I had inadvertently arranged to visit the respite home on Father’s Day. Fortunately my husband didn’t mind at all and thought we might be able to work it in to a ‘day out’. All we needed was for the weather to improve…
We started geocaching last year. It’s a great way of getting the kids out into the countryside and is a bit like a guided treasure hunt. You can download an app onto your smartphone and use it to find hidden caches all over the world. Even though our kids are older teenagers they still get excited about being the one to find the treasure (as do we)!
The visit to Humble Bee Farm was a great success. We spotted some birds of prey and Harry was immediately transported to the world of Harry Potter and his owl Hedwig! We listened to the guy chatting about the birds and letting visitors hold them. We had done this once before, quite a few years ago, but Harry had been quite nervous. This time he actually said he wanted to hold one…
We all took turns at holding Merlin, a male European Eagle Owl with massive talons and gorgeous clear orange-amber eyes like marbles. He weighed 3.5 lbs which soon starts to tell on an outstretched arm…
There was a farmer’s market where Dad tasted cheese and bought duck sausages; a hog roast where we shared pork, stuffing and apple sauce butties and the local microbrewery, Wold Top, was selling delicious beer which demanded sampling.
Harry’s obsession for picking up sticks had started almost as soon as we entered the farm though. We managed to persuade him to put them down long enuogh for him to have his photo taken in vintage and modern tractors and in a combine harvester.
We sampled local ice-cream from Mr Moo’s and were astonished that Harry chose rhubarb & ginger over vanilla. His handling of ice-creams can be a bit hit-and-miss (literally): he tends to lick them all from one side, ignoring the drips from the opposite side and then gets into a real mess. But he managed really well with some prompting from us.
After two hours it was time to head off back to where the car was parked at the top of a hill. Harry had started throwing sticks into the path of on-coming cars so Dad asked him to leave them at the entrance to the farm. This tactic works 50% of the time when Harry can be persuaded that the sticks should be left in a neat pile where they could be found again if necessary. Not today! Cue a rather public tantrum. Fortunately, Dad managed to steer Harry towards the car without too much fuss or name-calling (by Harry)!
It was at this stage we realised we hadn’t brought our wet wipes or antibacterial hand wash with us: standard kit when out & about with toddlers, but also with Harry because he picks up so much stuff off the ground. Should we go all the way back to the farm toilet block? Dad came up trumps again, improvising with bottled water & tissues!
Time for a couple of geocaches and then we were off to the respite home: a first visit for Harry and the rest of the family.
No need for trepidation though. It had been agreed that we would visit when the Manager (I’ll call her Sarah) was on duty. She had shown a particular interest in taking responsibility for Harry when he stayed and greeted us all by name at the door, even the dog! We had tea in the garden which Harry said was, “Just like at home”. A good start.
At first he wouldn’t look at Sarah whilst she gently asked him short questions about what he’d done today, about the school trip to Keswick, about his likes and dislikes. Harry referred all his answers to his Dad, only glancing out of the corner of his eye at Sarah occasionally.
Eventually she asked Harry if he would like to have a look around the home and he agreed to go off with her on his own. Another good sign. Ten minutes later they were back. Harry had picked out his bedroom: one with a view of the garden and the road. Sarah had taught him the door code to access the rooms upstairs and he had remembered it. Very impressive. I asked him whether he wanted to show his Dad and his sister the room and off they all trouped. Very, very impressive.
In all we spent about an hour and a half at the home but in truth I knew within fifteen minutes that Harry would settle there and feel at home. Sarah had even collected feathers on her way in to work, knowing that, along with sticks, Harry loves collecting them. She thought they might be able to do some craft work with them when he goes to stay.
Needless to say, by the time we left, she had won Harry over. And us.
A very successful Father’s Day as it turned out.