Beaverbrook Vimy Prize Blog – August 09, 2014

Now that the jet-lag has started to wear off after a good night’s sleep (or, at least a horizontal sleep instead of a partially-horizontal one!), we’re hitting our stride in terms of packed days and tons of information. (The kids think today was busy … I don’t think they’ve looked at the schedule for two days from now yet, but it’s good to ease them into this!)

The first order of business today was getting to Oxford. There were no complaints about the size of the mini-bus, so if they were happy with that bus I can’t wait to see their reaction to the coach that will be our second home once we get to France and Belgium!

The Oxford day is usually one of the highlights of the trip, and I don’t think that this year will be an exception. It’s not easy to get into Oxford if you’re not a student, so the fact that we get to not only see the classrooms but have university profs who are experts in WWI and WWII give our group private lectures in their areas of expertise is a pretty amazing and unique aspect of this scholarship! Allyssa also gave her presentation on France, Britain and Canada before WWI, which is also pretty cool as she can now say she has given a lecture in Oxford! We’ve had a number of past participants go on to become Oxford students themselves, and I heard a few say today they’d like to attend university here, so who knows what the future has in store for them!

The two presentations by the professors were excellent, as usual. Pens were flying across paper as the participants tried to write down everything the presenters were telling us, so I know they learned a lot!

We gave the group some free time in Oxford after so they could get lunch and the requisite Oxford shirt. I will try to remember to get a picture of all of them in their shirts as most of the kids bought one, and I don’t think there are any two colours the same!

Our final stop in Oxford was the punting dock. Punting is the activity where three or four people climb into a long boat with a flat bottom. One person stands at the back of the boat – known as a punt – and holds a long pole. They stick the pole in the water and when it reaches the bottom they push off, bringing the pole up as they move along, putting it down to keep going. Spectators line the sides of the route, cheering people on and enjoying picnics while they watch this idyllic scene. It’s very easy and very relaxing. Or, it would be If you’re experienced at punting, but no one in this group is … or, was before today, anyway!

Last year we had a student fall out of the punt at one point, so this year Gabriela and I very carefully explained what the participants needed to do to stay dry. Apparently we should have had that conversation with the chaperones. While Jason’s group did win – they got back first – I said it didn’t really count because Jason – and his sunglasses, his phone and his passport – were soaked because he fell in trying to dodge a tree. This experience also brought to light the fact that those people watching from the sidelines actually do so for the entertainment value of watching rookies try to figure this all out. One of those spectators happened to have a spare can of gin and tonic so they tossed it to Jason after he climbed back into the boat. (Too bad for him there is no alcohol allowed for anyone, participants or chaperones, on this trip!) Aside from being wet, cold and a little grossed out by landing in that not-very-clean water, Jason is ok and he was able to buy a bag of rice so his phone should be as well. (His sunglasses are resting at the bottom of the lake, but I am sure we can get him some funky ones with the Union Jack on them tomorrow).

Our evening wrapped up with a round-table (or round-step because we couldn’t get a table) discussion about Lord Beaverbrook, which the kids did very well with. We have a great group for discussions and I know that they’re only going to get more involved as the time goes on!

Tomorrow is in London – Churchill War Rooms, the Imperial War Museum, and the musical Jersey Boys – so it will be a busy last day in London!

Hopefully the WiFi connection holds so I can post again tomorrow!

Loralea Wark
Education Coordinator, The Vimy Foundation