I carry this small piece of my childhood with me everywhere I go.
It is a metal key fob* which I purchased at the Bayeux Tapestry when on a school trip to France when I was aged 10. It is rather worn now, although probably nowhere near as worn as it should be expected to be after lurking in my pockets for so many years.
The trip itself was a wonderful experience, the first time I had been abroad (unless you count Scotland). For some reason the school chose not to send the oldest children there, the ones who would be leaving for secondary school in a few weeks, but the children from the year below.
This created a slightly odd situation, in that as one of (by then) three children who were a year ahead of themselves, I was going away with a group of children I didn’t really know.
There was a ballot for places on the trip, but Nick Quinn – my closest friend at the time and one of the other two pupils who were in my year even though they shouldn’t be – and I were guaranteed places. I thought this was because we were in the year above the others, but only much later did I realise that it was probably just a clever ploy to get us to bond with our future classmates. So now I like to think that the entire trip was arranged for our benefit.
What do I remember about that trip? There was the seven hour ferry crossing from Southampton to Le Havre, for one thing. Who in their right mind takes a coachload of ten year olds on a ferry for that long? It must have been fun, though, as I have enjoyed travelling by ferry ever since, with eating the rubbish onboard food a particular attraction.
In fact, the whole trip had a major impact upon me. You can find out why on Friday.
*On one side there is a relief moulding of a set of boats heading out for Dover. On the other are the words Tapisserie de Bayeux: Chef d’oeuvre du XIe siecle – a claim which the Domesday Book might have something to say about