Thursday, 30 August 2012

Saturday 25th August - Still more to do....

On the way back from London, everyone was saying that we'd be able to have a nice long rest over the weekend. Not at all... Ev was up (bright and breezy) as was Loup (less so) for his 8:15 swimming lesson and then as soon as they were back we headed off to the John Charles Sports Centre in Leeds where the Leeds part of the flame was star attraction amidst a Paralympic Sport taster event.

A few years ago we looked at disabled sports options for Ev but there were a number of reasons why we didn't take it further. Firstly, and the main one, was that we started to look at the SDR surgery at the same time and this, the start of "Evan's Big Journey", quickly took over our time and energy - leaving only a little for extra-curriculur activity, secondly the clubs tend to be further away and have later start times which wasnt great when Ev was only 6 and already had a hectic schedule with school and physio. Finally and probably the most sensitive one to consider was that it was a bit difficult to come to terms with the fact that Evan would, at that time, almost inevitably be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life at some point. We tried not to use his chair as much as possible - even then trying to get him onto his kay-walker.

Now, he doesn't need it - yes, we use it for longer distances and he certainly will use it for a long while to come - but things are different. Much different. It feels the right time to pick it back up - of course inspired by the events of the last couple of months and what was to come with the Paralympics.

Not only was the event a chance to reacquaint ourselves with the flame for one very last time, it was also the chance to meet with Ev's SDR buddy Ben. Ben is a couple of years older than Ev, lives nearby and had travelled to St Louis a couple of weeks before us and our visits had all too briefly overlapped. However, we'd kept in touch since (again, all too briefly) and Ben is also a member of Leeds Spiders Wheelchair Basketball club who were on display at the event.

The event started with the introduction of the flame and then it was off to try all of the events. Well, that was the plan but we were quite unexpectedly asked to pose for photos with a number of people who had seen Ev on TV (including one rather elderly lady with a brand new blackberry), a local boy who is going to be one of the first to get SDR in the UK (in Leeds - Yorkshire driving the way again!), a family who had just got back from STL and also an old work colleague of mine who had come along to the event and wanted to say Hi after seeing Ev on TV (and recognising me...).

It was great to hear that (Dr Park's version of) SDR was now available in the UK but unfortunately it still needs to be funded privately rather than via the NHS. However, a small step towards SDR changing even more lives - but more work needs to be done.

None of this was unwanted and made for a very pleasant, if not surreal, experience but we then had chance to try out some of the events - as did Maya and Sam. The exhibition of Wheelchair Rugby was particularly boisterous and the Wheelchair Basketball participants were able to throw hoops much more accurately than I could. Given that Ev has been particularly inspired by Hannah Cockcroft (who makes a bid for Gold tomorrow, as I write this) it was great that he got a chance at Wheelchair racing. Let's hope for somewhere exotic in 2020 and 2024 - it would be great to attend both Paralympic and Olympic events... (no pressure, kids !!)

It was a great experience, topped off, with Ev walking a lap of the athletics track (400 metres) - walking one-handed with Loup. We just need to have a think about what he wants to try going forward.

We also had to say goodbye to another of "Team Evan Flame" - Tom had arranged much of the trip and was also a new friend we hoped to see again sometime.

Now, we could head home for a rest - but looking at the clock we realised it was past two o'clock and the kids were hungry so we headed off to a local restaurant for a special treat. As we got in the car we switched on the radio, I recognised that voice. The kids beat me to it ~ "Katherine !!!". On duty reporting from Peterborough where Leeds United were playing.

Everyone has to get back to normal at some point....

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Friday 24th August - The biggest of big days (pt 2)

...on the way back to the DCMS offices we were stopped twice. Once by a lady who said that "as a member of the general public - I think you, your family and your little boy are fabulous" and then by another who said pretty much the same but was lucky enough to get one of Evan's (by now) "trademark hugs" - we also passed a couple of girls who were wearing the polo-shirts we had seen around DCMS, so had been helping out, and they waved and said "Hi Evan....". I explained to Joe from Look North that I'm often just known as "Evan's Dad" on many occasions. I don't mind - don't mind that at all.

Tom from Yokshire Gold commented that he couldnt believe it was only 9:40 - I agreed, it felt like mid-afternoon, but there was plenty more to experience.

