Here comes the girls……

I feel like shouting this from the roof tops and for those of you who are my FB friends you will already know but here goes anyway:

I HAD A WEEKEND AWAY…ON MY OWN (well with friends) WITHOUT CHILDREN

and in this case, the use of shouty capitals near the top of the page is a good thing, I promise!!

The weekend just passed feels like it was an age in coming since it was first mentioned and then planned back in May of this year. The PTA mum’s involved with the Knaresborough Bed Race kindly invited me to join them in their annual jaunt away, despite at the time not knowing me all that well. I think even they might have been surprised that I jumped so readily at the invite and whether they were just being polite (or took pity on me!) I accepted with relish and eagerly counted down the months, then weeks and finally the days before our jollies. Too late to withdraw the offer now ladies!

You see, us special needs (SEN) Mum’s don’t get out a lot but when we do, we REALLY like to let our hair down (*erm more on that later)  and enjoy ourselves. Of course meticulous planning has to go in to all the arrangements in making nights out or heavens above, overnight breaks even possible; those of you walking unexpectedly into our kitchens could be forgiven for thinking a full style military coup was in progress if you dared to review the strategically placed boards, contact lists and risk/reward strategies for every single eventuality from Doomsday to playdate and some in between. It’s not always easy to pull these breaks off so short of asteroid/meteor disasters, we have pretty much planned every single eventuality and possibility that could play out during our much-needed planned time out.

Of course first rule of SEN parenting is DO NOT MENTION in front of complex needs child or for that matter any other of your children what your intentions are. Nothing is more likely to ensure a hospital dash or mini crisis of some sort than letting the small people know you have plans that don’t involve them.

I know of numerous other parents like myself who have resorted to mysterious rune patterns on specific dates in the calendar. You find yourself talking in code, gesticulating or using any form of pidgin French/Spanish/German etc that your children do not understand when discussing arrangements with the necessary parties involved. I laugh and sympathise regularly when reading posts and updates from SEN parents talking about “the thing” “the you know what,” or “the unmentionable” in their bid to hide details of any important plans from their offspring who seem to feel compelled to throw a spanner into the works if privy to events.

I think I have been looking forward to this weekend away in particular for so long because the last few months have been very busy with lots of appointments and plenty more to come on the calendar; especially appointments at Great Ormond Street which are both costly to get too and a bit of a head trip in dealing with emotionally and logistically.

Despite the Minx’s best endeavours to convince everyone in school that she is a whirling dervish of energy and make me feel a right lemon pushing her wheelchair laden with only bags and coats as she hangs upside down off the climbing frame, the reality behind closed doors, can at times, be quite different.

Minx’s daily pain levels have increased again and are becoming more problematic despite the significant medication she is taking to control this. Recent tests have indicated that there may be far more issues with her stomach/bowel and even other areas of involvement than we initially thought.

I’m not being deliberately vague but really until we have had some further meetings with her consultants and her tests have been fully analysed, there is no point putting the cart before the horse and panicking unnecessarily. As and when we have more info, I will blog about it but this is not the time and place and anyway, this post is supposed to be upbeat so let’s get back on track.

So this weekend just gone saw me heading to Carlisle. Being of the female persuasion, the train fares were booked months ago, the hotel meticulously organised, restaurant etc etc. Our fabulous organiser, Sharon, had catered to everyone’s tastes and budgets and had us saving into a kitty every week so the total cost of the trip once we descended on Carlisle had been more than catered for. (Unlike the hubby’s version of the men’s trip a month back which was a hilarious ramble of FB messages still not quite planned out on the day of departure!) Sharon had even made us up little goody bags with chewing gum, lottery ticket, condom (like every girl/guide scout knows, it pays to be prepared and it’s amazing what multiple uses a latex balloon has other than its original “purpose”) and paracetamol for the morning after.

Now it has to be said that over the years I have earned a reputation as the FB lush – my wall is regularly plastered in pics from friends tagging me in anything to do with Prosecco, wine, booze etc. I think after my performance this weekend, the Knaresborough PTA mum’s might disagree that I have earned this title….It wasn’t so much that they gave me a run for my money, more that they managed a marathon whilst my efforts were a token sprint.

Initially we were all very well-behaved and the journey from Knaresborough to Leeds was very respectable. However, I pity anyone who decided to sit in our train carriage for the journey from Leeds to Carlisle to be honest. Not because we were rude or swearing but we definitely weren’t that quiet and the veritable feast of foods that we had accumulated between us made those unlucky enough not to be in our party drool and gibber at the site of. There were cheeses and dips, crisps, scones with jam and cream and of course Prosecco. Lots of Prosecco……I think we had taken a bottle each, plus a few more..and pretty much every one of those was consumed on the way up. Even the Northern Rail staff were impressed with our Smorgasbord and suggested we could have made a pretty penny on selling bits and bobs up and down the train. (Thanks to the lovely Northern Rail staff who were great and even attempted to put on a quiz for us. Never really sure if our guard was Trevor or Tony – he answered to both!)

