… more sleeps until I go. The countdown begins.
So I probably ought to set out where I’m going, and why. And then I need to make my cue cards.
I came up with cue cards when I used to do the catering at guide camps. I used to make my spreadsheet showing all the meals, and from that I’d compile the shopping list (well – several shopping lists). This was all super-organised but I often found the actual camp quite stressful because I would find myself confronted by the five young members of the day’s cook patrol, and have to think on my feet to work out exactly what utensils and pans they needed to fetch – often simultaneously fielding questions and offers of help from other people, and with the clock ticking away towards the next mealtime. I realised that what I needed was time to think; that during camp itself I would not get this time; and therefore that I needed to do my thinking before we left, ideally in the comfort of my own home and with a glass of wine to hand.
And so I invented my cue cards – a set of 4 x 6 index cards, taking me hour by hour through the camp, setting out exactly what needed to happen when, and making my decisions about wooden spoons for me in advance. I used to prepare the entire week, although I rarely consulted them after the first couple of days, because by then everybody (including me) was in the swing of it.
Now, for my European adventure, I of course already have a spreadsheet, but while that’s good for reference it’s a bit unwieldy in a tight spot. And the potential for tight spots is quite large given that I’m travelling through four countries to get to my destination, using six trains, a bus and a boat. So this weekend I’m making myself some cue cards, with everything I can find out in advance about stations and platforms and how to ask for such information in the relevant language. I’ve already done a lot of research, and I have a nice collection of maps. I just need to turn a large bunch of papers into a neat collection of instructions.
So, the purpose of the trip. I’m a school governor visiting partner schools in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Other partners from our school will be there, and so will representatives of all the other partner schools. Official kick-off is in Slovakia on Friday 28 September; we transfer to the Czech Republic on Wednesday 3 October, and set off home on Sunday 7 October. I didn’t want to fly, so the school agreed I could travel there and back by train. And that made it possible to do a little detour to Austria, to visit the lake that inspired Elinor M Brent-Dyer to invent the Chalet School – an invention which resulted in more than 60 books, and lifetimes of enjoyment for her fans.
So the ‘Mum’s European Tour 2012′ T-shirt is going to read:
Vienna-Bratislava-Trnava (where we are staying in Slovakia)
Abraham (our partner school in Slovakia)
Vitkov (our partner school in the Czech Republic)
Hraded-nac-Moravici (where we are staying in the Czech Republic)
In travel terms, this is: London Midland Long Buckby to London; meet Hayley and take the Eurostar to Paris; afternoon in Paris, then the City Night Line sleeper to Munich (we are in a six-berth cabin because of a slight problem during the booking process, ie two-berth cabins suddenly becoming unavailable). Early morning connection to Jenbach, Chalet girls’ day out, evening connection to Innsbruck, where we are in a Hotel overnight. On Friday, all the way from Innsbruck to Vienna, all on my own, with a boat down the Danube (or up the Danube: I really must check that) to Bratislava, and finally the local train to Trnava.
Coming back I have time in Prague before catching the City Night Line sleeper to Cologne, followed by an early morning ICE train to Brussels, and Eurostar back to London after lunch.
Quite a tour for somebody who didn’t have a passport three months ago.