It’s half-term, so naturally that means it’s freezing cold and the rain is only dissipated by high wind or sleet.
Berkhamsted Castle is the sort of place you drive past at least once a week but never actually go into. It’s an English Heritage site, but all you can see from the road are a few walls and the odd train whistling by. Ellen loves visiting National Trust houses (as mentioned in other posts) and whilst I realised that the Castle would be not quite so familiar i.e no roof and no chairs, I thought that it would be a good opportunity for us to share a ‘same but different’ experience.
This is a great place to visit with an energetic autistic person, as there’s lots of space to run and steps to climb, and although there’s not a lot of structure left, it’s an interesting and atmospheric site.
Ellen, however, is not an energetic autistic person and was in a bad mood from the very start. She wouldn’t wear her hat or do up her coat and the constant cold wet drizzle must have been unpleasant but she was obviously determined not to give in to it or to give me any more than one-word feedback to all my experience-sharing prompts.
Me: ‘Oh look we’re the only ones here!’
Me: ‘You know this Castle used to be owned by someone called Richard’
Me: ‘Ooh look we can be King of the Castle and climb up to the Keep’
Not to be put off, I climbed up to the Keep in the vague hope that Ellen might follow. I must admit my heart did slightly jump into my throat when I turned round to survey my Kingdom and could see no sign of Ellen. Then I saw a flash of movement behind the central piece of remaining wall – ‘ah ha’ I thought ‘she’s playing hide and seek’. I crept down the stairs and jumped theatrically around the corner shouting ‘Boo!’, but Ellen wasn’t there, she was already hot-footing it back to the entrance still shouting ‘Car!’
Grateful that the place was indeed deserted, I caught her up. She almost cracked a smile when I exclaimed that I thought I’d lost her, but powered ahead once she realised that we could finally finish at the Castle and head into town in search of shops and food. Her mood didn’t lighten though and in the car on the way home I commented that she had been ‘rather grumpy’. But it wasn’t the weather, or the Castle or the fact that we went to the ‘wrong’ supermarket that was responsible. According to Ellen, she was grumpy because she had been denied a McDonalds.
So, English Heritage, if you’re reading, perhaps you could kindly allow a McDonalds franchise to open up on-site, there’s lots of empty gaps and I’m sure it wouldn’t detract at all from the atmosphere of the place!