Ponies and Racing Pigs: 2013 365 Challenge #122

Photo3221

Racing Piglets

Today has been a great day.

Too often lately this post has focused on about how hard my day has been or how awful the kids have behaved, or how tired I am, so it’s only right to praise the good days. (Although I am so tired right now it hurts to blink, but it’s a good tired from six hours of happy sunshine and walking.)

Having failed to get the kids into nursery for an extra day (thus saving £82) I decided there was a bit of spare cash to go on a proper day trip. When it’s new for all of us there are far fewer arguments and differences of opinion. Plus I find the kids are much better behaved (and therefore nicer to be around) when they’re out in public.

Son on Max

It took a bit of research to find something local but eventually, while the kids played dollies and watched Mike the Knight, my trusty new iPad and I discovered a Farm, forty minutes away, that looked like fun. A picnic was packed, the satnav programmed and off we went on our adventure.

We must have pleased somebody because the sun shone down from a blue sky all day, to the point where I had to borrow some sun cream while the kids played in the giant sandpit (prompting the only tantrum of the day when little man REALLY didn’t want cream on his neck!)

The place was brilliant.

The jockeys for the Piglet Racing

The jockeys for the Piglet Racing

Unsurprisingly it was very similar to Our Farm, as the kids are now calling it, but very different too. There’s a daycare on site so maybe they understand and cater for young kids a bit more. Whatever the reason, it was pitched just right: bright, colourful, compact and over all spot-on.

The highlight of the day was being able to fulfill a long-standing request from both kids to ride a pony, as the Farm offered short walks for over-twos (up until now, Aaron has been too young so I haven’t taken either of them.) There were also endless free rides on the little Barrel Train to see the sleeping dragon; guinea pigs to cuddle; sheep, goats and ducks aplenty to feed; and even a piglet race: Is there anything funnier than watching four piglets, with soft-toy jockeys strapped to their backs, racing round a bespoke track with a crowd of kids cheering them on. Brilliant!

Amber's first pony ride

Daughter’s first pony ride

My only dilemma was whether to upgrade to an annual pass, as the kids have decided it’s Their Farm now. (If I’d bought the pass while there I’d have had the day’s entry fee refunded).

The decision was taken away when I realised it was closing time and we had to leave. But we might be taking Daddy on Sunday as they’re having a Pirates and Princesses event, so it’s a possibility. Even with the forty minute drive I can see us going back. The zoo pass has expired so maybe we do this one for a year instead.

Glorious.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Kim looked over at the curled up shape of Sky, asleep on the sofa, Claire’s jumper draped over her like a blanket. A crease formed between her eyebrows.

“How has it been, looking after her? It must be really frustrating having to go to bed at 9pm rather than going out to dinner or for a drink.”

Claire thought about the previous week and compared it to the first few weeks of her hostel adventure.

“It hasn’t made much difference to be honest. I wasn’t exactly partying hard anyway, and not at all after Josh left. I probably eat and go to bed a little earlier but then I’m that shattered I’m ready to sleep.” She sighed. “And of course Sky’s awake half the night with terrors or because she misses her Mum. Some mornings getting up is like trying to clamber out of a bath of treacle.”

The line on Kim’s face deepened and Claire’s earlier suspicions returned. They grew in strength as Kim shook her head and smiled a little ruefully. “You’re not really selling the whole parenting thing to me.”

Claire felt her heart jump into her throat. She wondered if she was brave enough to probe. Kim didn’t push me for answers about Michael; I should probably keep my mouth shut and let her tell me in her own time. There was a pause, both women watching the sleeping child. Kim sucked in air as if steeling herself for a difficult challenge.

“Claire, I –”

“Hello, ladies, are you hungry?”

Kim and Claire turned to face the door together, like rabbits starting at the sound of danger.

“Shhh, Jeff, you’ll wake Sky,” Kim hissed, her face flushed red. Jeff narrowed his eyes and looked directly at his girlfriend. A sense of what he had interrupted seemed to occur to him, and he raised a hand, smiling apologetically.

“Sorry.” Holding up a thin white carrier bag laden with boxes, he shrugged sheepishly. “Chinese?”

When they had eaten more than their fill, they stretched back on the sofas, cradling their swollen bellies. Claire instinctively looked towards her friend, trying to gauge whether her belly was more rounded than could be explained by too much Take-Away.

Kim was snuggled next to Jeff, curled into his shoulder in such a pose of belonging it made Claire’s heart contract like withered fruit. She remembered why she didn’t spend much time with Kim when her boyfriend was around. Not only was he too good looking for comfort, he was also completely absorbed in Kim to the exclusion of anything else.

When she had been with Michael it made the arguments all the more painful. Now, knowing that the only person sharing her life and bed was a six-year-old girl who would return to her mother in a week, Claire felt the pain like a cavernous empty space in her soul.

Out in the hills, with a destination to distract her and the feel of the sun and wind to keep her company, the loneliness didn’t bite. Sitting in the quiet lounge, with guest huddled together reading, playing scrabble, or just existing in each other’s orbit, Claire felt smothered by how much it hurt.

Unable to bear it, she rolled off the sofa, weariness dragging at her limbs. She stretched, then walked over and gathered the sleeping child into her arms, glad of the warmth. With a nod at Jeff and a smile to Kim, she cradled Sky close and carried her away to bed.

***

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