Sandra Dick: Travel expands the young mind

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BAG packed. Bag unpacked after noisy debate during which laptop is declared excess to requirements. “Must-have” monkey onesie inserted instead. Bag left unzipped as monkey onesie far too bulky.

Extra large holdall extracted from depths of the most chaotic cupboard in the house. Swearing, sotto voce, so as not to further upset already exasperated neighbours.

Spending money debate: is £50 too much or too little? Last-minute dash to Asda for passport-size photograph so teachers can identify who is who and, finally, the teenager is on the bus, off on his school trip.

He’s only going to Newcastle for three days, for heaven’s sake (note to Xbox Live, he’ll be back by Thursday). But Lord knows how public school parents cope with the two-weeks-to-China jaunts, the diving the Red Sea or skiing Whistler expeditions, although I suspect it’s with less financial panic than hit our humble house when the eye-watering bill for three days in a North East Travelodge hit.

I imagine a chunk of the £300 or so cost was to cover the accompanying teachers’ expenses – and don’t get me wrong, no amount of money could possibly compensate for spending three days in the company of 150 hormonal teenagers. Indeed, I now wish I’d slipped the excursion leader an extra tenner towards the bottle of gin she’ll require the moment she gets home.

But it’s not all work, no play for staff on these school trips, is it? I recall successfully nagging my folks to send me on a languages department outing to Germany in third year – despite not even studying German and them not having two beans to rub together. (That they agreed is testimony to my teenage ability to huff and puff, and their need to just shut me up.)

They probably hoped I’d have an unforgettable life experience. Unfortunately, the only bits I recall involved sneaking out the hotel to buy booze, our haul carefully selected for the pretty picture of a stag’s head and a cross on the label.

Several Jagermeisters later – and following long discussion over whether we’d bought cough syrup – my chums and I staggered to the hotel disco to find the dolly bird teacher from the French department and our English teacher in an intense debate that involved her sitting on his lap, pressing their faces together and stroking each other’s thighs.

Still, I suppose in one way it was an educational lesson that has stuck with me down the decades.

I’ve never drunk Jagermeister since.