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First School Trip - Valkenburg Holland 1983

By John Connolly



My school used to organize a football trip at the end of each year. They'd base themselves in Valkenburg, Holland and take part in two football tournaments, one in Holland and one just across the border in Germany. The years that took part varied from 1st year (12 year olds) to 5th year (16 year olds).  Lads who had been on previous trips said they were great, loads of other schools from all over Britain used Valkenberg because it had plenty to do, the shops were really easy to rob and with the Dutch being so liberal, the bars and hotels would serve alcohol to kids as young as 12. So when the PE teachers announced it would be the 2nd and 3rd year, we were there!  

About 25 of us booked and we were picked up outside the school at midnight by the coach. First on the coach, we all bailed to the back, armed with a few bottles of Merrydown cider, smuggled on for the trip in lemonade bottles. With the coach only 2/3rds full, we all stretched out agreeing to save the demon cider until we hit the motorway. As we set off, Mr Dodd the PE teacher advised us we were picking up another school, Highfield, on the way. Disgruntled moans rang around the coach as we realised we wouldn’t have the luxury of left over seats. Even more groans circled as we saw the kids we were picking up. They were 5th formers, hairy arsed scalls who were in no mood to messed around by a few 13 and 14 year olds. The first 7 piled to the back of the coach ‘all right lads? You been keep our seats warm then? Hello, what’s this? Cider for us too? Nice one, NOW FUCKIN DO ONE YOU LITTLE TITS’.  

Tail firmly between legs, we trundled down the coach only to find all the window seats were taken and we’d have to spend the journey sat next to someone who wasn’t your mate. I was stuck next to some biff that spent the journey listening to the Thompson Twins on his walkman, pausing only to offer me one of his half melted maltesers. The coach seemed to take forever and to relieve the boredom, the teachers threw on Airplane 2 and The Deer Hunter. This wasn’t enough though so I took it upon myself to take all this kids melted maltesers and smear chocolate on sleeping lads faces.

This met the approval of the horrible bullying young men at the back who were smoking fragrant cigarettes and drinking my cider, along with their own concoctions. One, who they called ‘Pan Head’ beckoned me to the back  ‘Sorry for shoutin’ there mate, do want some cider?’ He was really taking the piss, offering me my own cider but they were far too old to argue with. I accepted and soon they called a few more of my mates back for a drink and a chat. The supposed leader of the group was a lad called Lammy who had a big blonde flick and about four sovereigns. ‘Its boss this place we’re goin, we come last year and robbed the place blind. If we go to Germany, there’s this factory place that has bins full of adidas in pairs, it’s laughin’. ‘We’ll go to Amsterdam for a day too, yous ever smoke weed?’ I’d tried it a few times but hated smoking, obviously being in older company I turned braggadocio ‘yeah, we always smoke it la’ to which they all started laughing. I was chuffed.  

We hit Harwich around 06:00 and I stumbled off the coach. Once the sea air hit, I made a bee-line behind a portacabin to puke my guts up. If truth be told, I hated cider with a passion, the first time I’d tried it was when at the ‘Larks in the Parks’ – I fell out a tree bladdered then bumped into my dad who walked me home, fuming that I was in this state in this place at such a tender age. Indeed, peer pressure leads you down many best not trodden paths. The teacher gave the instructions for the ferry, by which time I wanted to curl up and die. But not just yet. Word had reached the camp that the one armed bandits were easy pickings for anyone with a clicker. A clicker is your basic kitchen cooker lighter that used to invoke credits on fruit machines and video games. The scam was rife in the arcades of Liverpool but the Ferry operators were not savvy just yet. Being a genius of sorts, my mate Karl had brought one along just in case.  

No point in wasting this baby on defender or missile command, we headed straight for the fruities. We managed to get around £20 each before one of the older Highfield lot who we’d simply christened ‘horrible’ bounced over shouting his mouth off. ‘Eh, you little twats, I was just gonna play that machine, I’ve been watching it waiting for the right time to get the jackpot.’ He didn’t know we using the clicker so we gave him close to £5 in change, trying hard to hide the fact we still had around £70 in £1, 50p, 20p and 10p’s. He was drunk though and beamed with pride that he’d shook us down. Aside from throwing up a few more times, thanks to the combination of Merrydown and a storm on the North Sea, the ferry crossing passed without incident. We managed to change most of our ill gotten gains into Dutch gilders on the boat, four to the pound meant we each had about 75 each. We agreed to steer clear of the older Highfield lads, even if some were okay, there’d be nothing to stop them robbing us blind.  

