Plan for the worst. Hope for the best. What we didn’t reckon with, though, were 30 young 16-18 year old army recruits with a drunken army officer in charge.
We had just twelve students with us, all female, and none over 16. Most were under 16. On the five hour crossing from Zeebrugge to Dover, our girls were tormented in a quite threatening way by these virile young lads. We complained to the man in charge.
“They don’t mean any harm. It’s just a bit of fun. They’re adults anyway. It’s up to them.”
No, actually, those that were under 18, though over the age of consent, were not adults. And this “gentleman” in charge was definitely slurring his words.
The girls found it fun at first. My colleague and I did not. After a while the novelty wore off for the girls as well.
“They’re really being crude, Miss.”
“One of them tried to snog me. He stank of beer and cigarettes.”
We huddled in one of the reclining seat lounges. The ship’s company warned them off but it didn’t stop them leering at the window from time to time, much to the amusement of their commanding officer.
The situation got more desperate when we arrived at Dover. For starters we went into the wrong part of the port so had to be bussed to the train station. We were already late because of fog in the channel.
“Perhaps if we don’t stop on the way back from London we can still make it back in time,” I suggested to my colleague. We’d intended to get a bite to eat at the Fleet services but we’d have to give up on that and go hungry.
Then we noticed that the British army was also being bussed round to the train station.
At least we were in a different carriage from them on the train but there was nothing to stop them making their way through to us.
The final blow was that we seemed to be sharing our carriage with three punks.
They looked to be in their early twenties. There were two young men and a young woman. Even our girls, who considered themselves quite trendy, raised their eyebrows.
However, we were pleasantly surprised.
The older and the taller of the young men understood quite quickly what was happening and made himself into a barrier between the British army and us. The young woman had a mountain of delicious vegetarian food with her and shared it with us. All three were really interesting to chat to and we soon forgot about the funny clothing.
We made it back to school exactly on time. Incidentally, this was the trip I mentioned last time when some parents turned up late to meet their child.
It reminded me of when my own children were very little and I’d make my way into town with one in the pram and the other on the pram seat. It was the old ladies who used to let the door swing shut in my face. The old men were almost as bad. It was the notorious Fareham punks who helpfully held the doors open.
There are no doubt many members of the British army who behave impeccably and there are probably some punks who cause havoc. I’m now the age of the ladies who let the door slam in my face but I wouldn’t dream of doing that to anyone.
It’s all just about people, really.
A bit like immigrants, Commonwealth, EU or otherwise, and natives. Some will be great. Some will be less so. But isn’t a mix healthier anyway?