Category Archives: Salamander

Jo’s Blog 2018 Day Five

Day five, well where did that all go? Two weekends gone in a flash and with so many fantastic memories to take with us.
First a huge thank you to the group for the incredible book and t-shirt. What an amazing way to celebrate the 10th Salamander course. I know every young person will wear their shirt with pride as they have achieved so much in the 5 days. From a nervous start to a fabulous finish.
I need to thank the young people for their hard work and dedication. This year we accomplished so much. A fear of heights was overcome, the dark in the smoke house is not so bad after all, Coate Water wasn’t as cold as you expect and swimming to the other side is fine. Climbing to the top of the ladder and down again is always good when your team mates are there footing the ladder and telling you well done. All these things can be achieved with support from friends and determination from the young people. And they did!
So as usual we started the day with a great breakfast. Thank you Nicky for getting into work so very, very early to cook for us, everyone loved the eggs, bacon, sausage, beans and toast and some loved it so much they went back for seconds! Once the plates were cleaned it was down to changed ready to practice the show. It’s at this point the rain starts!! Once in kit it was into the classroom to go over the jobs the teams were doing.
Rain didn’t stop the high spirts and excitement of the up and coming show. The RTC was run through and everyone was happy with their jobs. Next the second part of the show was rehearsed and again it was if they had been doing this all their lives. They are confident and ready to show their families what they have learnt on the course. At no point did any of them complain about the weather, they were having fun, so no one was bothered.
I hope you enjoyed the show as much as we all did. I am so proud of them all. Next weekend isn’t going to be the same without seeing them.
I would like to thank Ed & Mike from the Police who were fantastic with all the young people. You were both a hit from day one. Nothing bothered you even when you can hear your name over and over again (Mike.) I think you both have a permeant fan club now. Thank you both for helping where needed but not doing it for them. You are both so patient with every single one of them. Thank you for giving reassurance and encouragement where need.
To all the Firefighters who put so much into this course to make it the incredible experience it is for each and every person who attends. Steve, Liam, Nathan, Nev, Sean, Martin, Dan, Ben, and Daryl. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are all my heroes, for putting up with me as well as our young people. Each one of you adapts to what is needed from your team each day. Your patience is wonderful, even when all around it seems like chaos!
Jo, thank you for your support this week, you have been incredible. Nothing is ever to much trouble and you have gained some new friends as well as seeing old friends. Thank you for being hands on and taking part in all those things you thought you may just stand and watch, they all loved you for being involved. I think there may have been some firsts for you this course as well!!
Mark, the man who makes this course the best course you have ever seen. The person who doesn’t believe in boundaries and pushes every young person to the next level to ensure they have achieved everything they can. You are fantastic with every single participant, nothing is too much trouble and if an activity needs changing a little so a young person can benefit from it, you do that and that means the world to them.
I’m not sure what we had in mind 10 courses ago when you were approached to do this, but I know that this now far out does anything I could have ever imagined. It is better than anyone could have the thought. I don’t think you really know what you mean to our young people. You have made dreams come true.
Nicky, we would not be celebrating 10 fantastic courses without your determination to provide something that would be so very different and challenging. You had the confidence in our young people and wow, it has really blown all expectations. This is the best course of its kind and it’s down to your belief in people with Downs, showing the world that there is nothing they can’t do if a little time, belief and patience is shown. Thank you for putting up with me all these years and thank you for letting me be part of this amazing experience.
So I say goodnight to you all for another year and thank you all for letting me part in these incredible courses and be part of your young peoples lives.

