Awkward Bowling

It’s half term and it’s been raining for three days solidly.  Anyone who isn’t at the cinema today is bowling, hence despite the fact that I had booked a lane for 2pm, when we arrived there was an enormous queue to pay.  Ellen doesn’t really do queuing, so after standing patiently for 10 minutes or so she started wandering around.

This was OK, this was fine.  I could see her at all times from my place in the queue and for the first few minutes she was just looping around the front area of the bowling centre which contains snooker tables, a tiny cafe and some slot machines.  Because I had my eye on her the whole time, I saw quite clearly the moment when she paused over a snooker table where two large burly men were mid-game and deliberately leaned over, picked up a red ball from the green baize and tossed it down the table.  She then turned and walked off quickly before they or I could react.  Filled with horror, I of course was forced to go over and apologise.  When I arrived at the table the two enormous blokes were still staring after her fairly gob-smacked. They accepted my apology – not with the best grace but then I guess she had ruined their match – leaving me to chase after Ellen, who knew she had done wrong and did not want to be caught.

Ellen obviously was sorry for what she had done and walked fairly sheepishly back with me to the desk, where we sat and waited for the rest of our party to pay for the lane so that we could change our shoes and start bowling.  There was a big poster up behind the counter saying ‘free face painting’.  What a lovely idea at half term I thought and asked Ellen if she would like her face painted.  That’s like asking a teenager if she wants wifi.  ‘Yes please’ Ellen replied, but when I went up to enquire I was told that the free face painting was ‘off’ due to ‘staff shortages’.  Grrr it was not turning into a good trip.

However, once we had got past the queue and the lack of face painting and finally arrived at our lane things turned around. For one thing our lane was on the other side of the bowling venue to the burly blokes and for another Ellen does love bowling.  She is especially happy when she manages to score a strike or a spare, her face lights up and she does an exaggerated bow.  She uses one of the frames to bowl and is very particular about which ball she wants to use, typically the heaviest and then stands by the bowling area telling us all when its our turn.

Ellen just about to bowl

Ellen just about to bowl

The two games passed without further incident, although it was lucky that Winnie the Pooh and the two Minions who were circulating around didn’t come too close to us, perhaps they had seen the snooker incident and were giving us a wide berth.  Probably wise.  I can get a bit overwhelmed by Disney characters.


A little trip to Ascott

No, before you think we’ve gone up in the world, I am not referring to the famous racecourse; large hats were not required and the only horses we saw this afternoon were either immortalised in statues or fountains.

Ascott House is a small-ish National Trust Property near where we live.  As members of the National Trust, entrance is free.  I haven’t been for a few years and thought that if nothing else Ellen would get a walk in the fresh air.

Ellen just before our whistle-stop tour of the house

Ellen just before our whistle-stop tour of the house

Going into a National Trust property – especially when it’s quiet – is like attending an Olympic Games in manners.  First of all there are signs everywhere demanding compliance ‘Do not step on the grass’ and ‘Do not touch’.  There is an air of hushed reverence in each room and you feel like you have to linger and look at everything in great detail else you’re not showing the proper respect.  Above all the – almost invariably elderly – stewards love to pounce on you as you walk through the door with a greeting and then proceed to answer questions you haven’t asked in a bid to prove the necessity of their existence and it can be hard to get away.  Not if you have Autism though!

‘Have you been to Ascott before?’ The first guide begins as Ellen walks around the highly polished dining table trailing her finger along the edge.  ‘I’m afraid you can’t touch anything’ she says pointedly but before she can launch into her standard introduction Ellen walks past her into the next room.  ‘This is the whistle-stop tour’ I explain over my shoulder and walk after Ellen.  And so it is.  ‘Welcome to the Library’ and ‘This is the Chinese Room’ are all left in our wake as we plough through the entire house in under 10 minutes.  ‘That really was the whistle stop tour’ the first guide remarks as we double back to leave the way we came in.  ‘Yes, is there a prize?’ I ask.

Ellen at the Lily Pond

Ellen at the Lily Pond

The gardens were spectacular – with many features to see.  Ellen’s favourite was the lily pond but she also enjoyed looking at the various Victorian fountains – in particular the Bravura Venus fountain, which not only had horses with fish tails but Venus was standing on a large turtle!  The cottage garden borders were also filled with purple flowers (Ellen’s favourite colour) and there were many enormous and strange looking trees.  In true RDI style I limited myself to comments only as we walked round – or rather as I was pulled round by Ellen who was rather keen to get back to the car and didn’t really want to pause to examine the flowers or the trees in too much detail.

In fact, I think Ellen’s favourite part of the trip was stopping at the village shop on the way home to buy sweets and a drink – in this she is displaying typical teenager traits.  Luckily she insisted that I buy something for myself as well, so I had my first ice-cream of the year 🙂

I took a few shots of Ellen around the gardens and at the time I was really pleased with this one; an arty shot of Ellen admiring the fish-tailed horses.  Only when I came to post it did I realise it looks like the stream of water is coming from Venus – oh well I’d better stick to the day job then.

My arty shot gone wrong

My arty shot gone wrong


A Big (squashed) Bug

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and today’s activity is …. indoors!