After another hellish slog from the Hook of Holland, we managed to reach the hotel the next same day around 6. The hotel/hostel was set in picture book grounds right next to a shopping arcade. There was also a large park with fair rides within spitting distance and a dry bobsleigh track, similar to the one in Alton Towers that ran down what must have been the biggest hill in Holland. After a few introductions, plus a few what and what not to do’s, we settled into a lovely plate of pasta. Now, aside from spaghetti hoops on toast and the odd spag bol, I’d never eaten pasta like this before. It was the little shell type pasta, which we christened noodley doodleys. Karl, Ste, Alan and I shared a room that had two bunk beds in. We unpacked then went for a stroll around the town, money for nothing in our pockets and a hint of laizze fairer in our stride. We couldn’t find any of these mythical bars where they serve you even if you do look 10. We found a few restaurants but that was it. We decided to head back to the hotel, they had a swimming pool in the basement, along with a games room that had pool and table tennis as well as a dart board and fussball. It also had a vending machine that sold cans of Heineken and Amstel.  

Walking back, we found Wozza, the goalie for the 3rd years, paletic in the bushes. ‘Where the fuck have you been?’ He just smiled and pointed up the road. ‘Disco up there’ Turns out that the non footballing school trip from New Heys, two coach loads of them were gathered along with a few other schools in what was the main disco for kids. ‘They’ll serve anyone! It’s fuckin boss.’ He slurred. ‘How come you’re still not there then?’ ‘I come back for more money but fell over and fell asleep here about an hour ago.’ Right, come on, let's get there. We started walking fast which broke into a jog which ended up as a full tilt sprint. We got inside and there were about 200 under 15’s dancing the night away, most half cut on booze. We charged straight to the bar and ordered four pints of lager. Fuck knows what it was but after half I felt decidedly tipsy.  

After a few hours, the teachers from the official school party came in and started berating and rounding up the kids off the official holiday trip. When my mate Theo was dragged off by the English teacher, he pined ‘warrabout them?’ meaning us, the football lot, she shot back with ‘they’re not my responsibility so I don’t care!’ Hurrah! We boogied away and I ended up smooching with some girl from Essex, I downed another pint and we decided to take a walk outside. I needed a piss so I told her to hang on near the door. When I come back she’d gone! I went back into the disco and there he was on the dance floor. Turns out she was bladdered and the rest of the footy team were talking it turns to kiss her face off. I was gutted, no way I was going for a romantic stroll with her now, the brazen hussy.  

I decided to drown my sorrows with a third pint and a Pernod chaser. What the fuck did I know! On the way back we were all bladdered, staggering and falling over cars. The locals dining outside restaurants were thoroughly disgusted, the first thing I done when I got into our room has spew everywhere. Mr. Trainer came ranting down the corridor and burst in our room as I dangled precariously out of the window, vomiting into the garden below. ‘WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?’ Barrow sarcastically flashed back ‘sir, he’s had too many noodley doodleys’. Mr Trainer thundered back ‘GET TO BED NOW, you’ve got to be up early tomorrow, the coach leaves for Amsterdam at 09:00, if your not on it you’re staying here.’


Even at the age of 13, I was familiar with the Sodom and Gomorrah that was
Amsterdam. So on arrival, what do you think was our first foray into
iniquity? Sampling the delights of the cities lax drugs policy? No. Sneaking
into a live
sex show? No. Popping down the red light for a spot of window
shopping? No, we headed for the fairground that was set up in Dam Square! We
were in the hall of mirrors when we seen Mr. Dodd, Mr. Trainer and the
Highfield teacher Mr. Ross, who resembled the lead singer from Foreigner, ask
for directions to the red light district. In a comedy scramble, we spilled
onto the cobbled stoned square, in hot pursuit of the three teachers.

Reminiscent of the scene were Popeye Doyle gets outfoxed by the canny
Marseille smack mastermind in French Connection, we engaged in a game of cat
and mouse with the teachers. They managed to give us the slip but by this
time we were in the heart of the red light. Folks, I thought even at that
age I was a man of the world, even though my sexual prowess just about
stretched to
a touch of finger pie but what I witnessed in Amsterdam that day
will stay with me forever. You go the Dam these days and the red light is a
fraction of the size it was back then. The red light is in premium location
so the oldest profession in world has been gradually eroded. In 1983, it was
massive and it was wild. Women were coming out of their little windows clad
in sexy underwear and S&M gear to berate passers by, particularly us,
laughing in our faces as we stood agog at this bizarre and highly
entertaining spectacle. 