The DCMS offices were full of post-ceremony euphoria and there was a great buzz around the place as other ambassadors picked up their flame transportation units (essentially a bucket...) - but we were soon in taxis heading off to Kings Cross where we were met by East Coast again who escorted us to the First Class lounge for a very quick drink and a bite to eat before we got on the train back north.

As we were settling down, Amy asked me if we needed her to get everyone to give us some space for a while. Did we want the Train executives, the TV crew, the other TV crew and the Radio presenter to give us some time alone. If you had asked me that question a couple of weeks ago I would have said yes, absolutely, but not today. It didnt feel like we needed it.

I was sat at the back of the party and was able to see everyone bustling around ahead of us - these were all people who we had known only briefly - maybe only for a day or so - but for now we considered them friends and we were truly grateful to have made all of their acquaintances. Of course, they were there to cover the story - but I think they enjoyed it while it happened. I think Evan's Big Journey does that - people cross it's path and they get drawn in, often leaving with a smile on their face and also usually a little orange wristband. It's brought us the most amazing experiences and despite the reasons why it started it, it's been the trip of a lifetime since. One of the guys got in touch afterwards and commented that; "Every now and then a job comes along that makes me think I love my job. This was one of them". That means a lot.... an awful lot.

There was still a little bit of time for a last couple of recordings - and Sam really got stuck in "playing" with some of the cameras - which the owners very kindly but nervously let him do. This was a really good bit of the trip - it hadn't just been about Ev, the other kids play their part as well. Sam is a real live-wire and is inquisitive to the extreme so we are constantly on "Sam-watch" and "Where's Sam?" is a constant phrase we use but one of the guys put it well - "he's lovely, so energetic, I could watch him all day!". Evan had said to Chris Holmes earlier in the day that he was "Mass-destruction Sam" - but in a good way, of course. On the other hand, Maya is generally quiet in company but really shone - it cant be easy for her, she hardly saw her Mum for 6 weeks when Ev was born (she was just 20 months old at the time) - and very often the focus is on her little brother - but we were really proud of her. At breakfast that morning we had grabbed a table for 5, as we usually do - forgetting in our nervous haste to get a place for Amy - but Maya spotted this and went and sat with her to ensure she wasn't on her own. Evan's purpose and drive is as much a result of this nurture as his nature.

The train journey was drawing to an end and it was quite sad - Katherine, Tina and Charlie were shooting off but Joe was sticking around and we did some brief goodbyes as we drew into the station. We exited one door and the rest of the party the other - greeting us was a real crowd of paparazzi - clicking, flashing, and beckoning us to look in one direction and then the other. Ev had walked off the train with the flame and it was quite warm and heavy. As the flashes lit up the platform, the lantern slipped from his hand....



Luckily, we had the five flames and were able to re-light from the official source. Still, a heart in mouth moment and Amy had to make a mad-dash down the platform to get the other lit one.

We then had to get to the hotel. The last few steps.

The room in the hotel was full - including some faces we knew; Grandma and Grandads, Mrs Smith (Ev's first teaching assistant) and also Tom Jones (no, not that one...) and Kate Nesbit who had played such a big part in the Walk to School. Kate had even delayed her holiday to attend - her family waiting in the car before they headed off to Scotland.

We said a quick hello to the Lord Mayor and his wife before the Town Crier began the ceremony. The flame was handed over - the flame that we had only had being safeguarding for a few hours but that we had known of for a few precious weeks was passed on. The flame that had given us another wonderful experience.

Evan's job was done. I think he had been a pretty good Flame Ambassador...

Soon the room emptied, everyone jumping on a bus that toured the flame around York and that was it. The last people left at a party that we didn't want to finish. One final last task to do - to say goodbye to our new good friend - Amy. (We knew we'd see Tom the next day...). This was her last day - her job was done and she was moving on to pastures new - I can't imagine how high and low she must have felt. However, she is well and truly a bona-fide member of Team Evan and i'm sure we'll keep in touch.

And with that we were done. Well, nearly - as we got into the car I switched to Minster FM - they had grabbed me on the platform and I'd done an interview on the run. We tuned in just as the news came on and there I was, trying to put into words how I felt as we dashed out of the station. We listened to the piece as we sat in the traffic - starting to realise what we had been very lucky to be part of. Slightly frustrating to be in a traffic jam - we wanted to get home.... the cause of the traffic jam ? .... it was the bus carrying the flame...

We managed to get home just in time to view the clips that the guys had put together.
Calendar clip
Look North clip

It had been the most amazing day. The most wonderful experience. The trip of a lifetime.

