It was dark when I woke, but I could hear the gentle chatter of people in the kitchen downstairs. I tugged the curtains and a small crack turned into a cascade of light. Through the window I could see hundreds of houses in the valley below, arranged in neat rows, tiny, cuddled together under a huge clear sky.
We’re in Yorkshire for the bonfire night weekend. Lottie’s mum and dad have welcomed about thirty people into their home, including all her sisters, lots of Will’s family, and many friends. It’s beautiful here and amazing to be out of the city and surrounded by so many lovely people.
I didn’t anticipate it when I woke up but today’s turned out to be danger-¬themed. I’ve been trying my hand at a number of activities that most people (myself included) would’ve ruled out on the grounds of safety.
Having Tourettes means I make lots of involuntary movements, have poor impulse-control, and easily get over excited. My erratic movements and behaviour mean I generally avoid hard, sharp or hot objects. But today I’ve handled all three – and it was great!
We got off to an early start. Shortly after breakfast, Will and I went out into the field by the house and with our friend Mike, dug a fire pit for the evening bonfire. To start with I looked on as Mike and Will dug, but I quickly got bored just watching and wanted to help. Will gave me a spade with a long handle and I got stuck in, cutting out clods of earth for the others to carry away.
While my digging was well controlled, my wheeling about on the steep hill was less so. At one point I tried to reposition myself but I didn’t get it right. The whole chair, with me strapped in it, tipped forward, and I did a slow roly-poly down the muddy hill. I wasn’t hurt and Will was quick to get me upright again and I was soon safely back in a good digging position.
By lunchtime I’d obviously got a taste for extreme sports. Lottie’s mum had hollowed out a load of pumpkins to make pumpkin soup. Lottie’s sister and her two-year-old daughter Lilly were working together, carefully carving a face in one of the pumpkins. I said to Will, “OK, my turn, I need a knife”. Much to my surprise he went and got one and ‘hand over hand’ I cut into the pumpkin’s skin. Will kept a firm hold of my hand and Lilly particularly enjoyed me ticcing, “Slicing!” every time I made a cut.
In the late afternoon we drove to the edge of a nearby reservoir for a walk. The track we walked along was full of large, wide potholes, each of them a mini¬-reservoir. To start with I avoided them but I quickly decided that going straight through them was far easier and more fun.
After walking for about twenty minutes we came to a giant pothole that spread across the whole track and went on for several metres. We could’ve picked our way round it but after a short conference, Will and I decided to go straight through it! It was exhilarating and risky – I had no idea how deep it was or how level the ground underneath would be. I squealed with joy as we forged our way through, creating big waves of icy water on either side.
Back at the house we warmed up by the fire, with amazing cooking smells wafting in from the kitchen. Soon after dark we lit the bonfire. Looking down at the valley below we could see fireworks going off for miles around, the horizon lighting up with explosions of colour. Then it was our turn for rockets, loud bangs and excited hand flapping. As the rockets shot up into the sky my tics helpfully pointed out, as they often do with fireworks: “That one’s going to go bang.”
And the excitement didn’t end there as sparklers were distributed to everyone in the group. I was once again glad of Will’s help as the burning stick flapped around in my gloved hand.
Now it was Will’s turn to do something extreme. For the whole day he’d been talking about the home made Catherine Wheels he’d made using wire wool and a dog lead. It’s fair to say I was sceptical about these, but they were absolutely awesome!
After the fire had burned down to a gentle glow we headed to the warmth of the barn for dinner. Fat Sister, King Russell and our friends Kirsty and Luke, who were staying nearby, arrived just in time for the feast.
It’s been an exciting and stimulating day in so many ways but I can’t remember the last time I felt as relaxed as I do now.