We had another glorious Autumn day to travel to college to pick Harry up for half-term and had timed our arrival so that we could see him out on the football pitch.
When we got there we found the pitch and scanned the various players but none of them was Harry. We double-checked but he wasn’t there. Where could he be? Simultaneously we spotted movement in the woods near the brook. Harry. Collecting sticks. We watched for a while, wondering if he had wandered off from football training but he was dressed normally (albeit without a coat in a chilly 11C), no-one seemed to have noticed his absence and there was no-one supervising. The wood is close to a visitors’ car park and Harry was wandering awfully close to the brook.
We drove on and parked near to Harry’s accommodation and quickly went to retrieve him. He was nonplussed and didn’t seem to be expecting us. I took hold of his hand and it was freezing cold. This was not an auspicious start.
In the week before half-term staff had phoned to say that a new room had become available and they had offered it to Harry. It was larger and en-suite, although still shared. We were keen to check out this new accommodation and it was indeed a lot better than his original room. It is much brighter with more room to move around and a large en-suite shower room.
Harry’s counsellor’s office is directly opposite his room and we told her how we had found him on our arrival. She was mortified and swore that Harry normally attended football training suitably dressed: in fact, complete football kit plus his coat!
We gathered together his belongings, noticing that his shampoo seemed unused (!) In fact, his hair was unkempt and his breath smelled bad but we kept this to ourselves. The journey home was slow with rush hour traffic but brightened by listening to Harry singing along to songs on the radio. Close to home we decided to pick up fish and chips – Harry’s favourite.
A haircut was high on the list of essential things to do, swiftly followed by a visit to see Grandma. There was also a timely trip to the dentist. Dad had discovered that the batteries had run low on Harry’s electric toothbrush. Maybe this was the reason for his bad breath? The dentist confirmed that Harry’s teeth were OK but his gums were suffering from lack of brushing.
Then it was time to enjoy spending time with Harry. He went to the movies with his Dad, caught up with Strictly and Downton (he’s a big fan of both) and the three of us went to a local beer/music festival – Pocktoberfest – which Harry thoroughly enjoyed: 3 halves of beer and a lot of enjoyment from watching the performances, particularly Hope & Social, Lumberjack Cowboy Heartbreak Trucking Co and Glenn Tilbrook.
Harry seemed to thoroughly enjoy his week at home and we certainly enjoyed spending time with him. We were on the lookout for signs of change. His Dad thought he’d grown taller; I noticed that he’d remembered his manners: lots of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. It took him a while to get into the swing of being at home again and he was resistant to hugs and kisses for a while but that soon wore off.
He hasn’t been able to tell us much about what he’d been doing at college but staff told us that we should receive a report at Christmas so hopefully we’ll learn a bit more then. We know that he has been making the most of his weekends and going to lots of shows at the regional theatres around college. I estimate that it’s going to cost around £1000 a year to keep him in trip and pocket money at this rate! But it’s good to know that he’s getting out and about.
BACK TO COLLEGE
We made sure that Harry knew that this was a brief visit home and that he would be going back to college. The day before we were due to take him back he said gruffly “Don’t want to go back to college.” It was a quick journey back and we were able to settle him back into his accommodation (only one “Don’t want you to go”). We had another brief word with his counsellor and mentioned that his shampoo seemed unused and that he needed to be more vigilant with his teeth brushing. She made a note for staff and also said that there was a trip to the cinema to see Thor later in the week and that seemed to lift Harry’s spirits.
We were amazed at how quickly that initial five weeks had sped by. And it won’t be long before he’s home for four weeks at Christmas.
I go into a bit of a low when we drop him back at college and it takes me a while to get back on an even keel again. We all miss him dreadfully and I could never have imagined what a difference his absence makes to our daily lives. But gradually we are adjusting.