Rugby & Hockey Tour to Holland, October 2011
by Mrs Goldring, Tour Leader
At 5.00am Holmwood had a strangely mystical appearance, but fortunately the matrons had performed their magic and there were ’hoodies’ wandering around the corridors attempting to be quiet whilst having breakfast. The bus was packed with speed and efficiency and we were rolling out of the drive at 5.29am – a miracle which worried me that things were going far too well! Our luck continued as we arrived in Dover and were able to catch an earlier ferry.
On board, the value of the ‘hoodies’ became apparent as everywhere you looked there were small clumps of sky blue. The draw of the duty free shop proved too much for most and the freedom to spend money on sweets and knick knacks “49p for a face fan – I just had to buy it!” (Patrick I and Alex D.)
Our journey continued with a relaxed lunch stop in the sunshine and a smooth run through France, Belgium and finally Holland. The last part was a little challenging trying to read Dutch signposts, but our able driver Ross was full of confidence and at last we saw the ‘Stayokay’ sign. By now the children were fully loaded with sugar and were delighted to let off steam in the surrounding woods with Messrs Cook and Milheiro while I checked us into the hostel. Bed-making proved to be entertaining, as several children adopted the climb inside the cover method whilst balancing on the top bunk. After an impromptu game of rugby on the nearby training pitch, where Sara R-P showed the boys exactly how to tackle, we settled down to a delicious three course meal followed by a Quiz Night. By 9pm the children were happy to go to bed (they didn’t realise it was only 8pm at home!) and all were instantly quiet, much to the relief of four shattered staff members.
An early start for the boys who headed off at 8.30am to their first fixture against R C Dukes. The girls on the other hand had a leisurely breakfast followed by a lovely walk in the woods. This rambling group varied from ‘sniffer dog’ Molly R, running ahead and choosing the route, followed by the pack and then 'Grannies Smith and Gozzett' begrudgingly bringing up the rear.
On return to the hostel, we prepared for our first match and walked the short distance to the pitch. This was the most beautiful, water based, brand new pitch we had ever seen. An enthusiastic warm-up began and then the noisy ringing of bicycle bells announced the arrival of our opponents. Their coach was very welcoming but quick to inform me that they had just been promoted to a higher league after winning last year. Undeterred we started well and held them at bay for about ten minutes. They were incredibly fast and skilful but Sara R-P, Rebecca B and Thea S made numerous well-timed tackles. We did not really threaten them in the first half and were 5-0 down by half-time.
The arrival of our victorious boys at the start of the second half gave the girls a much needed boost and we made several attacking runs only to mistime the final pass and allow the goalie to intercept. Minnie B made some good runs on the left side and Phoebe B tried to find Alex W in the centre. Lottie R moved to sweeper and distributed the ball well from the back and Naomi C did her best in goal against a barrage of powerful shots but the final score was 9-0. The game seemed endless and the girls were exhausted and then we realised the umpires had played 35 minute halves – that’s 20 minutes in total longer than we normally play! I t was a tremendous team effort with a few glitches that needed improving but, at no time did their heads go down, we simply lost to a better team.
The afternoon training session went really well and proved to be an excellent opportunity to iron out all the Astroturf errors. Movie Night was a huge success with 32 children silent for nearly two hours! Despite the late bed time, the ‘corridor sneaking’ was still going on until after midnight.
After many apologies the next morning from the guilty few, the staff found that they were now to be treated like royalty with willing ‘slaves’ attending to our every need. We left the hostel at 8.30am and eventually found the correct hockey club – they all seem to be in the middle of picturesque suburban areas with no signposts. The girls were shattered from their nocturnal exploits but played much better than the previous day. Rebecca B dominated in defence and the simple skills practised the day before were evident in every part of the game. Phillipa T stepped in as goalie and made numerous saves and the whole team performed as a unit from the start. Alex W scored first, but the opposition were quick to retaliate with two more before half-time. Phoebe B finished off a well thought out move involving Lottie R on the wing, but tiredness crept in and Saint Oedenrode managed to bring the score to 4-2. The last few minutes were very exciting with Chloe Rs shot being saved on the line and Lara C excelling in midfield. A superb effort all round, played with a mature, professional spirit.
