School Residential: Horror of the Holdall

Yesterday my little darling Y6 daughter, Grace returned from a five day residential in Wales. It has been an odd week just having just the younger daughter at home and having zero contact with the eldest. To say I have missed her is an understatement. She is such good company and I’ve missed our little chats. I haven’t missed the mad school run rush in the mornings though and it has given me a little taste of what life will be like come September when she starts high school and makes me realise (yet again) how fast time flies.


We had been told by parents from previous years to expect the return suitcase (or in our case, holdall) to be full of disgusting, well worn items of clothing. I was a bit stuck with this as Grace doesn’t have much in the way of scruffy clothes. Not that she has a pristine wardrobe either, just that she doesn’t have stuff for best and stuff for knocking around in. It all merges into one. As a child of the 1970s I had a clear division in my wardrobe, posh maxi dresses for parties, pretty summer dresses for visiting relatives in and play clothes which were made up of jeans, t-shirts and various hand me downs from my older sister.

The letter we got from school about the trip wasn’t overly informative. It just said t-shirts – lots, sweatshirts – lots and so on. So I could see no option other than to nip to Primark and pick up some of their cheap t-shirts and leggings. We managed to kit her out for a reasonable amount, particularly when she finally understood that the clothes she needed were practical and that it didn’t matter that they were just plain coloured t-shirts without logos or adornments. I may have muttered ‘It’s not a fashion parade’ and I may have said it precisely in the style of my own mother, circa 1979.



I picked up a tired, but adrenaline pumped 11 year old and said baggage. I was amazed that she had managed to get it all back into the holdall, until she told me it had taken her and three of her friends to zip it back up! I was pleasantly surprised that there were no wafting aromas to be smelt and felt oddly optimistic about the task ahead. Pleasantries over and various snacks consumed (it seems that sugar and sweets were rightly limited during the five days away which had led to an interesting ‘cold turkey’ scenario which was only rectified by some cornflake crispy cakes and a bag of Haribo).

I put the holdall in the garage and mentally prepared myself. A few deep breaths and I pulled the zip. At this point my telling of this tale goes into slow motion and if it were a video my face would slowly turn from mild contentment to a look of abject horror. The slo-mo would continue with my voice enunciating very slowly ‘Ooooooooh Mmmmmmmmmy Gooooooooood’ in one of those deep throaty shouts that you get on Fail Army videos. It is difficult to describe the full effect of the smell, but I would go so far to say that it was a mix of the stinkiest, smelliest teenage boy’s bedroom combined with the effect of leaving an open box of sushi in your car boot for two days during a heatwave. Yes, rancid meets musty meets fishy. Obviously they had been by the sea in Wales and a number of their activities had involved them being in the sea and you could tell. Oh yes, you could tell!

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Clearly not my garage or indeed my utility room!


Grace later told me that there had been access to a ‘drying room’ which she said only served to make things worse. Had their clothes just been wet with normal freshwater then yes a ‘drying room’ probably would have had some use. Being wet with seawater and then just letting the clothes ‘dry’ is tantamount to parental abuse. There was obviously no thought for the poor mums and dads who had the misfortune of having the responsibility of washing the returned clothes.  Several times I had to poke my head out of the garage (yes our washing machine and dryer are in the garage, I try and pretend to myself it’s a Utility Room, but it’s clearly not) gasping for breath. It didn’t help that the washing is taking about 15 days to complete and that is the other part of my story.


Our washing machine has crazy cycles. My very kind father in law bought our last washing machine. The previous one died a sad and lonely death (well, not really, but that is more interesting than saying the motor gave out and the circuit board thing stopped working) and as we have reduced means we couldn’t afford a new one. He had already chosen us a particular one which they also had in their own house. I have since realised that quite possibly the last person that you should trust with the choice of a new washing machine, is someone who doesn’t actually use a washing machine themselves! Whilst he may have extolled the virtues of this particular washer and it’s economy settings etc, what he neglected to mention is that if you want to wash anything at a cycle warmer than 30 degrees, it takes the best part of a week for the cycle to run its course. The washer had been on for a while and I went in two days later and it was still only on the rinse cycle! I’m hopeful that we may see the end of the washing pile soon, the stench has become stronger as time has moved on and the warmer weather hasn’t helped. If things don’t improve soon I may have to start renting out the garage as a film set for NCIS or a remake of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, it certainly has the atmosphere and the stench!

If you or someone else has been affected by the issues in this post, I am very sorry, we’ve used 3 cans of Febreze and 1 pack of incense, but the smell still seems to be travelling.

Pink Pear Bear
A Mum Track Mind

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  • The Pramshed

    June 22, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    This made me chuckle reading this, and reminded me of the days when I went on residential courses with school – I have no idea what my bag came back like, and what my clothes were like, I’m sure like you my Mum was shocked! I hope you’re daughter had a fab time in Wales though. Onto the washing machine, there is nothing worse than a cycle taking ages, ours takes nearly 3 hours and then forever to dry. When it’s cold and wet, I hate having to do the washing, with it drying on every radiator. Thanks so much for joining us this week at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

    1. Siena Says

      July 1, 2016 at 7:09 pm

      Ah she had a brilliant time although it certainly wiped her out. I don’t think she has ever done as much concentrated physical activity in her life!!
      After writing this I googled my washing machine instructions and I think that I have managed to cut the cycle time down a bit by pressing the speed perfect button. Oh how sad my life is given how chuffed I was by this!
      Thanks for commenting and of course ‘having’ me!

  • This Mum’s Life

    June 23, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    I had to read the part about the washing machine sometimes taking a week to complete, several times, because I was sure I was misunderstanding it!! I’ve never heard of this phenomenon in my life before!!!!! How totally annoying!!!! Oh my goodness, I could almost smell that stench emanating through my computer, you described it so well!! How absolutely awful for you! Thankfully it will be many years before I lose mine to a residential, but being boys, I expect they will come home sporting the dirtiest stenchiest clothes ever!! I’m sure she had a great time though!! I can remember a yr 6 residential I went on, to Poole. Only 1/4 of the year turned up at school the week after, because most of us had come down with some awful plague type virus…. I can still remember how ill I was!!

    1. Siena Says

      July 1, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      Luckily we have now recovered from the stench! Yes I think the boys can be worse. One mum said her son hadn’t cleaned his teeth for the whole 5 days! Your Year 6 residential sounds like fun, well the aftermath I mean.Poor you x

      Thanks for commenting xx

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