I raise a glass. x

Jo’s Blog 2018 Day Four

How does this course go so fast? Even with the break in the middle because of doing two weekends it has shot past and today is the penultimate day already and what a fun packed one it has been.
I don’t need to mention breakfast really as you know how it goes. Vast amounts of lovely breakfast are consumed and they are ready for the day.
Straight down to get changed as now they are going to be let loose with the hydraulic cutters! For those parents who have not had their young people do this before, we have asked the young people not to convert any family cars into sports cars but please remove all sharp objects just in case!! Immy and Jane took to this activity very well, too well probably (I’m trying not to laugh while typing this as all I can hear is Immy giggling as she removes another section of car.) Popping the windows before they cut the car up is also another popular activity. This also provides huge smiles.
Meanwhile the other side of the yard one team is heading into the smokehouse to rescue the baby, who once again is lost. This time it’s dark and they need to put all their skills to use and locate the baby and bring it to safety.
Around the corner in the classroom there is a lesson on First Aid with Mark. Who do they call? Is it important and needing 999 or will your parents/carers be able to help? We are delighted to how much our young people remember from previous years.
Soon it’s that all important time again and lunch is ready upstairs, again they enjoy their food and it’s down to the classroom for a briefing on who is going to do what tomorrow.
I can’t tell you much as it will spoil the surprise, but of course there is water involved and yes you get to witness the baby being rescued along with a lot more.
A few tired young people today, so early nights for all as we have a busy and important day tomorrow.
Again, can I remind you to park in the County Ground car park for the show as space is limited. The engines come into the yard at full speed on tight corners, I would hate for cars to be damaged and have to be put at the back ready for the likes of Jane & Immy to cut up because they love this so much and fresh cars are what they are after!!
Also be prepared to get wet as the weather is not looking to good and the show is outside.
I’m looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow.
Night night.

Jo’s Blog 2018 Day Three

Here it is Nicky’s favourite day of the course, Coate Water Day.
Of course, we need a good breakfast, you just can’t go swimming without a good breakfast. Sausages, eggs, bacon, and beans…..Mmmm beans and dry suits..!!! If water can’t get in, nothing comes out. I will leave you to your own thoughts on that one.
After breakfast it’s downstairs to get ready. As most of you know by now there is a lot to get on, a very fetching fleecey onesie to keep you warm in the water, then the dry suit, and then the shoes and a buoyancy aid jacket and gloves, oh and the helmet.
Once at Coate water it was time to get the suits done up and helmets on. Lucky we checked wasn’t it Cory & Mike! Could have been a very interesting moment as we entered the water…..
Off down to the water’s edge to do some rescuing. Ed, Mike & Steve needed rescuing. They all get a chance to throw the line in and pull the guys back. Some managed it well others did well not to follow the line in as they threw it, but all was good and Ed, Mike and Steve are safe and well.
There was some great endurance swimming from the group and some even made it across to the other side and back, while some were happy to splash about and sit on the walkway and be pulled around the water. We also saw some great swimming on backs having rescued a partner and swimming to safety. Immy and Jane made a great team and showed excellent rescuing.
The suits are designed to keep us all dry, well the girls didn’t find that at all, each one of us was a little damp to say the least when we got back.
All to soon it’s time to go back and have lunch ready to start the afternoon activities.
Blue team got to help clean the kit down while Red and Green watched a safety DVD and had a go at identifying hazards and planning fire escapes. Watch out for the Blu-Tac people so lovely crafted by Nicky & Mile! There talents are endless.
I hope they have enjoyed it all so far and you are ready for more action by next weekend.

Jo’s Blog 2018 Day Two

These young people amaze me every day. The teams have bonded so well and they sit and chat and make each other laugh as soon as they get upstairs to breakfast. Gone are the days when we had to get a team at a time to do jobs, now it’s done without asking. Sophie on cleaning today, the tables were wiped to perfection.
As soon as the room is clear after breakfast it’s time to head off and get changed for the fun bit of the day. I love High Tower day.
Now for the last few years we have headed over to Westlea to do the tower, but today we used the one on the station. I’m sure it’s so much higher than Westlea but it’s probably not.
How brave are these young people? Each one of them had a go and practically all of them came from the top. Charlie was adamant he wasn’t going to do it but amazingly came from half way and enjoyed every moment. So next year Charlie your going from the top…!! Callum also went from half way and was proud of his achievement. Luke made it into his harness and walked with me to the bottom of the stairs but very clearly told me “not yet.” It’s work in progress and he will do it when he wants not when we want him to. Jane wasn’t sure about it all but after seeing Immy go from the top she marched up the stairs at full speed and came down doing a star impression. Go Jane…..
While one team was enjoying this the other was in the smoke house rescuing the baby and cat. All is good, baby and cat rescued each time…. They then swapped over so everyone got a chance. While they were all waiting around it was time to practise a few knots. Alicia came up with some great knot work which may take a while to remove from the rope!
We also had time to practice the recovery position. This is done with tender care and we are delighted to say that they remembered how to do this. Well done all.
They all work so hard and put everything into it. So I hope they sleep well tonight.

