Friday 8th April: It was a halcyon day and everyone was ready on the coach, exuberant about the evening and day ahead, bar one naughty late-comer. When this disorderly monkey eventually arrived we all set off for a great adventure. Half an hour later we arrived at Trafford Hall, a delightful, quintessentially English manor house, which looks like a perfect setting for a Jane Austen novel. One could easily picture Mr Darcy walking out of the pillared entrance and mounting his glossy horse. Unfortunately Mr Darcy did not make an appearance, though we did have Mark Bailey, and in many ways that's even better...hmm...
We checked in and were given keys to our very cosy rooms, so off we trotted to offload our luggage. Afterwards, we were given a talk from the chap who runs the place; no sex, drugs or rock and roll allowed, particularly before midnight. His talk was followed by a delicious dinner, though some of the fussy vegans amongst us were not entirely sold on the five bean chilli. However, the rest of us normal people tucked into meat pie and fish and chips, followed by fruit and ice-cream! Yummy! Also, it was Little Oliver's 3rd birthday, so we also had a delicious chocolate cake to snack on as a tasty little extra.
After all the animation of dinner we headed off to separate the men from the boys by seeing who still had a touch of the old hunter gather in them and could start a campfire using only sweat, blood and tears. After several failed attempts we finally managed to get the fire into full flow. We all sat around toasting marshmallows, chatting away, playing the “I have never” game. It was a awesome bonding experience, which, after all, is what the residential is all about; getting to know one another better.
A group of us then headed off to play an electrifying, gripping, and at times savage game of...monopoly! One could smell the competitiveness in the air. It is still a wonder to me that no-one was seriously injured or killed during the game as at times it did turn rather ugly. In the end we decided to turn in for the evening, many of us carrying our bruised egos and nursing back to health our hurt pride.
Saturday 9th April: Waking up with Mark Bailey bludgeoning the bedroom door to smithereens as though his life depended on it and following that with a stirring and passionate rendition of 'oh what a beautiful morning' with his mellifluous and beatific voice was not my favourite way to be woken up at 8am on a Saturday morning. However, it certainly did the trick as ten minutes later we were all up, reading and raring to start the day. And what better way to commence than with a lovely cooked breakfast, complete with crispy bacon and juicy sausages. Nom, nom, nom!
Obviously no residential would be complete without a bit of actual work; we therefore had to endure (I mean listen to with eagerness during) a twenty minute talk from current MYP Christopher Pike (not to be confused with the captain of USS Enterprise from Star Trek) while he talked of a questionnaire we hope to distribute to young people around Trafford. We discussed the suitability of the questions and any changes we thought were necessary to make.
Mark then set us the thrilling challenge of making our own flags; the objective being that they describe us as people. It was actually quite interesting to see what sort of things the cabinet deemed most important to them; Facebook and Justin Bieber being two notable ones. Deep stuff! We then put all the flags together to create a big melting pot of things we love and things that define us. Another memorable task was when we each had a piece of plain paper cello-taped to our backs, we then had to go around and write on one another's backs what we thought of them. Pleasant thoughts only of course, nothing to induce tears and tantrums; “I hate you, Fatty!” comments were strictly prohibited. It was a good task to kickstart the old thinking cogs, as even if you didn't know someone particularly well you had to brainstorm a few words which summed them up to you. It was lovely to know what people honestly thought of you and it did wonders for one's ego.
We then all headed outside to play rounders on the luscious green grass. This was great fun, albeit slightly dangerous at times. Each team was a mix of people with different abilities - hard hitters, fast runners, great catchers – and it was great to see the teams working so well with one another, playing to one another's strengths. Unfortunately for my team, I have no physical strengths whatsoever. I consider walking all the way down the stairs to make myself a cup of tea, then proceeding to walk all the way back up them, strenuous exercise and often need a lie down afterwards. It may therefore come as no surprise that our opposing team wiped the floor with us. Though, as my mother always used to tell me after coming last in every sports day, it's the taking part that counts.
After all the hard-work and copious amounts of physical effort it was time to hop on the coach and head home. It was such an awesome trip, a plethora of merriment and laughter. It was a conflate of all different personalities, some loquacious and effervescent, others more quiet and reserved, but one thing's for sure, the residential was the incipient of strong bonds and friendships. We worked well as a group and found many things out about one another. Thank you guys for an awesome trip! Same time and place next year. See you then!