Monday, 13 July 2015

Seaside holiday

It has been three years since we had a family holiday. Our last one ended badly, as Tom couldn't cope with his anxiety at being away from home. It was so stressful for all of us that we decided not to do it again until he could handle it. 

Recently, Tom astonished us by saying, "I think I'd like to go on holiday again." We were cautious in our response and gave him time to think about it. He remained resolute, his confidence boosted by his recent success at school. We decided that we should go as soon as possible to make the most of the quiet time before mainstream schools broke up for the holidays.

At first, Michael thought of driving us all up to the Lake District, but this was too far away for Tom to consider. He said three hours' drive was the most he could manage. We looked at the map and saw that Dorset, an old favourite of ours, was almost exactly three hours away. The weather forecast was good for the next few days, so I booked a family room in a hotel and we started packing.

We arrived at our hotel in Beaminster late afternoon last Wednesday. Charlie was especially excited as he said he's never stayed in a hotel before. That's not exactly true, but he couldn't really remember the previous time.

Both boys were delighted to discover that the family room we'd booked provided them with a separate bedroom each, leading off from the main bedroom. Charlie was also very excited by the drinks provided.

Once we'd unpacked and settled in, we drove to Lyme Regis. Memories flooded back for Tom, who'd last visited the town when he was six and I was pregnant with Charlie. My most vivid memory is of sitting at the hotel table at breakfast, eating bowls of cereal, full English and slice after slice of toast because I was so hungry. I was only a few months' pregnant, so the guests and staff must have thought I was just incredibly greedy.

On this occasion, we walked along the seafront, looking for somewhere to eat fish and chips and enjoying the view. Tom was so happy to be outside and insisted on walking right to the end of the Cobb.

Baby seagull

Charlie trying his luck in the games arcade

After eating our meal outside at a pub overlooking the sea, we returned to our hotel for an early night.

As usual, Charlie read before he fell asleep. He loved the fact that he had a little bookshelf besides his bed, complete with a Beatrix Potter library, to which he was able to add his 'Dr Who' novels.

The next morning, we were up early to enjoy the hotel breakfast, then we drove to Seatown for some fossilling on the beach. We walked for ages before finding a suitable spot to set up camp and get out the hammer and chisel.

Charlie had never been fossilling before, but Tom remembered doing it with his Dad several years ago. He had been passionately interested in fossils and gems at the time. Both boys worked together, chiselling bits of rock and marvelling at the number of fossils and imprints of fossils that they found.

That evening we ate out again at the same pub in Lyme Regis, then went home to an early bed, exhausted by all our walking and the time spent in the sun.

On Friday morning, we drove home, breaking up the journey by stopping off at the New Forest.

The boys marvelled at the sight of the ponies standing freely in the car parks and walking along the roads.

We would have gone for a walk in the forest, but the break from routine had taken its toll on Tom, who was tired and stressed. Instead, we suggested the boys sit outside in the sunshine for a little, whilst we took some photographs.

We arrived home on Friday evening, slightly stunned by the fact that we'd managed a holiday. It's such a normal, pleasurable thing for most families, but for those on the autism spectrum a holiday can be a source of great stress, not pleasure. However, Tom had obviously enjoyed it because a few hours after arriving home, he announced, "I think I'd like to go abroad next."

Now we just have to start saving. 

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