The biggest of big days!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Friday 24th August - The biggest of big days (pt 1)

While reading the blog of Thursday's activity, Loup reminded me that I'd missed off the fact that as we headed down the platform to catch the train, she'd been met by Katherine from Radio Leeds who had (in the nicest possible way) thrust a microphone in front of her and they had done a live interview as we got onto the train. It's an indication of how things went over those few days that something which, in itself, would have been something to talk about was lost in the melee.

As we had to meet up at 6:30, this meant another 5:30 start - a very quick breakfast, although I was so nervous I could hardly eat anything - although the kids seemed somewhat unphased, well aside from Sam who, not being such an early bird, was recovering from being (literally) wrenched from his bed.

We'd walked from the hotel to Trafalgar Square the day before so knew the route and made our way through Leicester Square which at this time of day was inhabited only by road sweepers rather than the throng of tourists we had seen the day before. We'd seen another flame ambassador (Leicestershire?) in the hotel and as we made our way onto Trafalgar Square we walked with and alongside a number of others clearly heading the same direction.

The meeting point for all 33 ambassadors was the offices of the Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) and as we hung around Jeremy Hunt (Secretary for State) wandered past (this being his department) and then Lynda came up to me, looking somewhat bemused, and said "The Prime Minister wants to meet Evan and have his photograph taken with him !". Regardless of political persuasion or opinion that you might have, when the Prime Minister asks to meet your son, that's a landmark day.

David Cameron had sadly lost his own son who was severely disabled with Cerebral Palsy in 2009 - he's a Dad and, on another day, that might have been me. We never stop forgetting, even with the challenges that Evan faces, that we are very lucky to have him...

We left Loup and Ev in the safe hands of Tom for the briefing and myself, Amy, Maya and Sam headed over to Trafalgar Square. The media were there and we spotted Tina and Charlie at one end of the barriers at the front and Katherine and Joe at the other. However, they then united to form a little Yorkshire media enclave fighting for space and position. We did a bit of celebrity spotting - we could see a few presenters in front of us (I even got asked if I'd let Gethin Jones interview me for ITV, but I thought i'd let someone else be on telly as well....) and on stage we spotted Mandeville (the mascot) followed by Seb Coe, David Cameron and Boris Johnson - the latter clearly a very popular guy as there was a noticeable "look, look, there's Boris.... " from all around us.

Then, as the clock reached 8am (it felt like midday), the ceremony started. The Master of Ceremonies was Chris Holmes, renowned Paralympic athlete who was also Director of Paralympic Integration. Speeches followed from Seb Coe, David Cameron and then the wonderfully erudite and bonkers Boris Johnson with a speech combining a latin lesson, Lady Gaga, Shakin' Stevens and a reference to the Olympics as antipasto. (Boris Johnson speech).

Then the flame was lit and the splitting ceremony commenced. Loup had also mentioned that they wanted Evan to be first up - he was the youngest of the participants - which was good as we wouldnt have long to wait - and worry... but when the first name was called it wasn't Evan. Nor was the second. Panic set in - he had been nervous and I could imagine him clinging onto Loup saying he couldnt do it, but then I heard the assistant to Chris Holmes (who is blind so had to be prompted for the list of names) whisper "Yorkshire" to him- audible over the mic.

Showtime !!!

I could see Ev enter stage left and he set off slowly. After the initial round of applause died down it was just Ev walking to the flame. He was doing it. I could see him doing the combination of walking, concentrating, balancing - so much effort for him to do this. I put my hands to my face - I was so, so, proud and have to admit to a few tears.

The crowd fell silent - willing him on, as I do so often - trying to will his feet to lift themselves. After about 25 steps, and 30 seconds, Chris Holmes shouted "Come on let's hear you" and the crowd clapped some more. Which had the effect of spurring him on but he seemed to lose concentration and after three more steps he slipped. Loup caught him and steadied him. I hoped it wouldn't dent his confidence but feared it might. It didn't. He carried on and 22 steps later he was there to collect his lantern. The crowd, as much as it could (there weren't as many people there as you might expect) went wild and Ev beamed his widest of grins. He had done it.

50 steps in a minute an a half. The most amazing 50 steps. The most unbelievable 50 steps. He'd done it - he'd bloody done it.

(Later on I found out that someone had recorded it and put in online - so you can see it for yourself here Evan walking to collect the flame)

I turned to Amy and simply said "thanks!". She had helped make this possible. Given Evan a platform to achieve something truly wonderful. He had been inspired and he had done it.

