This post is for Emsie and Dan.
Ruby and Lola (nicknamed the Ketchup Kid by our friends the Palmers) came to stay on Wednesday. Their dad is working in Luxembourg, their mother needs time out (but not on the ‘naughty stair’)!
The deluges of past weeks, leaving some poor folk awash, persisted during the first 2 days of their visit. But Friday dawned – literally for us at 5.30 when the patter of feet on the stairs and sibilant, tentative invocations to ‘wake up Granny’, wrested us from sleepful bliss – to dry and eventually sunshine.
We’d promised a visit to Bockett’s Farm, near Leatherhead. This visit will give us ‘full house’ on visits to this venue with grandchildren this year. I’d seen on the website that Father Christmas would be in residence in his grotto, also Christmas trees would be for sale. I was hoping that small rooted and potted trees would be available.
We set off at 10.30, thirty minutes after my target but a neighbour had needed a jump-start. Shame they don’t have grandchildren yet…..
As we drive the M25 and turn off at Junction 9 I’m hoping the crowds will not have built up too much. We need to book our slot with the Big Cheese at a convenient time. I’m hoping we won’t have to park in the over-spill carpark up the hill. We coast down the lane to the entrance – there are barely a dozen cars parked. For a minute I think that the place must be closed and that I failed to see something to this effect on the website.
But no, it is open, staff are going about their tasks and we walk through to buy our tickets. Everything is as it was in July when we came with JACS. The animals, looking healthy and contented in winter coats and in their pens under the large covered barn area, are eager to make themselves known. We’ve bought some food for the sheep and goats. I think Nick and I may end up feeding the animals which have a very tickly technique. Not a bit of it, the children are both happy to have their small fingers nuzzled by soft muzzles.
We are just getting to the end of our bag of pellets when a member staff calls over that a lamb is about to be born. We rush round to the lambing pen, in the open public area, and Nick and I are thrilled to see the new arrival. Lola is politely interested, then hastens on to the toy car and tractor circuit with Ruby in pursuit.
It’s not long before the Christmas elf rounds up his passengers for the short ride to Santa Claus, who puts in a big performance of waking up in the gloom of his cubby-hole. He camps it up ever so slightly for the children, all of whom are pre-school age. He’s obviously got something right, there are no tears, no reluctant recipients. Santa Claus has a long way to go, this is Day 2 of his duties at Bockett’s. December 24th must seem somewhat distant.
We are all about to leave when one mother and daughter approach Father Christmas. The daughter has seen what the other little girls are unwrapping, soft cuddly animal bags, and compared these to the cars the boys are unwrapping. The little girl would like to swap her unwrapped present for a car please….
We make our way across to the larger of the soft-play areas. It is deserted. Rarely can two small children have had a network of cushioned chambers, rope walkways, slides and tunnels to range over entirely to themselves. After a short session here we make our way to the big barn where meals are served and have lunch. Afterwards on the way back to the farmyard and play complex we stop and buy a sweet little Christmas tree in a pot. I’ve noticed that shape seems to matter where Christmas trees are concerned. People can take ages choosing. Our choice has a nice shape.
As we get back to the large shed area, there is an animal-handling session underway, where Lola meets a namesake in the guise of a white nanny goat with a Princess pink collar. She and Ruby are also allowed to ‘soft’ Dotty the rabbit and Patch the guinea pig. Next door there is smaller soft-play unit which provides non-stop fun when Lola and Ruby clamber up padded ramps and then slide down a windy blue tunnel over and over again.
There’s time for a session in the exterior playground where there are numerous slides and playhouses. Lola’s organisational skills come to the fore when another child comes to play. Georgie proves to be a biddable playmate and Lola is still in full instructive mode when Nick and I start to round up things and make leaving noises.
The girls nap in the car, but not for long, and we are able to resuscitate them with the Snowman video at home whilst we get some supper ready. As I settle the girls down in their bunk-beds for the night, incentives are needed to ensure they stay put. If they are good, I tell them, we’ll go to the supermarket and they can choose anything they want for lunch the next day. “Fish and chips”, says Lola. I’d better make sure we have a gallon of ketchup in the fridge.