After the match we travelled to watch the boys play. We were thoroughly looking forward to the spectacle of our boys being tackled by girls, or as Hannah C pointed out, in a perfectly hoity toity voice, “Those aren’t girls, they are beasts of girls”.
The boys again played well and won convincingly, but it was after the game that the fun began. R C Octopus were the most hospitable club we had encountered. After the presentation of man of the match to Ben A for his Wilkinson style (but better) kicking, a tug of war rope emerged. First, Holmwood vs Octopus – no contest as the English spirit rose and the Dutch fell. Then Holmwood boys vs girls. We may have lost our matches but this was a matter of girl pride. Now, Mr.Cook claims he slipped and took out several boys, but we know that sheer strength and determination spurred the girls on to beat the boys.
The next game was reminiscent of student days, spinning ten times around a broomstick with forehead pushed against the handle, then trying to run in a straight line back to your team. Much hilarity ensued, particularly in the staff race when Mr Cook headed into the crowd.
The evening activity of Laser Quest was a huge hit with the children. They all entered into the competitive spirit and found renewed energy in two rounds of serious battles. Having been kept up the previous night, we decided it was payback time. Once the children were safely back on the bus I came running out saying that we didn’t have enough money to pay for the evening and they were holding Mrs Newland until we paid. Instantly hands shot up and offers of 1, 2 and even 5 euros came from the generous children as they feared for their favourite ’nurse’. At that point Mrs Newland came charging on to the bus shouting “Quick, I got away! Quick Ross drive!” Our getaway consisted of a two mile an hour reversing out of the street – not quite the tyre squealing we were hoping for but with the comments of “epic”, “wicked” and “legend” resounding in our ears, our hero status was elevated and the children still believe that Interpol may one day be knocking on Holmwood’s door!
Bedtime was a much easier experience, with the threat of every minute spent talking or out of bed after lights out would be repaid sitting on a bench with me at the amusement park – not a sound was heard!
What a great way to end the Tour. We spent a fabulous day at the Efteling Theme Park. A beautiful setting with enough rides to scare the staff, but not too big for the children to get lost. Having proved their reliability over the weekend, we set them off in groups armed with my mobile number (please delete!) and a contact time and place for meeting us. Nurse Newland then decided that Mr Cook and I had missed out on life by having never been on a roller coaster. Obviously, this would have been the time to find a nice warm-up ride, but no, it was off to the ‘Python’ – huge, high and with two loop the loops. On the way we kidnapped Lottie R from her group and persuaded her to join us. Mr Milheiro gallantly offered to hold our bags (he did redeem himself later on other rides) and needless to say we had an amazing experience!
Meeting times were met and throughout the day smiley, sparkly-eyed 'hoodies' ran from one ride to another. A great success. Just in case there was a molecule of energy left in the children, we went straight off to bowling after supper and once again were so impressed with this group’s ability to organise themselves quickly and efficiently, always making sure that no one was left out.
A leisurely breakfast and packed lunch-making session was followed by packing and ‘mucking out’ the rooms. With everything on the bus we held an impromptu prize giving. Although the weekend was a team effort, we felt the following deserved special recognition:
Most improved hockey player – Rebecca B
Best hockey player – Sara R-P
Most improved rugby player – Jamie W
Best rugby player – Oliver H
Most annoying questions – Edward G
International relations with foreign females – B
Laser Quest winners – Ben D and Phillipa T
Most selfless tour girls – Felicity G and Naomi C
Most selfless tour boys – Alex D and Patrick I
All round tour girls of the weekend – Molly R and Thea S
All round tour boys of the weekend – Gus C and Arthur B
The journey back was less boring after Mr Cook fixed the DVD player and we were very pleased to be able to again catch an earlier ferry home. It was with a huge sense of relief that we pulled into the school driveway, but also a sense of pride. These children had been away from home for five days and they were polite at all times. When they stepped out of line they apologised and accepted the punishments with good grace and most of all they were great fun to be with – a credit to the school, their families, but most of all themselves.
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