Last week Harry went on a residential school trip to the Lake District leaving us to ponder daily life without him.
The trip to the Keswick centre run by Calvert Trust promised all sorts of adventure. Harry took no interest in packing so we worked out roughly what the weather might be like and packed accordingly: suncream, T-shirts, waterproofs and wellies! We ensured that he had enough money in his wallet so that he could buy something from the tuckshop every evening if he wanted and we made sure that Harry knew exactly where his wallet was in his rucksack. In the event, he came home with exactly the same amount of money that he set off with.
Students left in the school minibus with holdalls, rucksacks and packed lunches. They even managed to take the suitcase of someone who wasn’t going. And, sitting alongside them, they had the Queen (well, a cardboard cut-out version of the Queen) since this was to be ‘The Diamond Jubilee Tour’.
They stopped to eat their packed lunches in glorious sunshine at Scotch Corner, arriving in Keswick at 3pm. Everyone unpacked and found where they were sleeping. Harry was in a room for 3 and slept on the top bunk. After tea everyone went for an evening walk up Latrigg and had a Jubilee celebration at the summit, unfurling flags and having their photograph taken with the Queen. Some (Harry included) decided to roll back down…
The following day’s activities included cycling, archery and horse-riding. Harry has never quite mastered riding a bike. We bought him a large trike when he was about 8 or 9 and he loved riding it round & round the house until he got too big for it. Cycling at the centre took the form of three-wheeled pedalled go-karts which suited Harry, although he kept stopping to pick up sticks along the way.
I have never seen Harry on a horse and he has always been wary of animals, even small ones. So it was lovely to hear an account of Harry’s exploits – that he enjoyed the experience and when his horse, Silas, spooked slightly after it trod on a twig, said, “Look, it’s disco-dancing!” (Now he’s home, we even have the photos to prove it).
Given Harry’s love of sticks and the part they play in his role-playing he must have loved the archery session. He’s a big fan of Legolas, the bow-wielding elf in the ‘The Lord of the Rings’ films and of the recent TV series of Robin Hood. However, he has poor muscle tone so he must have needed a lot of help to be able to draw back the bow properly. Again, we have seen the photos…
Finally, before tea, everyone went for a swim in the pool. Harry isn’t keen on swimming – indeed, he cannot swim – but he will engage in supported floating and playful splashing. After tea they went on a bus ride around the lakes, taking the Queen along for more photo opportunities.
On their third day the group took on hiking, rock-climbing and abseiling – well, rope swinging. The rope was promptly christened the ‘Swing of Doom’ and Harry took charge of operating the ropes for their coach driver’s turn saying, “Release, release… He’s flying like a bat!”
Similarly, the climbing-wall was named the ‘Wall of Wisdom’ or ‘Wall of Wobbliness’ depending on the level of confidence. Naturally, Harry pretended he was Spiderman. At the end students were asked to describe the session and Harry said, “It’s like a miracle!”
The last day was pouring with rain but everyone was kitted out in wet-weather gear anyway, ready for their day of sailing on Bassenthwaite Lake. Harry has been canoeing before but never really seemed to enjoy it. However, when he got home the following day he told me it had been his favourite activity. Another success! Certificates for completing the Outdoor Adventure Activities course were presented back at the centre by the Queen (of course).
Reading the comments and looking through the photos sent home with Harry made us all quite emotional. Harry and his fellow students had obviously had a ball! We, on the other hand, had found his absence quite odd: less work for my husband to do in the mornings assisting with Harry’s personal care; no dishwasher-emptier for me and no reason for me to be home at 4.30pm to meet school transport.
And, although Harry is quiet and there are times when we scarcely know he is in the house, it was so much quieter without him. A taste of things to come…