See you all in the morning……..

Jo’s Blog 2018 Day One

Here we are again already. I can’t believe this is our 10th Salamander, and what great fun we have had already, so much packed into it. It’s a strange year for me as this time Oliver is not on the course. He is having a wild time away with some new friends. But we welcome Jane and Immy to the course for the first time.

It’s so nice to see the young people all coming together like long lost friends. They all get on so well. In fact, this year (so far) there is a real sense of calm to the course, I’m sure it will change!

We start with our usual breakfast and they all know exactly where to go. They quickly get themselves seated ready for the sausage, bacon, egg, baked beans and toast which Nicky has prepared having come in very early to cook. Juice and fruit are also provided so we have everything covered.

We are not in groups yet, so they can please themselves where to sit just this once. Plates are soon clean and everyone is ready for the start of the action.

Back to the classroom to find out what we are doing. They are split into their groups and sent off to discover the station. It’s also time to get kitted out and t-shirts on. They are proper teams now.
Helping Blue team we have PC Ed and helping on the Green team is PCSO Mike, we also have Jo on the Green team.

Our team building consist of “Shark Infested Custard” Blind Leading The Blind, with small amounts of cheating (Jane) and benches, big hug time! Blue team this year are certainly feeling the love!
Dinner, a well-deserved fantastic lunch, Salad, rolls, bread and a choice of fillings with fruit and drinks. After dinner we get to do……Yes my favourite, (just before anyone else gets it in) it’s pole drop time.

At this point we get a special guest arrive. Cory joined us to say hello. Cory was part of the team a few years ago helping on more than one course. He brought along his new puppy for us to see. Only he didn’t leave! We managed to get him into a kit and he spent the rest of the afternoon with us, just like old times.

Time for the fire hose, ladders and smoke house. Each team are kitted up and ready to go. Everyone managed the ladders this year, reaching the top of them and touching the top, nothing seems to stop them. The smoke house was put into the dark (all windows closed) no smoke yet but feeling their way around in the dark was great, all working as a team calling for each other. Myles is a great team member as you know exactly where he is, just follow the giggles.

Shouts of joy came as it was hose time and they got to spray the yard down and anyone else if they were standing too close! Rolling the hose still needs some practise as we seemed to have forgotten that it goes in a tight roll not in a loose baggy heap, not sure who it was because Oliver isn’t on the course so I can’t blame him!
Home time came around far too fast, but we are looking forward to a full day tomorrow with new challenges and achievements. Can’t wait!

Early nights for all as we worked them hard, and there was a lot of yawning today! See you in the morning.

Capable of great achievement

Nicky shares what the last 10 years of Salamander have meant to her…

 

Does it sound overly-dramatic to say that Salamander saves lives?

 

10 years ago, I saw a YouTube clip about a group of young people taking part in a fire service training course in Essex. They were running out hose, climbing ladders and having a brilliant time. They also all had Down’s syndrome.

 

Within minutes I had contacted the committee of the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group to ask for permission to contact our local fire service to see if they ran anything similar here. I wanted my boys to have that experience, I wanted them to gain an understanding of the fire and rescue service and learn how to respond in an emergency but, most of all, I wanted them to have fun with their friends whilst learning and achieving.

