Day 9 of Holidays

Joshua does not get to choose much for himself in his life : I decide what he will eat for his meals, where he will go and what he will wear for instance. I try to give him choices between two alternatives but more often than not, I make decisions for him. But yesterday morning we went out on a walk together and I let him determine what we did. My husband had cycled to a vintage car show  and we left the dogs at home,so there was just the two of us to please.

We stepped out of the gate and Joshua could choose whether to go right , up the hill to the high street or left, downhill towards the beach? He chose the easier option of downhill so off we went, me holding on tight as it was steep and he was almost running down.  Joshua selected a left turn at the bottom of the hill and we headed towards the pier, I had planned to go to the regatta to see what was going on on the seafront, but Joshua had other ideas: he dragged me onto the pier. Once inside I let go of his hand and let him lead the way; he wove through the various slot machines and computer games, halting briefly by the ten pin bowling to watch the familiar sounds – he goes bowling with school. But then he headed onwards again to the cafe where we ate tea last week and he went to sit down at the same table, but unfortunately it was occupied and I intervened, and moved him along by one table. He crossed his legs as if to say he was staying, so I ordered myself a mug of tea and him a bowl of chips and an orange juice, which came quickly and he tucked in.

He decided when he had had enough and took off back towards the amusements. I could see that it was now pouring so I was in no hurry to move him on. He hovered by a baseball game where for 50 pence, you got 45 seconds of throwing two basketballs into a hoop. So I found a pound coin and he enjoyed two games. At first, he wanted to throw the ball outwards, towards the amusements but he soon learned that the game was to aim at the basket and he even got a few in the target. He was enjoying the game so much, that I changed a £5 note and he had another ten games!. It was so lovely to find something that he was enjoying and focused on and something that he had chosen, that we had a great time.

After the money was gone, he wandered towards the exit but saw the rain and changed his mind. Instead he turned around and he went into the bar where we had stopped for a drink the other night – he may have been looking for his Dad. But I bought us an orange juice between us and we sat by the window looking out at the sea. He had a few sips but was not really interested in the drink, so we left and we walked back up the hill to the house. He stopped just once when we were almost back, but I was able to persuade him that we were almost home. Once back, he curled up on the settee and we were both satisfied with our morning’s entertainment. I was thrilled that he had made his own choices and played on the pier amusements, like other teenagers do.


Day 8 of Holidays

One of the things that I particularly love about our holidays is the lack of a plan: we wake up, get up and after breakfast, we decide how we might like to spend the day once we have sussed out the weather. Yesterday was the only day of our fortnight that was pre-determined with a plan, as we had been invited to my Aunt and Uncle’s Golden Wedding party at their home. So it meant us getting dressed into our party clothes and being at their house for 1 pm. They had hoped to be in the garden but the storms were still hovering and as we arrived, the rain came down in a heavy downpour, so instead they had their 60 guests in their home. Luckily they have a large kitchen and several reception rooms so everyone was able to spread out and get comfortable.

Joshua has been to his Great Aunt and Uncle’s home before many times, so he greeted them both then he headed for the familiar settee in the lounge, where he planted himself for the duration of the party, initially next to strangers and then they kindly moved away to allow ,alternately, me or my husband to sit with Joshua. There was a beautiful buffet laid  out in the kitchen, to which I contributed my homemade cheese straws, and so we filled plates and brought them back to the settee to tempt Joshua with a range of tasty treats. He drank a lot of orange juice but only ate tortilla chips and grapes, then a chocolate brownie, made by my cousin, for pudding.

We did not know many of the people at the party, as many were their friends, and so I kept being asked how I knew the Golden Couple , so I explained that I was their niece that my Uncle was my late father’s only remaining sibling. Everyone was very friendly and I learnt more about their lives and friends, and as we toasted them and they both said a few words, it was possible to feel the love and emotion in the room and I was thrilled to be there to share in the celebration. I was one of the few guests who was present on the black and white wedding photographs that were on display, even though I was just two and a half years old.