We nosed in the grot shops but being that young, the window displays alone
were enough to make you
sick. We decided to chance our hand in a coffee shop
but this ended in us getting chased by disgruntled bikers who took exception
to our mischievous nature. We headed to the other side of the Damrak after
bumping into Wozza clad in Tacchini and Kappa swag, carrying at least four
flick knifes. Despite the fact this was a big city, the shops were
relatively easy to steal from, my hoard included a red Ellesse tracksuit top
that was similar to a Fila Terrinda, a green lacoste polo and pair of Kappa
shorts. The others got away with similar high end sports bits, not to
mention all manner of weaponry, knifes, pepper spray and baseball bats.


We stayed the other side of the Damrak, trawling shops for easy pickings before heading to the nearest arcade for a spot of jiggery pokery with our clicker. Unfortunately for us, the arcade owners were a touch more savvy than there ferry counterparts. The only machine we could fiddle was the all new ‘Dragons Lair’ – a cartoon arcade game that had some Nazi poster boy knight in shining amour searching for the said Lair. It was impossible to play, even with 700 credits and the combined skill of John ‘Defender’ Connolly, Alan ‘Scrambler’ Barrow, Karl ‘Missile Command’ Dawbegan and Ste ‘that shitty ping pong grandstand effort only meffs had’ Willo. We had to be back at coaches for 7, the end of a marathon day was fulfilled by a stern lecture from the teachers. They teachers were not impressed with the arsenal collected from the team. Those who stupidly decided to play with their knives on the coach had them confiscated. The knock off swag was safe, the coach driver, who’d seen it all before, agreed to stash it away for a £5 each in the hold.  

The next few days were not as eventful as the first two. We managed to play in two tournaments, one near Rotterdam and one across the border, in Germany. The German tournament took forever to get to and all the Germans turned up driving cars, looking about 20. They all squealed when you kicked the shit out of them, Mr. Dodd’s Churchillesque speech about ‘not only are you representing the school, you’re representing your city AND your country’ fired us up even more as we won the tournament but not many friends. As promised by the older lads, we were taken to a massive retail type park that had seemingly 100’s of baskets outside with pairs of adidas. Obviously learning from past trips, the teachers kept a close eye on what was happening. I managed to snaffle a pair of adidas Columbia, I’d never seen them in the UK, though Wade Smith got them a few months later. Barrow kopped for a pair of Jaguar 2000 in navy blue with silver stripes that had the exact same upper as Munchen but with a Grand Prix sole.  

I couldn’t wait to get home to show off my new togs and I got my wish sooner than I thought. In Valkenburg, the first four days were taken up by sight seeing and football so on the fifth day, the teachers took us to the park that had the fair. The fair had these hamster type wheels with a giant weight on the back – you’d sit in a seat and use your plates to get the thing going. This was too boring so as one lad would get it going, we’d jump on the weight at the back. As it got so high (about 20 foot), you’d let go and fall into sand. One of the lads, Frankie Turpin, froze as wheel went up, he didn’t let go and was thrown through the air onto the stairs of the bumper car track. A volley of laughs were quickly stifled as he got up to reveal two broken arms (one a compound fracture that stuck out through his watch strap) a broken jaw and all his teeth knocked out. We immediately done the sensible thing and ran like fuck! Frankie was in massive shock, the St Johan’s Ambulance people sorted him out but the teacher wrapped up the trip, telling us ‘no one can go the disco tonight’. Sod that, not our fault he bricked it!  

We sneaked out one by one until the hard core of serious drinkers (three pints) were ensconced in the disco. On the way back, another lad named Ste Willo came past covered in blood. Some bikers had worked him over, 14 years old and duffed up by men. Truth is, we’d taunted them every night and he’d obviously over stepped the mark that night. We got a load of bottles and ran to the bar. We smashed the windows and pushed their bikes over. The police came and we scampered back to hotel, high on alcohol and adrenaline. We then proceed to carry on the wrecking spree in the hotel rooms. The Who would have proud at the destruction we caused but the teachers were not. Talk ranged from of expulsion from school to jail in Holland. The Hotel kicked us out and I've no idea who stumped up for the damage. We were made to call home and explain why we would be coming home two days early. I just said they’d double booked the hotel and we couldn’t get another because of some festival or other. My dad asked to speak to the teacher but I told him they weren’t about.  

The journey home was sober one, the only entertainment was provided by poor Frankie Turpin. The insurance wouldn’t pay to fly Frankie home so he had to come home on the coach, constantly being asked if his mam would have to wank him off, and that was just the teachers. The embarrassment caused meant the teachers kept their mouths shut. They’d be in as much shit as us, being responsible etc. but I didn’t care. I had a new wardrobe and some great tales to tell. Valkenburg never invited New Heys back and after biting the Geography teacher the next year, I was never allowed to holiday with the school again…




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