The remaining thirty ambassadors collected their flames but I wasn't able to pay much attention - totally overwhelmed. Tina and Charlie, Katherine and Joe came over to record our reaction and they all clearly had a similar response. Charlie admitted to not being able to hold the camera steady at one point. It didn't feel like they were just there for the story - we had only known them for a day or so but it just felt like they were friends, sharing the experience.

Once the ceremony had finished we were able to go "backstage" and meet up with Ev and Loup. One obstacle - I had to get in line as he was already signing an autograph for someone ! Katherine did a piece with him live to air and I couldn't believe how calm he was. He just keeps going and constantly pulls it out of the bag. I don't know where it comes from - but the power that pulled him through on his first day still clearly burns strong.

Evan had chance to meet Chris Holmes and his guide-dog who he and Sam renamed from "Lotty" to "Licky" . He was a lovely guy and they spent quite a few minutes together.

There were then a few opportunities to take some photos and record some other bits on camera and then Joe beckoned us over. Do you want your photo taking with Boris ? Too true we did. He asked where we were from - Yorkshire. Where's the sign, where's the sign ?? (each flame had a sign with the name on) and he rushed off - all whirling dervish - to get it for us. Loads of photos later he was whisked off somewhere and we were just about done.

We had a flame to deliver - and so we headed back to the DCMS offices.

Proud - so, so, proud.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Thursday 23rd August - We're off.....

After some late night and last minute packing, a 5:30am wake-up call wasn't the ideal start but we were so excited that even the lack of a shower to wake us up (given ripped out bathroom - see previous blog) had ill-effect and with a nervous spring in our step we set off. 

On the way to York we switched on the radio just as they were reading out the news headlines; "....and we join the young lad from Silsden, Evan Whitton, who is travelling to London to fetch back the Paralympic flame". The news - in our car - reporting what we were doing - while we were doing it.  

We arrived on time in York Station, parked up, got some breakfast and then about twenty minutes before the train was due to arrive we moved to our platform. Just as we would normally do and got the treats out for the kids for the journey - sticker books. Anything to keep the kids amused on a two hour train journey and as they excitedly thumbed through I got a tap on the shoulder - "excuse me, are you with Evan Whitton ?". I'd never thought of it like that, although I am used to being referred to Evan's Dad more than any other of my identities... The guys at East Coast rail (which was actually a posse of manager types) had been waiting to greet us and were worried we hadn't made it - we'd never thought we'd have a greeting party but they very kindly helped us onto the train where we met up with Katherine from Radio Leeds and Tina and Charlie from Calendar. 

We got settled down and as the train was pulling out of the station they came round with complementary tea, coffee, juice and various breakfast stuff. Looking round I noticed that Sam had actually asked for a cup of tea and a croissant and was tucking in, with a "crikey - this is the life" look on his face. How on earth am I going to explain to him that this doesn't happen on every train journey... 

Katherine was sat with us and we had a chat about what would happen over the next day or so and then Tina and Charlie came to do a bit of filming. "Just be yourself" they say - which is easier said than done. So, rather than doing that (which usually entails me trying to play Angry Birds on my phone while getting all three kids to "ask your Mum"), I went into "pointing mode" - I couldn't help it, but take a look at people being filmed on news clips and they all do it ! ... Evan then turned to Katherine and said "can I ask you a question ?". 
"of course"
"do you want to play with my Skylanders sticker book ?"
So Katherine became acquainted with the world of an eight year old and we had a chat about football and work. Almost close to being a normal train journey - but so far off. 

On arrival we were then met by yet another East Coast managerial posse who helped whisk us through Kings Cross and onto a taxi, clearly the envy of those in a rather long taxi queue on an unexpectedly sunny day. This all felt strangely weird for just a regular family on a day out. It was becoming clear that this wasnt just a regular day out. We knew that, but it was only just beginning to sink in. 

We got the taxi to our hotel and dropped our bags off and then met up with Tina and Charlie. The plan was to take a taxi via Buckingham Palace (well, the kids did want to go and see it...) on way to the Natural History Museum. However due to the Paralympics the route was closed to traffic but it was walking distance, so off we went - filming clips as we went and getting to know Tina and Charlie. On the way we passed through Trafalgar Square where, just under twenty-four hours later, Ev would be doing his stuff. Reality was truly kicking in...

Due to special permission being required for the filming, Calendar had contacted them and the Natural History Museum had very kindly provided us with a personal guide and entry to the "Animals Inside Out" exhibition (intriguing, interesting and freaky in equal measure). Tina and Charlie, having got their footage, went off to do some editing and left us to it. Katherine asked if it was ok to stay with us and do a piece later on. Of course it was - an extra pair of hands always comes in useful in a museum when you have three kids to look out for. If anyone visits London we can definitely recommend taking a Radio Presenter and a TV crew - they are very handy. 

Despite this being an extraordinary day out, the ordinary still occurs and one of the things that Evan suffers with is that when he needs to use the loo he doesn't get much warning and so mad dashes when he is caught short are very much part of our life. However, when you have a Live Radio show queued up for us in 5 minutes it does make it much more interesting. As it happens, we made it but "technical difficulties" meant that Katherine had to do a piece on her own and we arranged to do an interview en route back to the hotel.  

Given the 5:30 start we were starting to flag a little bit already, but there was more to come but it didnt seem onerous - the final part of the day was to meet up with Amy and Tom from Yorkshire Gold. They had organised everything for us including a meal out at Hard Rock Cafe, and we were really looking forward to meeting up with them again. 

We checked in to the hotel and, as ever - given there are five of us - we had to split into two rooms which somehow took the form of a "boys' room" and a "girls' room" - Lynda now the proud owner of a "long straw" on that one.... and we had chance for a quick drink at the bar before we headed off. Chance to reflect on how lucky we were. We were only part way through the trip but had already done so much and been blessed to meet such great people, who were really fantastic company. 

At Hard Rock Cafe we met up with Joe from Look North who was going to pick up the piece from Olivia and he caught up with the story of Evan's Big Journey. He sat talking to Ev for ages ("Man v Food" this time). One amazing thing was that he told us that the feedback to BBC about the "walk to school" piece was one of the best ever and Amy added that the clip had been sent to LOCOG and "Seb knew all about Evan". Even with everything else that was going on, this blew me away the most. Seb Coe. Lord Seb Coe knows of and is impressed with what Evan has achieved. Gulp. A great end to a brilliant day.  

...and with that, five very tired soldiers went back to their hotel and to bed. Tomorrow was another day.... 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Getting Ready... Wednesday 22nd August

I'm not sure if we do it on purpose, but we don't tend to do things easily. I try to "keep things simple" but often fail to do so and we always seem to have lot of different things to do, to be five places at once, and when it rains it pours...

This morning not only did it rain, it poured. Literally. Along with the rain arriving so did a "bathroom guy" (we are renovating the bathroom so that Evan gets the benefit of a walk-in shower, essential for a growing lad), a radio presenter and a TV reporter. We also had thought we had better pack for the trip to London so three loads of washing were queued up.

Katherine Hannah was first up - she had a bit of a chat with Evan and then managed the amazing feat of leaving Sam lost for words when trying to get some quotes from us. As ever, Evan wasn't lost for words - although he did tell Katherine (of BBC Radio Leeds) all about visiting Calendar (ITV) - so that would test her editing skills. In fact, much of what happened over the next few days would surely test the editing skills of the various media teams we worked with. She also coped admirably with the background bangs, crashes and wallops generated by someone ripping out a bathroom. A few successful takes later Katherine left us in the hands of Olivia Richwald, who set up camera in the conservatory. Well, I say conservatory - it was built as that but is basically a big toy box. I'm sure (ok, pretty sure - ok, ok, fairly sure...) we'll recall it as a grown-ups' space eventually but for now it's the kids' space.

Just as Katherine had generated silence, Olivia generated harmony. She asked if she could get a shot of all the kids playing together. Now, given that we have a ten year old girl and eight and five year old boys, even Kofi Annan might struggle to get that combination, in ANY family, to play together in front of a TV camera AND do an interview at the same time. However, after about 10 minutes they had done us proud and Olivia seemed happy so Maya and Sam were excused and Evan stayed on for a one-to-one.

I was happy to avoid the camera so made a coffee, checked on the bathroom guy, did some tweeting while Loup hid by doing some washing and also checked on the bathroom guy (!) however, I did keep an ear out and heard Ev "grassing us up" that 'Maya wanted to go to Buckingham Palace but they are taking us to see the Natural History Museum instead' - which was news to me (the Palace bit) but interesting to hear the kids' interpretation of events.

