Last summer family Kiwidutch went camping in England and one of our stops was at the Sandy Balls camp-site in the New Forest.
Himself and I quickly saw that the kids made friends with the kids of other families close by and that after a spell of playing together close to the camper and tents, soon they asked permission to roam further as a little group and to go to the playground without an adult in tow.
Little Mr and Kiwi Daughter are sensible kids and are not risk takers, they have been taught about “stranger danger” and if they ever have a change of plan when playing with friends they will always take the time to come and ask if it’s ok with us first so permission was granted. The weather was warm, the summer days were long and as usual during the long summer holiday, they stayed out playing for as long as the daylight lasted.
(photograph © Kiwidutch)
We had cooked a simple pasta dinner, relaxed afterwards and then Himself and I busied ourselves with the washing up and general tidying up in preparation for bedtime. The kids had pleaded to go play so we let them off dishes duty and waved them off with their little new friends.
At one point whilst we were busy I was vaguely aware that their bikes had been dumped on the grass near the front of the camper but didn’t think anything of it. All of a sudden we saw Kiwi Daughter milling around the camper again and I asked her to put her unicycle away because it was getting darker, and I added that she should also let Little Mr know that he needed to put his bike away too.
Her face revealed her surprise: “But isn’t he inside the camper with you?” she asked. “No” I relied, “He’s with you“. Wrong on both counts, Little Mr had somehow become separated from the group he went out with and she had assumed he had already made his way back to the camper long since. She looked worried, I reassured her that Little Mr was a sensible eight year old and that there were still plenty of children out playing as the daylight faded. Himself immediately started jogging down the road between the tents to search the large playground but was soon back looking a bit more serious because the gates of the playground had already been locked for the night.
Himself dragged his own bike out of the camper’s locker and set out to search the camp site. I took my camera and started to walk down the rows of tents asking parents if they had seen an eight year old boy: Kiwi Daughter was indignant “We have lost Little Mr and all you want to do is go out with your camera?” she accused, close to tears.
I gave her a reassuring hug and told her that what I was actually doing was showing the other parents photos of Little Mr so that they would know if they recognised the kid we were looking for. I explained to fellow campers that Himself was on his bike out looking so I was amazed and relieved when a group of parents instantly gathered around, called their kids in pyjamas from inside tents to look at the photographs and within minutes at least a dozen adults formed several search parties and set out with torches to appointed parts of the camp site looking for our son.
By now it was more dark then light and Kiwi Daughter was in tears with worry. All I could do was stay calm, comfort her and reassure her that I was sure that everything would be all right. All of a sudden a four wheel drive pulled up by our camper: Himself had realised that he wasn’t making progress and called the emergency after hours number for the night warden, who had now arrived to see me.
I talked to the warden about what had been going on with looking for Little Mr so far, what kind of kid Little Mr was, how adventurous etc (He’s defiantly not) and we utterly ruled out that he would have left the confines of the camp site. When I told the night warden about the locked playground he suddenly said he might have a good idea where Little Mr was.
Kiwi Daughter got permission to go with the warden in the car because she could recognise Little Mr the fastest, Himself was still out on his bike searching and I stayed with the camper so that Little Mr would find someone home if he arrived back on his own.
A short while later the headlights of the warden’s vehicle illuminated the camper and as soon as it stopped the back door opened and Little Mr tumbled out and came running into my arms. The warden filled me in with a smile, there was apparently a second smaller “secret” playground within the park, it was far less obvious because the rectangle of caravans around it effectively formed a quadrangle and blocked it from casual view from the surrounding access lanes, instead there were little paths leading to it between the caravans.
This playground hadn’t been considered by the warden at first because it was quite some distance from our part of the park but when I mentioned earlier that we assumed Little Mr was in the large playground close to us, he wondered if by chance Little Mr had gone to the other one. Luckily he had and all that had happened was that he had been so engaged in playing with some slightly older kids that he had not even registered until too later that it was by now completely dark.
Little Mr was stunned to find that he was the subject of a search but once he realised just how dark it was he was relieved that he hadn’t had to try and make his way back on his own because he had lost his bearings in the dark and gotten quite scared. We profusely thanked the warden who said it really wasn’t a problem, he was delighted with the positive outcome and for good measure he said he would drive around the camp site until he found Himself on the bike and let him know that Little Mr had been found.
Himself duly returned on the bike to let me know that he was going off again to let the other parental search parties know too and to thank them for their help.
Needless to say we accumulated quite a crowd around our camper and Little Mr was the unwitting celebrity in the centre of the drama both that evening and the next morning when we walked around thanking people properly for their kindness and searching help. Kiwi Daughter swiftly reverted to her condescending tones of big sister having to put up with a little brother but even she was somehow very careful to not utter the phrase “Get Lost” for the rest of the trip. Aww….A definite sign that deep down she loves him after all.