 

Yasmine Ellis, a youth engagement worker, replied to my message on the Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service website, as it was known then, to say that she would like to meet. Little did I know that this would be a pivotal moment in the life of my family. We met, chatted and enthused over the possibilities and then met with Watch Manager and Salamander Commander Mark Evans. He had already been thinking about how to make Salamander accessible to the wider community of Swindon – Salamander had previously been thought of as a tool to engage young people who were at risk of exclusion from school, working with community groups such as the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group and Swindon Young Carers would extend that reach to include those that could gain positively in any number of areas: a break from caring, independence skills, social and communication skills, gross motor skills and safety awareness.

 

So, Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group’s annual Salamander course was born. That first year just 11 young people took part and what an amazing time they had. Nothing was adapted because we found that nothing needed to be adapted. These young people could listen, understand instruction, manage the heavy cutting equipment, crawl through tunnels wearing BA sets and swim across Coate Water. They enjoyed the company of the firefighters, enjoyed being with their friends and enjoyed learning important fire safety messages.

 

All that sounds wonderful but how does that save lives?

 

Well, just a few years into supporting our young people on their annual course I was invited to support on other courses to prove that our young people weren’t receiving a diminished service but that In fact, they were able to challenge every young person on a course in terms of ability, enthusiasm and a desire to achieve. This opportunity led to me volunteering on every course and then being offered a job and this is where saving lives becomes apparent.

 

The day I started paid work was the day after my husband’s funeral. Salamander became a life-line, a family, a reason to get up in the morning and to put one foot in front of the other. My new colleagues cared for me and my family. They were there to help in person as well as on the end of a phone or ever present on cyber-space. They went above and beyond to meet our needs. They heard our calls for help and responded if only to say, ‘We are here for you.’ They also continue to do so four years down the line and I and my family owe our well-being to them all.

 

Our young people have embraced this course; they consider the instructors friends, they quote safety messages and count down the ‘Sleeps to Salamander’ each year. They enjoy the company of friends and work as a team. They challenge themselves, encourage each other and celebrate achievement with cheers, dance and song. They welcome new-comers as only they can and mourn the loss of loved ones with maturity, bluntness and love, as only they can.

 

It has been an incredible honour to be a part of this project. We have learnt, loved and laughed together and it is now a major part of our lives and we will be forever grateful.

 

The start of a wonderful Salamander journey…

Jo Messenger looks back over the last 10 courses as part of our celebration of 10 years of Salamander.

10 courses … I remember the day that Nicky showed me the YouTube clip from a course in Essex that started this whole wonderful journey. Who would have thought that this would be the highlight of the year for many young people (and parents and carers) all these years on? I truly thought that we would do it for one year and it would be great but never to be repeated. How wrong I was! Once you have been involved with Salamander you are hooked for life.

This course has changed my life, meeting so many fantastic people and seeing the course members grow and develop as they learn their new-found skills. My passion for Salamander is only beaten by that of Nicky and Mark’s for this remarkable experience, as without these two it wouldn’t happen.

Everyone who takes part sees the course differently. Some take part once and feel they have achieved all and some email me the day after it finishes to check if they can apply for the next year. However our young people see the course they will remember it forever.

The best thing about Salamander week is seeing the smile as they achieve something new. Seeing their self-esteem grow throughout the week, seeing their sense of achievement as the roof comes off the car after they have just cut through it! Seeing a huge smile as they abseil down the tower. Seeing them forge friendships and bond with their team mates. Seeing the excitement on their faces watching the blue lights and the screaming fire engine as it hurtles around the yard.  Why wouldn’t you fall in love with this course? There is nothing that can’t be done by the last day, even if it’s only the start of something, it will grow. Your young people also grow on this course, they grow into proud participants wanting to show off the skills they have learnt.

I’m so proud to be a part of this incredible course. I’m proud of each and every member that has ever taken part. Thank you to all the parents for putting your trust in me and letting me a part of their experience. Thank you.

Jo’s Blog Salamander Day 5

Friday, where has this week gone? I love this week so much and now it’s Friday and I won’t be seeing smiling faces and having hugs. It all goes by so fast. One minute we are getting them into kit on Monday and then we are saying goodbye to new friends and amazing young people. What a week it has been!