After that, it was time for us to get in on the action, despite our best efforts to discourage Olivia that she needed it. To be honest, I struggle to answer questions in this environment. I tend to mumble something and then think of a really good answer about an hour later. I like to ponder on things and then write on here later on but, as I said, they didn't go to editing class for nothing. So we all sat there on the sofa and answered a few questions and, perhaps sensing that we'd collectively had enough, Olivia called it a day and dashed off into the rain laiden down with her equipment.

We then had the rest of the day to ourselves. Which, if we did things easily, would have been spent sitting around worrying about what was to come. However, we don't do things simply, so the rest of the day was spent attending a birthday party, picking up some friends from the airport, having haircuts, going for baths/showers (going to London after three days of bathing in a sink might not give the right impression...) and finally getting packed (oh, and I popped to the local pub quiz for a bit).

We were ready.

As much as we could be.

What would happen over the next couple of days? -  We weren't really sure, but we were ready for it.


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Inspired - Thursday 16th August

It's only a few days since the end of the Olympics, bid farewell by the brilliantly bonkers closing ceremony, and every mention of what is next - the Paralympics - makes our hearts beat a little faster. It's a little over two months since we found out about Ev's involvement in the Paralympic Flame as Ambassador for Yorkshire and it was always such a long way off, and would be after the Olympics which felt like it would go on for ages.

It's here now though. Next week. Details are starting to feed through, and yesterday some (ahem, First Class) tickets for the journey down. It all feels slightly surreal to be getting the "vip treatment" but we are very appreciative of this opportunity and what it means. Everywhere still seems to be so "up" after the Olympics, especially what Team GB achieved, and to be a continued part of this in anyway is such a great opportunity. The paralympics is going to be fantastic and i'm sure Yorkshire will continue it's domination of sport (we are independent now as a result of the Olympics, right...?)

So many people have been asking about the trip and what we'll be doing and it's great to be able to share it. We have been arranging the trip with Tom and Amy who work with LOCOG on this as well as with ITV-Calendar who are going to accompany us and do some filming of the trip. We have a great opportunity to visit the National History Museum the day before. Totally, totally out of our comfort zone but it will hopefully be something that we can look back on, and gives us the opportunity to share, as much as possible, our trip with as many people as we can. Not just Team Evan - but anyone. In fact, after the last time we were on tv (sorry - I can't type that without the inner me raising an eyebrow...) we were contacted by someone who is going to STL with their son next year and are at the start of their own journey and who said "(we) thought it was wonderful that Evan is doing so well and the achievements he has made - such an inspiration for us".

I'll try and provide as many updates as we can (probably via twitter @andywhitton) but photos and blog will inevitably follow. 

If Evan can inspire just one person or one family in the same way that Team GB have and will inspire the whole nation then that will mean so much to us. 

Looking forward to it - nervous, excited, intrigued, inspired!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Down on the Farm - Monday 6th August

We never know where Evan's Big Journey will take us; a rain drenched walk to school one week, presenting an award at the O2 Yorkshire Media Awards the next. As a result of the latter we were lucky enough to meet a couple of the actors from the show; Bhasker and Fiona - and a couple of weeks later we were lucky enough to get an invite to the Emmerdale studios in Leeds.

So off we drove a couple of days ago and were greeted by Alli who took us on a "behind the scenes" tour of the studios. To be honest, the kids are more into Phineas and Ferb than Amos and Mr Wilks and due to it being on around bathtime we dont watch it as much as we used to so they didnt really know the characters or locations but when we walked into the Woolpack, it was amazing (ok, for me it was...). The attention to detail was amazing - just like a real pub ! We had a few shots (photos, not drinks - although there is real beer in the pumps) and then moved on.

Even if not regular viewers we still recognised a lot of the sets (admittedly some from Harry Hill ?) but when we went into one set and saw a picture of Seth Armstrong (legend!) on top of the telly we had to have a picture with it. 

The boys loved it and even did a few scenes - which Alli most creatively and patiently directed. I think they would have stayed there all day re-enacting scenes.

However, our time was up and we were taken for lunch in the studio canteen and got chance to meet Bhasker again and then had to say bye to Alli and head back home.

We've since paid more attention to a couple of episodes and it's really weird to say "we stood there", "look, it's that" and "Ev was there". A really great experience and we were so lucky to be given the opportunity to visit. Massive thanks to everyone who was involved.

One final thing...

a spoiler.....

it's not called Emmerdale Farm any more !?