Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Hot House

Sent to the gulags

School trips with the oligarch kids

This article is taken from the April 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Obviously, the fact that half the parents at Lyra’s prep are Russian oligarchs has suddenly come into rather sharp relief. 

My friend Jemima — she who randomly sends her kids to a state primary — was crowing about this at lunch the other day. Apparently loads of private schools are struggling to keep afloat because donations from oligarchs have been sanctioned. I said Lyra’s prep would be OK because of all the shipping magnates and she looked appalled, and said I needed to check my privilege.

Independence is a bit of a moot point when you have private security

In other oligarch news, the sodding Year 6 residential trip to Flatford Mill is looming. Which would be delightfully bucolic, if it weren’t for the fact that half of Lyra’s classmates have never spent a night away from their various fully staffed mansions — let alone set foot in Suffolk. 

So, safe to say, Flatford Mill will be a baptism of fire. When our oldest, Minnie, went on the same trip three years ago there were actual panic attacks re the lack of en-suites, and traumatised responses to cowpats. Three girls put out SOS calls to their parents, cue the family chauffeur pegging it to East Anglia in the Tesla. 

TBH I’m with them — the dorms look like prison cells. The school keeps wanging on about the importance of these trips in “fostering independence”. Which is a bit of a moot point, when you have private security.

In other school trip news, over at Hector’s sodding prep (where the vibe is more Boden than Kremlin) the parents aren’t content with the kids going on a Year 4 camping weekend, and are now trying to instigate an invite-only family camping trip too. 

As in, we’re expected to go camping in the New Forest, with a select group of kids in his class and their families! I mean, come on! No! Just no. 

I literally can’t think of anything worse than stumbling out of a tent at dawn, looking for a bush to pee behind, and having to chat to Arthur or Roscoe’s mama en route. It’s bad enough briefly crossing paths with them once a week on Fridays when we’re all WFH. Forty-eight hours might push me over the edge.

Apparently I’m alone in this. My phone is pinging off the hook with inflatable mattress chat and tent emojis, and inevitably Hector has become obsessed with how awesome it will be. 

Instead of taking my side, Will — rural freak that he is — said I needed to “enter into the spirit” for Hector’s sake. The phrase “get over yourself” was whispered in the utility room. 

When will I learn to be OK with Dulux?

Like, hello? What about that whole therapy session on consistent parenting and supporting each other’s needs and wishes? I have never needed or wished to not do something as passionately as this entirely unnecessary extra-curricular camping trip.

If she wasn’t annoyingly young and blonde and smiley I’d send Erika our new au pair, but the face Will makes around her makes me want to vomit, so for my own pride I’ll either have to go, or ban Will and the kids from going. 

Lyra cunningly suggested Will take the kids without me, knowing that if I agreed this could be held against me for the rest of time. So my only option is to book a Safari holiday over the same bank holiday as a superior alternative. Which isn’t really an option, after the staggering cost of having the outside of the house repainted. Damn you Little Greene. When will I learn to be OK with Dulux?

But we soldier on. We soldier on.

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover