Currently, daughter #1’s school isn’t so much an educational establishment, but more of a departure lounge for thrill-seeking foreign holidays with her friends.
In the next few months our eldest will be skidding down mountains in Italy on a ski trip and also enjoying some winter sunshine on an exchange visit to Spain.
By and large, our school trips in the 1980s were to Millom, Morecambe and what was Hornsea Pottery in Lancaster, which is now a 10-minute walk from my house.
One time though, this new teacher turned up at our school and before he’d had all of his sense of adventure ground out of him, he set up an exchange trip with a school near Cologne in the former West Germany.
Having been seduced by the glamour of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, mine was the first name on the list. The thing is, growing up in a small Cumbrian town in the mid-80s was so grey and dull, the story of seven tradesmen living in a shed on a desolate building site in Dusseldorf showed there was so much more to life.
So off we went. On a train and a ferry. All the way to West Germany. When we eventually got there, we had expressions of wonder on our faces like the new arrivals at Hogwarts.
Their school wasn’t falling to bits, it had professional sports facilities, the teachers weren’t permanently on strike, everyone lived in a big house and their dads drove a Mercedes. It was like England on an upgrade.
Boy, would these German kids be in for a shock when they turned up in our one-horse town a few months later when our idea of a good time was knocking on doors and running away.
It must’ve been like stepping back in time for them. Wartime, to be precise, because in the summer of 1984 our Government and police were busy conducting their own civil war by smashing the living daylights out of striking coal miners a few miles down the road.
Maybe the German kids were told by their teachers and parents to treat their two-week trip to the north of England as a dangerous safari to a war-torn, Third World country, which to a bunch of affluent German teenagers it probably was.