School trips

Russia lives on in my mind

My kids, at our local comprehensive, go on school trips to Leigh-on-Sea. I went to a much fancier school, so I went on school trips to Leningrad and Moscow. The first time must have been in 1990. We were all going through dramatic changes; and so was Russia – not that as cossetted, self-absorbed 16-year-olds we were able to take much serious notice. We joked, nervously, gauchely, ahead of our departure about the likelihood that an Aeroflot flight could be relied upon to get us there in one piece. We practised our rudimentary GCSE Russian: ‘Chto eto? Eto GUM!’ (What’s that? That’s [the department store] – GUM.’) ‘Gdye Dom Knigi?’

School trip: My déjeuner sur l’herbe

In 1966 we were 17 and about to do A-levels and leave our convent school for ever at the end of that summer term. Two girls were having a lesbian affair, another had been tempted to sleep with a boy, dramatically confessing this to our head nun, Mother Benedicta, in Mother B’s terrifying private room halfway up the staircase. Our head girl, Vanessa, had an older sister who would roar down to the school on the back of her boyfriend’s motorbike along with his friends, known as ‘leather boys’. Vanessa was worried about her sister living in sin. ‘The sins of the flesh are not the worst sins my child,’

The school trip that gave me my first act of rebellion

What I remember in most vivid detail about my school trips are the coach journeys. This may be testimony to the fact that the schools I went to never took me anywhere glamorous, not because they didn’t have the money (our parents were paying enough) but because it wasn’t really thought decent or necessary to take children somewhere exciting in those days. At St Joseph’s Convent, our most exotic outing was to Birmingham for a recorder festival, aged about six. Picture a coach-load of little girls in maroon blazers, maroon felt hats, maroon A-line skirts and beige gloves — yes gloves. We went everywhere in beige gloves. Maroon felt hats