Yesterday morning, my daughter's bag was put on the coach that would take her to Heathrow for a flight to Colorado. She is now further away from us than she's been since she was ten months old.
School trips are not the same as they were in my day. She gets a week skiing in America. At her age, my school trip was a tour around Northern France.
The coach was hot and smoky. The teachers chain smoking at the front of the bus and the boys chain smoking at the back. We stayed at Rouen, Tours and Paris, visiting Cathedrals, the Normandy beaches and Bayeux Tapestry. We were so excited to find Harold trying to pull the arrow from his eye.
On a small country road we got held up in a queue of traffic. We slowly edged our way past a traffic gendarme and a wrecked, pre-seat-belt, white car, with no sign of bodies but lots of fresh red blood running down the sides of its doors.
Our Headmaster stood up and addressed us. 'May that be a lesson to you all. Think about this when you start to drive.'
After a misdemeanor, I was separated from my friends and had to share a dinner table with the Headmaster, his deputy and the Head-boy. He told us how he regretted that he had become addicted to cigarettes as a pilot in the war, lighting up as soon as his plane landed. He would have preferred to have remained a pipe smoker.
He was a complex character. We would probably consider him ultra-right wing these days. At a school assembly on Commonwealth Day, he had lectured to us about the Great British Empire he had fought for. He had his soft side though, and I was sent to be caned by him on several occasions during my school life, but I always managed to talk my way out of it. On the other hand, knowing I was from a family of musicians, he actively discouraged me from taking part in concerts, over-ruling the music teacher. 'Music will make him soft,' he had told my Father when he complained.
He retired about the same time as I left school, and died of a smoking related illness shortly after.