Ellen found a craft book at a friend’s house a few weeks ago and asked if she could ‘borrow it’. (This is the book http://www.amazon.co.uk/Playtime-Activities-Usborne-Ray-Gibson/dp/0746033400/ref=lh_ni_t?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A1WSHNM3OXLQNF, published in 1998 but still available)

In Ellen-speak ‘borrow’ means ‘I want to take this and I have no intention of ever giving it back’.  Luckily the friend is very understanding and patient because Ellen seems to want to work through every single activity in its 128 pages.  Over the past few weeks we have made a caterpillar, a hanging fish, an octopus puppet, a snake card and today Ellen decided we would make a big bug.

At the moment with RDI I am working on helping Ellen to co-ordinate her actions with mine.  Craft activities are a great way of co-ordinating activities – we can splodge the paint on together, stick things together and it’s much harder for Ellen to race ahead because she has to wait for me to be ready otherwise the task can’t be completed.

Another bonus of all this crafting is that Ellen is much better now at coping with getting paint on her fingers and it’s a good job because the painting got pretty messy.  We also discovered that sellotape doesn’t stick very well onto wet paint but that wet paint sticks very well to newspaper.

After twenty minutes of frenzied activity we were done.  This is what it should have looked like…

How the bug should have looked.....

How the bug should have looked…..

And this is what ours looked like…

Ellen's rather squashed looking bug

Ellen’s rather squashed looking bug

Which I admit looks more like an alien than a bug.  I am very tempted to place it in the porch and see if I can scare hubby when he swans home later tonight from his latest trip abroad…after all imagine what it would look like in the dark… 😉




Day trip to Portsmouth

I had a ‘lightbulb’ moment a couple of weeks ago – always dangerous.  One of Ellen’s lovely carers was going to be in Portsmouth on her own for her birthday and her birthday just happened to be on a Wednesday – bling – why not have an Ellensdays day trip out to Portsmouth!  Well, one good reason why not turned out to be the M25.

Setting off for Portsmouth with spotty ray

Setting off for Portsmouth with spotty ray

It doesn’t seem to matter what time of day I travel or even what day for that matter I always get stuck in traffic on the M25 and yesterday was no exception.  What should have been a 2 hour journey took 3 hours.  Luckily Ellen found the constant traffic jams quite amusing ‘not another one!’ I would moan and she would giggle away to herself, her spotty ray soft toy cradled on her lap.  Ellen’s chief motivation for the journey was not to celebrate Eloise’s birthday (she has no real interest in anyone’s birthday except her own) but the promise of a visit to the Aquarium, and even the constant traffic delays could not dent her enthusiasm for finding spotty ray’s ‘friend’ who is apparently an orange ray with red spots.

I was slightly concerned about the chances of us finding spotty ray’s friend, as from looking at the website for the ‘Blue Reef’ Aquarium (http://www.bluereefaquarium.co.uk/portsmouth/) I could see that it was not the largest place in the world and that the chances of them having a wide range of stock in their gift shop was low.  And so it proved.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When we finally arrived, Portsmouth was sunny but windy and whilst I was getting blown away trying to feed money into the parking metre.  Ellen sprinted off towards the aquarium. Thank goodness we had Eloise the super-carer with us, as she kindly chased after Ellen.  By the time I’d got through the doors they’d already gone through into the aquarium leaving me to pay a bemused looking sales assistant.  It always amuses me how many places Ellen walks into completely unchallenged – she once walked into a ticketed exhibition at Tate Britain – and no one tried to stop her.  Still, honest as I am I did pay up.

‘Umm does she have…..?’ the saleswoman asked carefully, obviously not keen to assume a disability without confirmation.  ‘Oh yes’ I confirmed and promptly Eloise got in for free as a carer.  I had already printed a 20% off voucher from the internet and so for the three of us it cost £18.  This was pretty good value, especially as we went around three times.  I’d read some rather dismal reports of the Blue Reef Aquarium on Trip Adviser but for us it was perfect.  They had pretty much all the fish out of Finding Nemo, a lobster hiding under a rock and three different kinds of shrimp – who knew there were so many!  And even though the gift shop did not have an orange ray with red spots they did have a shark and a Nemo toy which seemed to satisfy Ellen.

The lobster hiding under a rock

The lobster hiding under a rock


Ellen was also exceptionally generous and suggested we bought a very large pink fish balloon for Eloise, which seemed totally appropriate for her 19th Birthday.  Eloise wasn’t at all embarrassed at taking it round the aquarium although Ellen did keep having to prompt her to lift her arm because she wasn’t holding it high enough in the air – I can’t imagine why.

We topped this all off with burgers and chips at a beach cafe, safely inside though and looking at the choppy waves through a porthole-style window.  Ellen was in such a good mood that she even allowed us to go back to Eloise’s room so that she could open her presents, although me drinking a coffee was a step too far and she started chanting ‘home’ and banging on the toilet door until it was time to leave.

The perfect present for a 19-year-old

The perfect present for a 19-year-old

We got held up in traffic on the way back too, but again Ellen didn’t seem to mind.  Spotty ray had been relegated to the boot and it was Nemo and sharky who had the best views of the car park that is the M25.  Ellen is already planning her return visit; ‘next time’ she says ‘we shall get purple ray and seahorse’.  Yes maybe we shall return, but only if I can have a balloon as well.