Normally the French Trip has been a discreet expedition introducing boys as much to coping on their own for a week away from home as much as it has to France. This year we arrived back to be told more about the trip than we could recall ourselves as we stepped off the coach into the dark of Aldro’s on that autumnal night of the first day of half term. Thanks to the services and excellent eye for a photograph of Mr Cope, instead of parents eagerly asking « How did it go ? What did you get up to?» we were greeted by their enthusiastic impressions of what fun each of the activities must have been ! Welcome to the flat earth and if pictures really painted a thousand words there is no need to read further, just « look around» to quote Wren’s epitaph. Thankfully music and language add greater depth to his churches as they do to reality and they were, after all, the main purpose of this trip to Normandy. For the first time in all my fourteen expeditions we had a music teacher with us and this raised the previous high points to another level altogether. The Refectory on Mont St Michel is famous for its pitch perfect accoustics and under James Cassar’s leadership, ably assisted by Oliver Drewitt, the previous year 7 choristers sang the Lord’s Prayer and an excerpt from the anthem they had recently been learning.
If in the Salle des Chevaliers, or Scriptorium, boys learned how Latin evolved into French through manuscript, it was writing their own journals that they experienced this for themselves. A few discovered the thrill and creative freedom of expressing themselves on paper in a foreign language and that alone made the trip worthwhile.
The other most moving occasion has to be visiting the British Cemetery in Bayeux, the largest resting place for our dead in the Normandy Campaign, including Pilot Officer R A Macfarlane OA.
The boys have brought home with them a little more working knowledge of the French language and a lot more appreciation of its relevance as no longer a dry academic subject, but rather an important means of communication with real people and concerning interesting products, places and issues, not to mention a shared history.