Written by Alan Janes. Tx 6th February 1981
This is a classic Tucker episode. Tommy is upset that he’s missed his chance to go with the others on the school trip to France, but Tucker has a brainwave – why doesn’t he stowaway?!
Tommy’s slightly apprehensive but Tucker is blithely confident. When he’s asked about passports he tells Tommy that since they joined the Common Market they’ve done away with them. It doesn’t take a mind-reader to work out that Tucker, Alan and Tommy are heading for trouble – and this is all established in the opening minutes.
Mr Baxter and Miss Lexington have the unenviable task of keeping order. This ramps up the comedy a little more, since Michael Cronin is, as always, excellent as the deadpan authoritarian whilst Allyson Rees provides a strong counterpoint as a more relaxed and easy-going character (Grange Hill’s version of the bad cop/good cop).
The middle part of the episode takes place on the cross-channel ferry and is memorable for two reasons. The first is Trisha and Cathy’s encounter with two French boys. The girls don’t appear to know any French (which is odd, since you’d assume a trip to France would have been part of their French education) and the boys don’t know any English – making communication rather difficult.
However, one boy takes a shine to Trisha and attempts to demonstrate his affections in a language that’s universal. Trisha is having none of it though. “Here, leave off. Bit handy int they?” A notable thing about these scenes is that Lyndy Brill is looking very tanned. Maybe she’d just come back from a long holiday (unless she was an early adopter of fake tanning).
Secondly, it sees Alan finally decide to kick his smoking habit, after a discussion with the coach driver Mr Ellis (Eric Mason) in the ferry lounge. He gives the boy several reasons why smoking isn’t a good idea. “One, it takes your money and two, it gives you lung cancer.” Shortly afterwards we see Alan leaning over the side of the ferry, being sick. Was this a mixture of his alcohol and cigarettes or did Mr Ellis’ words strike home? Either way, he throws his fags overboard and declares that he’s finished with smoking. It’s another one of Grange Hill‘s obvious moral lessons, but it was allowed to develop over a long period of time so is quite effective.
Once they reach French soil the problems start – the customs officer finds Tommy and since he’s not got a passport they won’t let him through. This means one of the teachers has to escort him home and that forces the whole trip to be cancelled (it wouldn’t be practical for just one teacher to supervise the whole class).
Tucker is naturally sent to Coventry (or even further!) but something is salvaged when Miss Lexington wonders if the holiday firm they booked with would be able to offer them alternative accommodation in Britain. Luckily they do, so the bus sets off for a week in Bournemouth. Not quite France, but it’s better than nothing.
A rare non-school episode from series four, it’s rather a good one and since we didn’t venture very far into France it was probably quite cost-effective as well.