It was only as I was leaving, when saying our goodbyes, that I got upset. As I hugged them, I was overwhelmed by a sense of loss, that Mum should have been there too. Apparently it was Mum who persuaded them to have a party, so all the more reason that she should have been there to enjoy it. There were lots of toddlers and young children playing in the garden when the sun tried to come out, and Mum adored small children , so she would have been out there playing skittles or pushing toy tractors around the lawn with them or she would have taken a turn sitting with Joshua on the settee.  I realise that these family events are going to be painful, as we are going to feel our loss more acutely and the pain, though it comes and goes in waves, is still very raw.

Day 7 of Holidays

It was an odd day of weather yesterday as storms were forecast and kept threatening, as the sky would turn black but in the main, we had sunshine. During one of the sunny spells, we walked along the seafront with Joshua letting him take the lead. he walked hand in hand with his Dad, while I had the dogs on a lead. Joshua decided when he needed to sit down and he made the most of the many benches along the seafront, choosing to sit, with his legs crossed and admire the sea view.He enjoyed being in charge of the walk and resting places. Again he walked quite a distance, before we decided to turn around as the sky had turned black and threatening. We sheltered from a brief rain shower in a cafe, where the dogs were allowed to sit quietly under our table, then carried on with our walk home.

Joshua had a nap and later we headed out again, this time to a cafe for afternoon tea. Joshua was delighted to get there, it is a favourite holiday haunt of ours so he started shouting ‘thank you’ as soon as we parked the car. He was excited as we walked in and sat down, waving at other customers so I was hopeful that he would eat and drink. But he got restless while waiting for his orange juice and victoria sponge to arrive, and I had to take him outside for a run around, to burn off some energy, as he was swinging on his chair and generally messing around. That did the trick as he both ate and drank once he got back inside, so we were able to enjoy our cream tea more. He was very taken with the young waitress, with a pony tail, and he stood waving at her for a while as we were leaving, but she did not see him. I suggested that he move so that she could see him better and try again, which he did and then he got the response that he was waiting for and only then, were we allowed to leave.

On the way back, we stopped at the hill where my parents ashes are now scattered, to let the dogs and puppies run around, although now it was very gusty up there. As we started walking, we saw a magnificent rainbow appear in front of us and the end was just over the place where we had scattered Mum’s ashes just days earlier. It is such a beautiful symbol of peace and it was there, just where, and when, I wanted to see it.It greeted us briefly then, as we walked towards it, it disappeared again, but it was there long enough to work its magic and to tell me that all is well. With rainbows and butterflies, it is certainly a very special place and it is a location where I too would like my ashes to be scattered when that time comes.

rainbow on Culver

Day 6 of Holidays

Yesterday was the first day that the puppies were allowed to have a walk in the big bad world, now that it is a week since their last injections. So they celebrated in style with three walks in total : one just with me, I took them along on my morning walk with their parents. We walked along the cliff path together, with them either following me or Ruby, but they never strayed far. The only issue on their first walk was when a jogger approached and she was a scary sight and Betty took off back towards home, but I called her and she bravely came back. I thought they would be exhausted once they got home from their big adventure, but instead, the walk energised them and they tore around the house, upstairs and round and round my bed chasing each other.

Once the boys were finally up and dressed, I packed a picnic lunch and we all went on a favourite walk of ours. Again the puppies were surprisingly confident, exploring and leading the way at times. When we stopped on a bench to eat our sandwiches, they were more interested in Joshua’s rejected ham butties than the Down that we were on top of. They sat with us hoping for scraps  and bravely observed passing dogs.We then went to explore another small seaside town but took turns in looking around ,as Joshua was dozing in the back of the car . Then on the way home, we went back up Culver Down where we were greeted by Chalkhill Blue butterflies as we got out of the car. Joshua happily strode out , holding his dad’s hand and I brought up the year with the puppies. When Joshua felt he had walked far enough, we got the rug out and sat down to play ball and to admire the spectacular scenery. We met a Grandmother with her two grandchildren in their early teens on the way back and they loved the puppies, asking all kinds of questions as they played with one each. As we parted, the Grandmother thanked us for sharing our dogs with them and she walked away saying that was ‘ a real family walk’ which made me smile as it was : our family of three and the canine family of Mum, Dad and two babies!