By the time we reached Carlisle some 2 hours later, I had made my first fatal mistake. Although definitely not “drunk” I certainly wasn’t sober as a judge. As I have matured in years, (probably not in attitude) my ability to handle alcohol has largely diminished. I blame it on the children (why not?!) and I generally reach a stage where the next drink will either make me sick or fall asleep. So as we got off the train and headed straight to the nearest pub – stumbling approx 150 metres from the station – all I wanted to do was have a little nana nap. Of course my fellow mums were outraged by this and quickly set up ordering the next rounds. I propped myself up on a corner and failed epicly at downing my wine and soda but was enjoying myself hugely. It has to be said not having small people demanding my attention at regular intervals and being Lisa the person was having a very positive effect on my well-bent, much as I wouldn’t change my role as Mum but it was great to have a break from the norm.

We checked into our hotel and arranged to meet in the bar after we had changed, before heading out to dinner. Prior to the trip, much debate over e-mail had taken place about dress codes for the evenings adventures.  I in particular wanted to know if we were going “out” or “OUT OUT” – any women will understand that there is a fundamental and clear distinction between the two necessitating very different dress codes.

In the end, I think it would have been more appropriate to have gone with the scuba suit as suggested by one of our party since Carlisle was subjected to horrendous rain and wind and was generally pretty chilly. Tottering along in open toed high heels (I’m a shorty, what can I say, even my slippers would have high heels if I could find some!) skinny jeans and sparkly top plus shawl was probably not my best plan and I’m really glad I opted for the curly look instead of bothering with hair straighteners.

Not a one of us had actually thought to check out the location of the restaurant on a google maps before we left so we blindly headed off though the driving rain and eventually stumbled in to the lovely Italian restaurant. Plenty of us resorted to using the hand dryers in the ladies loos to thaw out and dry off before sitting down to dinner.

The menu was fabulous. However by this point, I had completely lost my appetite; not great when yet more booze was on the table and I desperately needed something to soak it up. I attempted copious glasses of water and nibbled at my delicious food but really didn’t do it justice. Being that I also had a wall next to me, whilst the numerous conversation round the table were hilarious (& raucous!) I could quite happily have had a little nod of if it wasn’t for the diligence of my fellow mum’s in prodding me awake.

Post restaurant I was feeling a little green around the gills whilst the majority of our party were only warming up for the night’s festivities. My shame was lessened when one of the other Mum’s (who shall remain nameless, protection of the innocent and all that – us lighter-weights need to stand together 😀 ) announced that she had had enough and wanted to go back to the hotel, to bed NOW and promptly started on her way to do just that.  Fortunately she was also one of my room mates which was even better.

I seized on the opportunity and started back with her. I don’t think the group realised we had snuck off for a good few minutes but by the ringing of my mobile a few minutes later and the outraged squawking on the other end when I answered, I was aware that my lack of presence had been detected. Oops. Busted.

Nonetheless, the girls were fab and let myself and she who shall not be named (not Voldemort obviously) away to blissful slumber. Somewhat ridiculously considering I had the night off, no need even to get up in the middle of the night to see to beeping feed pumps or unwell children or being woken by the dulcet tones of “I am finished!!” (toilet related) – in the small hours, I found myself in bed by……10:15pm – yup – well and truly rubbish! So when I mentioned further above that us SEN mum’s really like to let our hair down, I’m not sure I can entirely claim that I am very rock and roll after all! Nonetheless I had enjoyed my night and the appeal of my comfy bed and snuggly duvet was strong.

Chugging down plenty of water, I enjoyed lovely sleep until I was roused rather forcefully at 2:20am by some of our crew returning from their escapades. There was much giggling and bouncing on beds, pulling of feet and threats to drag us down to the hotel bar which fortunately had closed until 4 am; although some of the girls were intending to do a “through-er”  – carry on drinking in their rooms and then hit the bar when it re-opened –  sense (or passing out) prevailed and we all met in a well-known pub chain for a slap up brekkie the next morning. I still can’t work out whether it was impressive or vaguely terrifying to see some of the hardened amongst us knocking back Sol’s (beer) at 11am!!

And so our fantastic trip to Carlisle was drawing to a close. Not before however we had raided the local M&S for necessary supplies on the train back. Perhaps one of my favourite quotes from the weekend was uttered in the food hall: “I don’t mean to be funny and I’m not an alcoholic, but I don’t think we have enough booze here to get us back!!” Brilliant.

So once again laden with gorgeous deli foods and Cava a plenty (I think we might have used up the UK supply of Prosecco) we found ourselves homeward bound. The trip home wasn’t to be without it’s adventures though as we found ourselves stuck in Skipton due to torrential flooding which had blocked the line.

Whilst this ensured much hilarity and most people weren’t too bothered when we made it back, I was mindful that my hubby was at work and my respite finished at 6pm so as ever the girls rallied round. Hubbies and partners were mobilised to rescue us and return us safely home (or even to carry on drinking in the local bars in some cases) and we found ourselves back in Knaresborough, a bit cold, a bit soggy but having had a fantastic time.

I’m so grateful to my fellow Mum’s for including me on this adventure and if I agree to put in some heavy duty training on the staying out late party front, I am hoping to get another invite next year…..

Thanks ladies ❤

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