reason that trip is memorable is because one of the children was sick over me on the way back. Copiously so.

Having had a lucky escape from my erstwhile vocation – teaching – I recoiled before feigning concern and patting her reassuringly on the back.

This only made her vomit more.

This sparked copycat throwing up, and I was sorely tempted to join in, having consumed most of a bottle of red and steak so bloody it almost mooed sur la table.

It took about two hours before the coach looked like an excursion again – rather than an audition for the Exorcist. Quelle horreur!

So why am I telling you this? Because this morning on the radio I heard that a Lancashire school had asked whether parents would be prepared to fund a ‘cultural’ trip to Las Vegas for their little darlings. Las Vegas? Culture? Apart from the fact that wild horses wouldn’t drag me back there, I can’t begin to comprehend why kids would be interested.

It’s all gambling, casinos, amusement arcades, cabaret shows, top singers, attractions, hotels and – oops, doesn’t that sound a little bit like Blackpool? Or what Blackpool hoped to be when the oft-styled Las Vegas of the North tried to make it real? Actually, forget culture; this gripe is more sour grapes. I never got a chance to go anywhere better than Ingleton on a school trip, for pity’s sake.

I only got to France because I was an extra pair of hands to be sick upon.

Ingleton was as good as it got. I got drenched by a waterfall and then drank some homemade lemonade at a van.

Drink features a lot in my memories. I only remember learning to swim because I got hot chocolate afterwards at Cocker Street Baths.

And the only good thing about a school trip away to Wales for a week was the Horlicks we got each night. And the stick of ‘traditional’ Welsh lady rock I took home to my mum, only to find it was made in Blackpool.

Why go away?

Modern TV reminds me of a childhood crush

The Clangers are back!

One of my all-time favourite TV shows. In fact most of my all-time favourite TV shows – bar grown up stuff such as Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black and House of Cards – tend to be children’s shows.

So I’ve been glued to Thunderbirds, just as I was glued to Tracy Island years ago trying to make one for my brothers. I always came unstuck at the hangar door to Thunderbird Two. It also took far too long for my mother to work her way through a washing up bottle, and we wanted a posh Fairy one rather than a cheapo generic.

And as guilty pleasures go, having a crush on Scott – followed by Captain Scarlet of Mysterons fame (you’re doing the voice, now, aren’t you?) – was up there with admitting to like Donny Osmond. The cool girls preferred David Cassidy.

He looked like he’d been round the block a bit.

But the Clangers are far too cool for school kids.

These are mesmerising space mice.

Almost as anarchic as the Magic Roundabout.

Must be something they put in that soup. Yes, to paraphrase Osmond, they 
call it puppet love.