Now with glass in hand, I raise it to all the 17 young people who have put their heart and soul into this week and achieved so much. It’s not easy running around in that kit on a hot day. But I am sure you can see how wonderful they are and how well they did.

I don’t think I have to say that we start the day with the usual breakfast, but it’s going to be missed and you parents have a lot to live up to in the morning. You will need to cook the eggs, bacon and sausages plus the toast and beans!! Cereal is just not going to cut it now.

Once we are cleaned up it’s back to the classroom for a rundown of where everyone is going to be. A few changes from yesterday so we have the correct people in the correct place. Before we can go out and start on practising we have to wish someone a happy birthday. Yes it’s Mark’s birthday at the weekend so the guys handed him a little gift from all of us and sang happy birthday. So now we have made Mark blush we can go out and run through the show to make sure it’s all perfect for this afternoon.

Outside the cars are ready in place to cut up. We can’t do this until later so we are just pretending at this point. Then it’s time to screech around the yard in Fire engines, Ambulances, and Police cars oh I love this week so much, I just never get bored of seeing the excitement. I know you will have all enjoyed the show as much as I have because they love showing you what they have achieved. They all work so hard to get to correct, and I must say it pays off. I am sure there were a couple of unplanned bits because that’s what happens on a live show.

Each year we have a fantastic set of helpers and crew to ensure the young people get the best out of the week. So, I thank them from the bottom of my heart as this week wouldn’t work without you.

Abi – Thank you for the continued support on this course, you are loved by the young people and support me wherever I need it. Nothing is too much trouble. We love having you with us each year.

Phil – Always so kind hearted and gentle with our young people and of course the master of the selfie. You are respected by your team and your support means the world to us.

Shannon – You deserve a medal! You have been fantastic this week. Never fazed with whatever is thrown at you just taking it all in your stride. Your help has been fantastic dealing with difficult situations but still calm and strong. Thank you, Shannon, I couldn’t have coped without you.

Simon – You have listened to what the young people say and helped where you can, guiding them into doing the correct thing. You always encourage the them to be independent but you are there if they need it. Your support has been great. (Yes, Simon the bottle is in hand!) So, thank you for your support this week.

Pav – So good to see you back. Your team took to you the minute you were teamed up with them. You are great with the young people. Kind and caring and ensuring all achieve to their full ability. Your team had great respect for you and you help them achieve things that they may not have done without that little bit of encouragement.

Kevin – I know you weren’t there today and we missed you. But you are the most patient person I have come across. You have been there watching out for Luke all week, never too close but always knowing where he is. The team respect you and you have helped them and encouraged them where needed.

Lukas – Thank you for your support this week, you have encouraged your team where needed and been there to support them. You help where needed and step back at the right time. I am going to miss your adventures and the amazing places you have been.

Miles – Nothing is too much trouble and the guys loved you. A great Instructor. You have been great with the team, kind and caring and ensuring all achieve their full ability. Your team had great respect for you and you help them achieve things that they may not have done without that little bit of encouragement.

Martin – They love you and you were a hit the minute you came into the classroom. They loved your sense of humour and the team always worked well for you. Your ability to keep them on track is great. Hope to see you again on our next course.

Nathan – You kept us safe at Coate Water and the young people took to you as soon as you joined us. Thank you for your support as your calming influence worked well with our young people. They respected you from the start.

Dan – Thanks for putting up with the banter from a few of the young people, they really did love you. Nothing is too much trouble and he gained some new mates this week.

Steve – Salamander wouldn’t be the same if you weren’t there. You are so good with the young people and they respect you so much. In fact the whole group respects you. You are encouraging and kind but you ensure each person develops the skills they are there to learn. You always make every team member achieve all they can. You’re the best.

Nev – What can I say? Apart from I love you to bits. You have helped me all week through tough moments and made me laugh. You are an incredibly patient man and you make sure everyone has achieved what they are supposed to before we move on. You have a way of making sure they understand everything they do. Thanks Nev, you are a fantastic person.

