St Michael’s School, Madrid

by Rosy Graham

St Michaels Scary Sisters Girl with Owl Team Games - Tunnels Scary Staff
St Michael’s was a school we were all incredibly excited by: a big booking, staying for longer than usual at Ford Castle, packing a lot into their visit and, more importantly, they were from Madrid.

Everyone was really keen to see the differences between a Spanish school and an English school and maybe even learn a thing or two. Unfortunately I wasn’t involved with the St Michael’s group for the early part of their stay, but on the fifth day of their visit we went to Heatherslaw Mill and Etal to see the Castle . . . or that’s what was supposed to happen. 

The walk started well, apart from the school being more spread out than I would have thought possible: it took 20 minutes to cross the first road! Now, I’m not going to lie, my sense of direction resembles a drunken rhinoceros, so I was pleased when we got to the little train that would take us to Etal. I should have known better. At first the train was so slow

Dungeon
Girl with Barn Owl
I noticed a butterfly passing us, until we stopped and finally reversed back to Heatherslaw.  To be fair, the driver had warned us that normally the train would not be open to visitors due to the wet conditions.

After sitting on the train for so long though, there was not a single warm toe among us. We had a brief tour of the flour mill, which was very interesting, but honestly, I think that the Spanish students couldn’t wait to get back to the Castle and some heat – perhaps Spring in Madrid is a tad warmer.

Once everyone had warmed up over a delicious meal, we had a fantastic Halloween-type party and spooky tour of the Castle, with tall tales in the laboratory and a taste of being locked in the dungeon. Strangely enough it was a member of staff who shot out of the dungeon first, pushing children before him. The disco that followed had more than a hint of the Rocky Horror Show about it, to my eye.

The following day, the group visited a local school, Longridge Towers, returning for dinner and evening entertainment, which was a music quiz, followed by a (more informed) disco.

Team Games
Fly-by Clock Tower
Longridge School now visited St Michael’s at the Castle for team games and Castle Olympics featuring the Elephant Relay, the Tunnel Race and Bridges and Roundabouts.

Friday was an excursion day, with Bamburgh and Holy Island on the itinerary. We visited the Grace Darling Museum in Bamburgh and were moved by the story of her bravery.  We then went onto the beach and were literally moved by the wind! This proved to be more fun than a gentler day would have been. We lay back into the wind and raced with and then against it, and all the while the wind was blowing sand into rivers around our feet. A little souvenir shopping was followed by

Boy with Barn Owl
excellent fish and chips at Pinnacles’ Fish Restaurant in Seahouses. On Holy Island we explored the ruined monastery and I for one spent far too much money in a pretty gift shop. 

We had a break from partying that night after our busy day and had a DVD and Games night instead.

Saturday was another day of activities and yep, you guessed it, we later partied all night, but as this was their last night with us, the students from St Michael’s made it the best night yet.  I may have had my arm slightly twisted to play one last song . . . once or twice.

The next morning I was really sorry to see St Michael’s School go; they had been with us for 11 days and we’d become quite attached.  I must admit to almost shedding a tear when the school presented us all with cute St Michael’s school hats.

It turns out that I did learn a lot from the Madrid school, the most important thing being the words to the Spanish part of The Macarena. What an experience to hear 37 excited students singing The Macarena at the top of their voices – almost brings another tear, if you know what I mean.

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