We have not got puppy leads yet, so all three walks were ones where they could run free, in safety, as soon as they left the house or the car, and their parents took as much care of the beginners as we did.They were much braver than I expected them to be but perhaps they just do not know what to be afraid of yet, as they trust everyone and everything. While I love that they were friendly with the family, they need to learn some wariness, that not everyone is kind. Joshua needs to learn that lesson too : he assumes that everyone will like him and that nobody will harm him, as a result he has no real concept of stranger danger. I am certain that he would follow anyone- especially a Granny-type or an attractive young lady with long hair – as he shows real innocence and trust in strangers. It is a great skill to be open and friendly, both the puppies and Joshua have clearly learnt that skill, but they all need to develop a limit in the trust that they show to strangers, for their own self-preservation. I suspect that the puppies will achieve that wariness before Joshua does.

Day 5 of Holidays

Back in 2015 we scattered Dad’s ashes on a favourite walk here, on a cliff over looking the bay and town where our family holiday home is located and I since found out that his brother and sister’s ashes are in the same location. I had been really moved back then when we found small blue butterflies all over the area where we had scattered Dad’s ashes as they had felt like a symbol of new life to me, as though his spirit was transferred into these delicate butterflies. So as I drove with Joshua up to the same cliff top yesterday, I was hoping to be greeted by the same sight where we scattered Mum’s ashes, but I was not optimistic as it was a sunny but windy day and so I thought that butterflies might struggle to survive on that exposed clifftop.

My husband walked up with the dogs and we were meeting him there – while Joshua was impressive at walking the day before, we did not wish to overface him with a hike up a hill! So I parked nearby the location and carried ashes under one arm and held Joshua’s hand as we walked towards the sheltered spot where we had scattered dad’s ashes four years earlier. Mum had been with us then and it was the only time I had seen her cry over Dad’s death, and I reflected that I did not expect to be back here so soon. As we approached, I was delighted to see two small blue butterflies lazing in the sun, just waiting for me it seemed. It is, we have learned since, called the Chalkhill Blue and only lives in the South on chalky cliffs between July and September. I helped an inpatient Joshua – who had been hoping for a pub lunch rather than a walk – to sit down as I photographed the pair of butterflies. Then as I looked around, more were fluttering around the spot and of course I cried, I was so pleased to see them and they were just what I needed to see at that moment.

Joshua was delighted to see his Dad and the dogs appear on the horizon,as that meant that his longed for lunch might be more imminent and his weeping mother wasn’t much company. My husband and I each scattered some ashes each in the sheltered spot and said our goodbyes again as the butterflies danced around.Both of my parents ashes are together now overlooking the sandy beach of my childhood holidays and I thought what happy places they have chosen as final resting places and they are both locations that we will enjoy visiting again in the future.

Then, as we did after we had scattered Dad’s ashes, we walked up the hill to the pub with the best views on the island, where we toasted my parents with a drink and a tasty pub lunch .Joshua will not have understood the significance of what we were doing, but he was with us and then he certainly appreciated the refreshments afterwards.

Rest In Peace Mum and Dad xxx

Chalkhill Blue

Day 4 of Holidays

Joshua had another late lie in yesterday until after 10 am.Not only do they mean that he is well rested once he finally gets up, but it gives us some Joshua-free time too. I enjoy my early morning dog walks and I am confident that both boys will still be asleep when I get back again, so I am not even missed. I was on the telephone to BT about broadband when Joshua appeared expecting some breakfast. This week he is getting at least 12 hours sleep, typically 10 pm until 10 am which has to make him feel better and more alert.