Fraser – You are our incredible camera man. Always there for the perfect shot, but helping out ensuring our young people are ok and doing the correct thing. Everyone on the courses loves you and respects you. Having seen some of the shots and knowing how your mind works, I can’t wait to see the DVD’s this year.

Mark – Your team were delighted this year when they found out you were taking them. You have pushed them to new limits and expanded on what they can do. Your vision on what the young people can achieve is just brilliant. You know how far to push them and they know you have faith in them and that means the world to us. Your help and reassurance is what makes this course so special. Mark you are an incredible person that makes this course the best in the country.

Nicky – The kindest and most caring person I have ever met. My friend who picks me up when I doubt myself. Someone who is always there for me and others. You may not get to see all the Nicky does as most of it is behind the scenes. But Nicky is a huge part of our Salamander. From cooking the breakfast, preparing dinner to tidying the garages, putting the names on the pegs, laminating, paperwork and the list goes on…… oh and keeping the fire fighters in line!! While she is doing all this, she is still caring for each and every young person. Tonight, I raise my glass to an incredible lady. My friend Nicky.

Now I say goodnight to you all as I say a final thank you. Thank you to everyone for letting me be part of your young person’s life for one week. I hope they have enjoyed it as much as I have. They really do inspire me. I have enjoyed every moment of this week and I can’t believe it’s over for another year.

Jo’s Blog: Salamander Day 4

Where does the week go? Day 4 already and what a day it has been. So, we start with breakfast because that’s what our group does best. Never come across a group that enjoys breakfast as much as this group. Mind you Nicky does a fantastic breakfast.

Once breakfast was over it is off downstairs to see what we are doing for the rest of the day. The excitement starts when Mark tells them it’s Westlea for abseiling. Into the mini bus and fire engines for a drive over to see a different fire station, they are all packed in with kit on, Nev is the man with the plan once more making sure everyone gets a ride in the engine on one of the journey’s and then off we go.

As well as the high tower at Westlea there is a great smoke house with tunnels to explore, so there is a lot to pack in, in one morning.

The groups also have a session covering first aid and what to do in given situations. They have pictures of different accidents, cuts, bruises and breakages and they must say who they would call. Would it be 999, 101, Doctor, or parent/carer? They all did well and were keen to answer.

The first team head off with Mark to explore the tunnels and smokehouse. Blue team are kitted up first to go up the tower. I was so impressed with Alicia who flew up the tower and couldn’t wait to go abseil down. What a star, first time ever and she went from the top! Go Alicia! I hope you all saw the live clip on Facebook. Andrew also went from the top and giggled all the way down. Charlie and Nicole came down from the 2nd run. Nicole talked herself into being confident and putting her faith in the ropes!! Very funny to listen too as in one breath said she was scared then in the next “I can do this I’m safe in my harness”. Well done Nicole you were safe and you did it.

It takes a lot of courage to have faith in the firefighters and rope for our young people and not all of them want to go from the top. This is fine with us because the achievement is going over the edge from any level. I wasn’t around for all the drops as pictures need taking of the other groups but I was behind Sam waiting for my turn as he went from the top and I’m sure he may have cracked a smile on the way down! You know it was good when it has taken all their effort to make it up, then they don’t want to do it and when they have done it once, they want to do it again…….next year guys, next year. Most of the young people are now very confident about going from the top. The others look on and clap and shout as each member comes down.

While taking pictures in the entrance to the smokehouse Nicky and I were very privileged to see Father Christmas practicing his decent down chimneys!! Yes it’s true, Nicky has the picture to prove it……….

With everyone completing the abseiling, tunnels, smokehouse and first aid we gather the troops to head back to the station for dinner. Into the garages and kit off, I would say hung up but we are still working on that, and up for lunch.

