Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Best Holiday Experince So Far!

I have been meaning to write this blog post for a while, however, I had to make sure I had booked my own tickets, and disability pitch before I wrote this and there is a rush on tickets, meaning I couldn't get my own!

This year, I took my children on their second ever holiday.  Last year we went to Devon, and this year we went to Dorset.  We actually went an event known as Camp Bestival.  For those who don't know, this is the 'family' version of 'Bestival' which is held on the Isle of Wight.  Camp Bestival is actually held in Dorset, in the grounds of Lulworth Castle.

Last August, as a spur of the moment thing, I booked tickets, I paid the up front deposit, and started to pay the weekly payment plan.  Camp Bestival is, as I said, a family festival.  Therefore requires camping.  A tent. My initial thought was 'uh oh what have I done'.  The second issue was that in order to go, I needed to be able to drive....s**t.....I hadn't even started lessons yet.  The third issue was to throw in taking Rowan, with his needs now drastically different to last year's holiday.  What the heck had I just done.  

But that was only an initial reaction.  Once I had gotten over that, we formulated a plan.  First step, driving lessons.  Now, for those of you who read my previous post, will know that in September we had a clinical error that turned our lives upside down, and this, therefore, meant that I couldn't take driving lessons for a long time.  I started to learn to drive towards the end of January.  With several hospital stays with Rowan, and the school holidays, I managed to go from a 'non driver', to pass my theory test first time, to passing my driving test on the 19th May.  That solved one problem!

Now the camping problem.  We didn't even own a tent, nevermind having never been camping.  I had never put up a tent.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but with the help of some friends, we got a tent, and sleeping bags, roll mats, air beds, and that was pretty much it.  We booked the local campsite, which is literally a 5 minute drive from my house, for our first run.  We decided to go (my friend Denise and I) and put up this tent while the big kids were still at school, we would do all TPN at home for now, and see how we went.  It seemed to work.  It took us 45 minutes to put the tent up, not bad!  And it really wasn't as difficult as I thought.  The weekend went well and the children LOVED it.  Obviously the first night they were very over excited, but the second night they fell asleep, and they really loved it.  We had rain, and the tent stayed up.  We had thunder and lightening too, and it really was ok!

Because the first weekend was a success, I, once again spontaneously booked a weekend in Kings Lynn Camping.  This time our shopping list had grown, a gas stove (for coffee!! and porridge for breakfast) a carpet for the tent to try and keep it a bit warmer and keep the dirt more contained, a camping table and chairs for the children to eat at (after a few spillages), coffee mugs, metal cutlery, a light for at night time.  So, the second time we went, to Kings Lynn, we had a few more items, and it was even more of a success.  It took us 76 minutes total to put the tent up, and unpack everything, no messing about, and that was WITH the children around.  On the Saturday we spent the day on the beach.  The first time I have ever taken my children to the beach (the time last year doesn't count as the weather was horrible).  We went to Old Hunstanton beach, there was no 'tourist' stuff.  There was no arcade, no pier, no donkey rides, nothing.  Just sand....and sea.  I was slightly concerned how this would go, as there is nothing to 'entertain' my children.  But.....with buckets and spades, a load of sand, and some sea, shells and stones, we spent several hours on the beach, and the children LOVED it, they said it was the best holiday EVER.  My children are so easily pleased!  They built the first ever sandcastles, we buried Katrina in the sand, Ayden jumped over waves in the sea, and Rowan got over his fear of sand, sort of (but still will not go in the 'dirty sea water, it's got STUFF in it'.

So then, just before the children broke up from school, the preparations began.  Only, Rowan had to throw a spanner in the works, as usual.  On the last day of school Rowan landed himself in hospital, very unwell, with a line infection.  He had not had a line infection for a couple of years, but, with something going practically into his heart 24 hours a day, and having IV paracetamol 4 times a day for a year, that risk escalated, and it happened.  He was really poorly and for the first time in a year I had been reminded once again at the fragility of life for Rowan.  With thanks to a friend, once again, I didn't miss Katrina's leavers assembly although it was close!  She was leaving primary school, and the whole thing was VERY emotional!  Anyway, Rowan was unresponsive all day, and I was very worried about him, he was very hot, and he was hallucinating, he kept calling me Katrina, he was delirious, he was convinced he had climbed to the top of the IV pole, and slid down it, but it was ok as he held onto the TV.......At 730pm the nurses changed over shift.  We had a nurse who Rowan knows, and remembers, all of a sudden he wakes up, and he is FINE.  He asked me if he missed snack.  But he wasn't all that bothered that he had missed it (he started to show signs of being unwell just after 7am, and was in hospital by 815am).  He asked the nurse if she could make him a cup of tea when Mummy went home, and then play his ipad for a bit before he went to sleep again.  And this is exactly what he did.  The next morning I went to the hospital and he was absolutely fine.  We were discharged, and spent the next couple of days sorting out IV antibiotics, but we came out, with twice a day antibiotics at 12pm and 12am, for the next 10 days.  We could still go on holiday.  Phew.

