My mum posed a somewhat peculiar question to me a couple of months ago. She asked if I wanted to follow my brother John on his school trip to Greece to see the sites. At the time I wasn’t completely listening to what she said so I half-heartedly said “yes” without quite knowing what I was getting myself into.
The next thing I know, I am at the airport, incredibly hungover after staying with a friend the night before in Oxford, trying, very unsuccessfully, to check my bag into the nightmarish self-check in machines. I turn around and see my two sisters with their wheelie bags bobbing towards me, who I haven’t seen in three months, and the first thing Alice giggles is that they’ve had a grumpy encounter with an unfriendly lady in the lift.
I’m seriously trying to keep it together as we wait for the gate to open. We are yet to spot John who is with all of his school friends, probably hiding behind every corner to dodge us. To add to this, we have no idea what Rupert, our guide looks like. How are we supposed to find him?!
We take our seats on the plane and I nod off for a minute or two but I’m jarred awake by Mum, who has climbed over my seat and is already deep in conversation with a man sitting two rows in front of us, oblivious to the fact she’s holding up passengers trying to get to their seats. ‘I guess that’s Rupert’ I think as I fall back to sleep.
Finally John appears near the end of the flight to say hello, and my sisters and I are in hysterics at how ridiculous the situation is. “So are we actually following you on your school trip?” asks Lily, still unable to fully get her head around it. John does not look too pleased to say the least and replies with a sheepish “yep”.
My Dad, Philip, was definitely up there with one of the most entertaining parts of the trip. Always keen, wearing his blue Nike trainers and socks pulled up to his ankles, he is more interested than me (I study Classical Studies at Uni) in asking questions. He does not walk, but strides through the ruins with Rupert as if he is competing in some kind of Olympic sport, Mum in tow. Us three girls are much more relaxed and laugh at Dad when he enthusiastically turns around, beckoning us with his hand and shouting, eyebrows raised and eyes popping out with excitement “come on girls!”.
One morning we arrive at a beautiful Byzantine castle in Sparta, blurry eyed at the excruciatingly early start. We decide to have a look around, and before we have even set foot in the castle grounds, Alice has somehow managed to get Mum standing with her leg up on a random, lonely door frame in a hedge, posing for a photo. About five seconds later, Lily is below them, pointing her camera doing the same. Rupert, finding the situation rather amusing, takes a photo of Lily taking a photo of Alice who is taking a photo of Mum. You get the idea. Fully observing this situation, I whip out my phone and follow suit.
We manage to climb over a wall into the ruins reasonably well, but then comes Dad. He’s added a billowing navy blue coat to his already questionably unfashionable but yet endearing Nike trainers and white socks. He puts his foot on the wall and it begins to wobble. Luckily he manages to ungracefully make his way over, but not before he shouts “hoi!” as he lands on the sodden ground, slipping, covering his blue trainers in mud, huffing and puffing from the strenuous effort. Poor him.
Another memorable moment is a visit to a beach in Pylos. Dad manages to find a huge stick and eagerly clomps over the sand in front of us. He exclaims “girls, look at that sea-weed!” and clambers onto a huge mound of the stuff, posing for the paparazzi, wobbling as he stumbles, thoroughly enjoying himself, imagining he were some kind of Greek warrior coming to change the world. He’s in his element.
Finally, after numerous sites, hours in a sweaty white mini-bus with Lily asking Dad for the Wifi hotspot password every five minutes whilst stopping for photographs of shrines by the side of the road, we stagger into Athens.
The very last museum pretty much kills us all. My sisters bow out and sit by the window, but Dad and Rupert are still strongly walking in front. My mum, after so impressively keeping up with them the whole week, says quietly to me “I’ve lost the will to live” and promptly lies down, arms over her eyes, literally taking a nap on the floor.
We are at the airport waiting for our return flight, and I see John tucking into a box of chicken nuggets. I run over to him and give him a hug, asking how the trip was. “I’m so hungover” is all he manages to utter. Well well well. We didn’t cramp his style at all.