Corfe Castle. 11 am. Saturday.

It was a cloudy day in Southern England and I had a bad feeling by the time we set out on the woodland path leading up to Corfe Castle. Cass, our 6-year old, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes 9 months ago and we’ve learned a lot since last August. One of those steep learning curves has been divining the future from the ever-changing line of her CGM’s line graph.

On this particular day, it was reasonable figures for the last three hours distributed all wrong. We were walking and she wasn’t going low. As soon as we stopped walking, the line gradually started inching up. Either she wasn’t getting all the insulin she needed or she needed more insulin for some reason. One of the many big frustrations of Type 1 Diabetes is being sure that something isn’t working as it should, but as her numbers were in range and steady and there were no obvious signs of issues with her pump, we were unable to do anything about it. We carried on walking.

Cass misses a fair amount of school due to her health issues. EDS and Type 1 Diabetes aren’t playing well together, or possibly are playing too well together depending on your point of view. We do what we can to supplement what she misses. This term she’s learning Medieval English History, so on Saturday, we went to see some Living History from the Medieval Era brought to life by the Feudals, a medieval reenactment group. It was a brilliant experience. Cass joined the Corfe army and learned how to march and fight with a spear. She shot a stationary crossbow, learned how to mix paints and make your own brushes. She touched chain mail, picked up a shield, listened to a Young Knight telling the story of how hard he trained to become a Knight and examined longbows made from different quality of wood, then observed to see how that affected the quality of the weapon. She learned about food, cooking, daily living, how to play Merels and what life was generally like 800 years ago.

The Corfe Army

We had lunch at the top of the castle and then rushed around to complete the National Trust children’s trail. Near the top of the castle, she fell over, dislocated her kneecap and pulled out most of her cannula in the process. Her glucose levels were already at the top end of the normal range and started rising rapidly. Her knee was swollen and blood clung to her jeans. Her shoulders shook as she cried and tears streamed down her face. Life unravels so quickly.

Ten minutes later her knee was so swollen she had difficulty bending it and we were haphazardly changing out her cannula at the top of Corfe Castle amidst throngs of children hunting for clues and tourists taking selfies with the castle ruins as a backdrop. All the other children were laughing and running and she watched them whilst desperately attempting to stop crying in full view of strangers. The day felt grey and ugly. Life seemed incredibly unfair.

We spend a lot of time teaching Cass not to compare herself to others. Our general motto in life is that as many of the challenges we face are invisible to others, so are the challenges they face invisible to us. Everyone has bad days, everyone gets hurt sometimes, so don’t feel excluded, having challenges to face is something you have in common with every person you ever meet. But some days, I still wish she fell like the children around her does, with just a scrape and a bruise to show for it.

Twenty minutes later we were slowly heading back down the hill. ‘It feels funny walking on a popped out knee,’ she said matter of factly, ‘like my bones aren’t there anymore.’ I squeezed her hand and said, ‘I know exactly what you mean, it’s a very strange feeling, but it’ll be fine soon.’ And so it was. A few steps later it clicked back in and the pain was at a manageable level. The line graph was dipping down even when we stopped walking and I could hear the birds singing again. The sun came out for a brief moment and washed away the earlier panic. It was a lovely Saturday afternoon in a beautiful spot.

She received a bracelet on handing in her trail and as we left, we bumped into the woman who had explained medieval paints to her. She commented that Cass had been brilliant taking part in the Corfe Army drill and really stood out as she did exactly as she was instructed and picked it all up very quickly. She and her companion were highly impressed. Cass grinned. As we started our much slower walk back to the car park, she said, ‘Today there was a lot of problems, but I still had a great time. Everyone was so kind to me.’

As we hobbled back to the car park she recounted how Will had taught her to play Merels – ‘and even though it was lunchtime and he hadn’t had lunch yet, he had stayed to teach me and played a whole game with me’ – and how a nice lady had taught her about paints and brushes and how if she lived in medieval times, she’d be an artist for sure. She gushed about the man who had asked her to shoot the crossbow and she hit the target by just pulling the string ever so lightly. She marvelled at how well she executed an about turn whilst holding a spear and mainly had remembered her left from her right and how much fun it was to take part in something that used to happen 800 years ago.

As she left for school this morning, she was still enthusiastically plotting more. I was reminded that I had to either find a Merel board or buy some whittling tools so we can make one, I had to find her sandstone and any other rocks from her collection that would make good ochre paints and be sure to get some eggs if we’d run out because they’re the perfect binder, remember. She glowed with enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to get to school so she could tell all her friends about her weekend in Dorset.

We’ll be posting a review of Corfe Castle soon, but if you’re in Dorset before we do, we highly recommend it. It’s an impressive place to visit, particularly during one of their excellent weekend events.