Once we had been discharged, the plan was on to start organising and packing everything ready for our holiday.  The children were excited, as well as anxious, as was I.  The practise runs had gone well, but Rowan was 'well' (for him anyway) those times, this time the risk was that he went downhill again very quickly, as could happen with a line infection.  However it was a risk I was willing to take.  We were in disability camping, and I had everything crossed that he would be ok.  If not, we would just have to go to the nearest hospital and deal with it from there.  We drove to Southampton the night before, and stayed in a hotel.  My children have never stayed in a hotel before and they were so excited, as well as confused at how the whole concept works.  Especially around breakfast!  Just after breakfast (which apparently had fruit for pudding according to Ayden) we left and drove to Lulworth Castle.  It took a couple of hours, but it was ok.

Once we arrived we pitched the tent.  It was hard with lots of anxious children around, lots of questions, and being tired ourselves, but we got there in the end, after dealing with a meltdown.  We went and got all checked in, wristbands obtained, and off we went to explore, and find something to eat.  I have never seen so many gluten free options!  I was so happy!  (Apart from the pizza that was repeatedly contaminated on one evening).  There was however, a big big issue with Rowan's TPN fridge.  They had issues delivering it (with TPN), they wouldn't let the driver on site as he had no pass.  Then when he finally managed to deliver it, the medical tent (after it had been signed for) decided there was no room for it, and we had to find an alternative.  So, thanks to Alice, who did an amazing job, managed to obtain an electric hook up cable, and get some very nice medics to bring the fridge from the medical tent, down to disabled camping, I can tell you now, that was a long, heavy, hot, walk!  So we had the fridge in our tent for the week. Once again the kids were overly excited and didn't fall asleep until about 11pm.  But we were on holiday!

Cameron meets Michaela Strachen!
The rest of the week was filled with fun, IVs, more fun, sleep, more fun, sunburn, more fun.  There were live bands, comedy acts, fantastic food.  The kids had an absolutely fantastic time.  The atmosphere was amazing.  Cameron got to meet Michaela Strachen.  Katrina went to watch Sophie Ellis Bexter.  James played.  Ayden and Cameron were glued to the jousting.  Rowan absolutely loved Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer, I have never seen him so happy!  It was the best holiday we have had so far, by far.

From a disability point of view, it was great.  It was in a field, which sometimes caused issues with the wheelchair, but Rowan's front castors are quite small, however, it wasn't impossible!  Being in disabled camping meant we were close to toilets, and showers, and water, and we had electric hook up, and there were less people, it was more organised (we saw the chaos in the 'normal' camping!!!!).  No one really paid attention to the disabled toilets being for disabled people, which was frustrating, apart from, by the main stage, the 'disability viewing area' was manned at all times, and was ONLY for people with the disabled access wristbands.  We sat there a few times, chilled out, Rowan napped.  I felt relaxed.  No one cared that I was doing IVs in the middle of a field.  No one stared at 'the kid in the wheelchair' or with his drainage bag on view.  Nothing was too much hassle for the staff there.  He was just Rowan!  Ayden could run around and be himself, and I didn't have to keep telling him to calm down, or be quiet.  The children slept better, I am sure thanks to all the fresh air (or methane from the toilets, especially the compost toilets!)

We all came home, very very tired, it took Denise and I a LONG time to recover, but we are already planning for next year, and we have already booked the tickets, and are paying the weekly payment plan.  It was an experience I definitely want to repeat, and the children are already looking forward to.  It wasn't the cheapest holiday on earth, but it was definitely money well spent!  Obviously eveything inside is more expensive, but they can do that!  Next year we will do a BBQ one night, and remember to take our snacks with us (not leaving them in the tent!).  We will also look at getting our own electric hook up, so we can have the fridge in our tent from the get go.  We will also be looking at getting our own trolley, to pimp up, and so Rowan can rest better next year.  Also looking at getting another tent for Katrina to stay in, to give her her own space, next to ours.

Have IVs, will travel!
Not everyone is a morning person
Everyone can be themselves!

I am thoroughly looking forward to next year already.  I am also looking forward to taking our tent and paraphernalia on some more camping trips!  We are however, fair weather campers, but, 3 years ago I would never have dreamed about taking my children camping.  But, it really does work, fresh air, space to run around, no having to be quiet, everyone can just be themselves.  Just always remember 'there are no secrets in the tent'!




  1. Fabulous writing Claire, I'm so pleased you all had such a wonderful time. x

  2. If anyone deserved to have a fantastic holiday, you and your family do. Lets hope the children will cherish the memories and you'll have an even memorable time next year. xx

  3. I love your posts! I always feel as if I were there with you. I think camping is most kids #1 pick for fun holidays. I am not a camper...but took my kids to every camp that I could find. I often had to volunteer...but they were very fun trips making great memories. You are providing your kids with wonderful family memories. Nothing is better for them than that! You go girl!!!

  4. Glad you had a great time. See you next year?