In approximately 1 hour and 27 minutes my son will land back at Gatwick after his first trip abroad with the school. Approximately is not accurate, in exactly 1 hour and 27 minutes my son will land - how do I know this? Because I am his mother and I have been counting down the minutes until his return. I am under no illusions that he has been doing the same.
I have no real idea what he has been up to on his French sojourn (he's been in Nice...yes, I did say Nice. I don't remember such glamorous school trips when I was young - Burford Wildlife Park was about as exotic as it got). We (the parents) have had no contact with our sons and have only had a couple of photos on the school website to satisfy our curiosity. Rather worringly for me, my son did not appear in the first few pictures posted which did of course beg the question in my mind as to whether he had even reached Nice in the first place. However, reassuringly he appeared on the second day wearing exactly what he had been wearing on the first day and almost certainly what he then wore on the next day and what he will, I'm sure, still be wearing when I pick him up later.
I am fully expecting him to return with all his clothes freshly laundered - not because he is a clean freak who has spent the last four days asking "Où est la machine à laver?" but because I lovingly washed all those clothes before he left and he will undoubtedly return clothed identically to when I waved him off at the start of the week. I can live in hope that he has perhaps once changed his underwear...but I am fully prepared for not even this little hope being realised. I am certain the plastic bag I neatly folded and put in the bottom of his luggage which was intended for his dirty washing, will still be neatly folded in the bottom of his bag. As for his toothbrush, I'd be most surprised if that had come into contact with water or toothpaste, let alone his teeth.
I also know that I shall probably never find out much about his trip. A sort of adolescent "what goes on tour, stays on tour" attitude will prevail. I'm sure that he will barely acknowledge me as he slopes off the coach - I might get a cursory nod - note to self, don't go in for the big hug (way too embarrassing for him) - the sort of nod more customary for a taxi driver whom you've never met before who is holding up a sign bearing your name. Actually, now I think about it, that is probably exactly how he sees me...
My first words to him will be "I missed you, darling." His first words to me will be "I'm starving. What's for supper?" I shall then say "Did you have a wonderful time, tell me all about it." He will say, "It was banta." There will be no further elaboration. If I'm really lucky I might get one of those "it was so funny, mum" stories which are nonsensical and definitely of the "you had to be there" ilk.
Will his French have improved? I doubt it. In fact, the brand new French dictionary with which he was furnished on his departure will almost certainly be so immaculate that I could return it unused to the bookshop in which I bought it. I guess he might have picked up a few more French swearwords but more than that remains to be seen. I do not hold out much hope as he was unable to recall the word for "goodbye" in French before he went - it was left to his six year old sister to enlighten him.
Anyway, I must go now and get ready for the grand arrival home. This little jaunt of his has been much harder on me, I think, than on him. I've really missed him. I suspect he's only really missed one thing - his computer. The all-too-familiar strains of Minecraft will soon be filling the air in our house again...