Again, all the food is eaten and seconds are consumed if they are quick enough. Tables cleaned and back down to the classroom. Now is the moment that suddenly things start to come together as we get ready for tomorrow. They have gained a lot of confidence over the week and they know the routine and where everything is, most of them now understand what is expected of them.

So, tomorrow is Show Day and it has come around so very quickly. They have lots of people coming to watch and they are so keen to show off their skills to family and friends. I can’t really tell you what they have been up to this afternoon as it will be giving the game away. You will need to come along and see for yourself.

Please can I remind you to park in the County Ground and walk across. There is not enough room in the station and the engines will be whizzing around. So, if you don’t want your car to end up like the ones they cut up please don’t park in the station.

Can I also remind everyone to make sure your young person has ALL their belongings when you leave tomorrow, please check their pegs!! It is very busy tomorrow and I won’t have time to check you all have everything.

 

Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow.

Night Night

Jo’s Blog: Salamander Day 3

The morning routine of eggs, bacon, sausages and toast is on the minds of the young people today and they can’t wait to head upstairs. As soon as they have breakfast on their plates the room falls silent as they munch their way through the plateful. It’s good to see clean plates but must stop them eating another plateful as they need to fit into the dry suits in a while. So once the tables are cleaned it’s downstairs to get kitted up ready for Nicky’s favourite day.

Downstairs in the garages the kit has been put on each chair and named so we can get changed as quick as we can, every moment is needed at Coate Water so it’s all hands-on deck to change. First to get on is the fluffy onesies in a fetching grey this year for some of us or black for others. Then the dry suits are eased onto the young people. This is the hard bit as the neck is designed to be very waterproof so is extremely tight to get over wriggling heads. Once this is all done they are zipped up and PFD’s are put on (I remember from last year!!) helmets and gloves are added to create an airtight young person. Now I’m not allowed to do zips up as I have a track record with Nicky and Abi and a little leakage last year. Soon we are put onto the transport according to Nev’s list. The man with the plan! All good and off we head.

Once at Coate Water it’s down to the side of the lake and the first activity is rescuing the instructors who are now floating around on their backs having far too much fun. So the lines are thrown in to rescue and pull them back. They all did very well, especially as it’s a challenge to see what they are doing, you see (or not as in this case) we take their glasses off not to lose them in the water so a few are as blind as a bat and just go with throwing and hoping. Now they have all had a go it’s time for them to join us in the water and have fun.

A few brave ones go with the instructors and swim over to the other side. You will need to read Nicky’s blog for that as I stay where I can feel the bottom of the lake, and of course to look after those who want to stay in the shallow area. Soon we added the walkway to the water which pleased Luke, he had been waiting patiently at the side waiting for his ride onto the water. Now it’s everyone for themselves on the walkway as they try to push each other into the water. They love this bit and it creates great footage for Fraser’s DVD clips. All too soon it’s time to go back, first though we are hosed down before getting the dry suits off. Some of us are hosed down a little more than I think is needed Steve!!

Everything is packed into the lockers on the engines and we head back to the station for lunch.

Because everyone is at Coate Water all morning we need to wait until Nicky has lunch prepared so we get to watch and sing along to a few music clips chosen by the young people. A wide variety from Gangnam style, Ben E King stand by me, to Frozen!

Lunch is ready and it’s upstairs, they are all very hungry by now and once again the food is swooped up and they settle to eat. Where do they put it all?

Back downstairs to watch a DVD about escape plans for your home. They all surprise me and answer the questions correctly on what to do in a fire. So now you can plan your home escape plans with help from your young person. Next, we go into our colour groups and look at hazard posters where they need to spot the hazard. Good spotting from all teams. Each hazard they find they have to pop a little round sticker on. This caused a few laughs as those stickers don’t always go onto the sheet and just when you think you have it, it’s still on your finger!

Now, I’m not the best in water, but today has been great. Seeing the smiles and hearing them laugh is worth every moment. I hope you’ve all looked through the pictures. There are many more but you need to wait to see those on the movie night!

I really do hope they all sleep well tonight as we have an exciting day tomorrow as well.

Good night all.