We decided yesterday to go for a walk, with the dogs, along the prom to the next town along, which is about 2 miles away. We walked along the prom, one of us either side of Joshua holding his hands, with two dogs on the lead too ,as they are not allowed on the nearest part of the beach in the summer, and Joshua strode out happily. My husband carried the rug in his rucksack so that we could rest on the beach whenever he needed to and when we got the first part of dog-permitted beach, Joshua sat on the rug to recover while I played ball with the dogs. A brown jack russell cross began to chase Kevin around in large circles and they enjoyed a lot of exercise together as we looked on. His owner came over to talk to us to tell us all about her dog Max , who had been bought to calm down their autistic daughter, who also had epilepsy. The dog was a beloved family pet but had not had the desired impact on their daughter. I hear of several families who hope that a dog will have a beneficial impact upon  a child with learning disabilities, as everyone has heard the tales of miraculous transformations that a pet has brought about. It is however a big responsibility on a puppy and I worry that it is not a guaranteed outcome but should be regarded as a bonus if it does happen.

Once rested, Joshua was more than happy to walk along the sands until we reached a cafe for lunch, where we sat outside in the sunshine overlooking the sea. We had not quite made it to the next town but almost, and we knew that Joshua would have had enough by the time he got back again, so we re-traced our steps back, this time stopping at another cafe for an ice cream. Our holiday cottage is at the top of a steep hill just above the beach, and spurred on by knowing where he was, Joshua scaled that hill and was less out of puff than his parents! I cannot recall how many years it is since he last walked up that hill ,so I was so proud of his determination and his exertions. He curled up on the settee for a nap when we got back to the house, but what an achievement and it has to be better for him than being pushed about in a wheelchair. It is better for my husband too as he is getting heavy to push uphill – I can no longer manage it and always defer to my husband, while I will happily push him on the flat. But his wheelchair has not yet come out of the car boot on this holiday, we carry it for emergencies only so I really hope that it stays there all fortnight.


Day 3 of Holidays

After our long drive here, I like to have a day when we do not get back in the car, but we walk around and yesterday was that day. It was drizzling on my early dog walk but it was still warm, and once the rain stopped, the day got hotter and hotter. Joshua obliged beautifully by enjoying another late lie in, which enabled me to cut the grass. It was always the first thing that Mum did as soon as she arrived, she would unpack the car and would get the lawnmower out, so it was making me uncomfortable knowing that I had left it for a full day! It looked so much better once the grass was cut as it hoovered up the fallen twigs too, so it looked cared for again. Joshua woke up only once the work was done, which is a good trick.

The highlight of the day only came in the evening, when we had taken a walk down to the pier as he enjoys the noise, lights and young people at the amusements there. Again, it is the first time for years that he has walked there, rather than us taking the wheelchair and once the beach and pier were in sight, he raced there, pulling us along in his enthusiasm to get there. He loved walking through the slot machines and I even found two 2 pence coins in my purse, which we wrecklessly  blew on the penny falls machine, winning 6 pence, which of course we ploughed back into the machine, but we had fun in the process. We walked along the wooden pier where our appetites were awakened by the tasty smells of a cafe there, so we did a detour for egg and chips for tea, which were surprisingly tasty.

Joshua got restless while his Dad was still eating, so I took him down to the end of the pier where he spotted the dodgems with three kids bumping away. He was fascinated and pulled to get into a bumper car too. I explained that we would go and get Dad and he was unimpressed as we walked back to the cafe to fetch him. It was quite an operation getting both of their long legs into the dodgem but they managed it and I paid the £2 fee and off they whizzed. They went round and round, with Joshua beaming all the way around. He had known what he wanted and by the look on his face, it had lived up to his expectations. They spun round and round the track on their own, thankfully nobody else was there as he might not have appreciated being banged, and he was grinning all of the time. It was such fun to see him enjoy a ride like that with his Dad, as usually he rejects anything in a fairground. But mainly I loved how adamant he was over what he wanted to do, our passive, compliant son has been replaced by a walking, determined teenager who is able to make choices and stick to them, until he gets his way. It is about time!