Nicky’s Blog Salamander day 2

Day two

Isn’t it amazing how quickly our young people learn a routine? Straight in and ready for breakfast which they consume in near silence and peaceful companionship – no, honestly they do. When this lot are eating you could hear a pin drop but they certainly make up for it afterwards!!

As I have said many times before, this is an intensive course which challenges each and every one of them but in different ways and bonding takes place within minutes of their arrival. They know instinctively who can best make them feel safe and secure, who they can have a giggle with, who lets them get away with anything and everything and who will pander to their every whim. Strong bonds are already in place and this accounts for some of the most amazing progress they have made already and I will tell you all about that in a minute. Just want to say first though, Jo and I are there so the last two bits – “who lets them get away with anything and everything” and “who will pander to their every whim” well, that just doesn’t last long. We have both perfected the “look” and when someone, won’t mention any names (Mark) tries to put their shoes away for them rather than allowing them to do it themselves, a “look” is all that is needed and the young people learn another important lesson in becoming independent, self-sufficient young adults!! We expect a lot from them and they are probably exhausted at the end of the day but they live up to our expectations and exceed them each and every day and we are just so proud of them too.

Right, enough rambling, I’ll get on with the day.

A new carer today, David. He couldn’t be with us yesterday but he arrived today, enthusiastically, to share the week. He is in Blue team.

First item on the agenda is breakfast followed by the pole drop. Still two that would rather not face that challenge and that’s fine…for now. Then a quick change and on the coach for Westlea. As you know, Terry normally drives a minibus over for us so alternative arrangements were made very late in the day and Ellison’s Coaches came up trumps and gave us a super rate for a morning out – Thank you.

3 activities this morning – Abseiling from the Westlea tower, hoses and pumps and sewer pipes.

Doing hoses and sewer pipes was a second rate activity to many as they stared longingly at the tower and waited for their turn to complete their drop. What absolute stars today!

Some firsts, some challenges and 3 who just couldn’t do it – which is fine. This is a mammoth challenge and we all have something we just cannot do and that is fine.

Louis and Seamus – from the top of Westlea Tower for the first time and absolutely fearless.

Charlie – another first timer and truly petrified but from the first level, over the edge and smiled all the way down, even stopping for a photo smile and thumbs up!!

Nicole – from the second level, shouting, laughing and squealing all the way with the biggest smile ever!

A new first for Oliver and Sam – from the top of the tower as if they had been doing this for years!!

Myles, Lane, Michael, Fraser, Josiah, Rhys – old hats at this now and confidence in every step.

Zachary – my very own little star – last year went over the top with, shall we say quite a bit, of encouragement and help? This year it was “I am being brave”. “No, Mark, no help, I can do it myself” and he did. Very proud Mummy moment as I saw, if not heard the gestures to Mark of “No, I can do it myself!!!”

Luke – this course is about giving all participants exactly what they need at this moment in time and, at this moment in time, Luke just needs to be there among friends, no pressure and to join in with what he feels comfortable with at the time. He didn’t do the abseil today but he was there and interacted with us and that is fine. Rest assured, this is the approach we have with them all. We have a debrief each evening – or as Zac calls it “parent’s evening” – and we make sure that what we are offering each individual is exactly what they need and not what we think they should need.  

The challenges aren’t just for our young people though. It is so good for them to see that everyone has fears and something they battle with so all are encouraged to participate in the activities and to freely show their fear, excitement and pride. Jo, Ben and Tom abseiled with a minimum of fuss, as you would expect. Cassey, a little afraid, confronted that fear and completed the task. Katie was absolutely petrified and clung to Mark in a way that suggested she would never let go but she was determined to face her fear and show her grandma that she could do it so she abseiled from the first level to shouts of encouragement from all the young people and claps and cheers when she made it, breathlessly, to the bottom. Katie, we are so, so proud of you!!

Sewer pipes at Westlea run alongside the building and then up to the outside world but with a vertical pipe that takes them up a storey internally. Nicole, bless her, managed the climb down into the sewer pipes, in the dark, dank environment and then froze. Fraser rushed to her aid as she said she couldn’t do anymore, only to find her one step from the bottom!! He calmly told her to look down; she looked and then, with tears of relief, stepped down the final step and walked out.

Louis managed a feat to rival David Blaine. He went in the narrow sewer pipes and crawled through behind Lane and Myles but came out first – How?? Who knows??

There were several cars parked at the side of the station ready for “car cutting” practice. Josiah, especially, relished the opportunity to ensure that the cars were extremely clean as he turned a hose on them. The pump operators wanted to ensure that they had as much pressure through the hoses as possible and the challenge was to stay upright as well as direct the hose appropriately.

Back on the coach so that we get back for 12 o’clock lunch. Mark had to drive “very well” to ensure the Fire engine made it back in time!! Lunch of pizza, chips, coleslaw, salad and fresh fruit was consumed with gusto and silence then back to the classroom for DVD’s. I had a meeting so only saw that they watched a young girl called Terri, who had been in a fire and the recovery afterwards for both her and her family.

This afternoon we took our group photo whilst sheltering from a torrential downpour. Then it was back to hydrants and pumps – those hoses kept being misdirected to anyone close by – with the obligatory truck drive at speed with lights and sirens and the smoke house with smoke. An excellent effort this afternoon after a tiring and challenging morning.

Coate water tomorrow – be warned – they need a spare set of every item of clothing. Dry suits are supposed to keep you dry – supposed to being the operative words. You have been warned!!!

See you tomorrow for my most favourite day.