In the past 12 months, I could count on one hand the number of times I have taken my family on an outing, writes Ben Keenan.
On the rare occurrences when Jen and I have the same day off, the idea of doing anything other than stare open mouthed at our son while he redecorates the world around us with unfathomable beauty keeps us firmly inside a Keenan-shaped bubble behind closed doors.
It’s not that we don’t enjoy a family outing, far from it; it’s just that we are at our happiest surrounded by each other in the place we love most. This year, the three of us have been on several wonderful days out, but often return to the same place because we consider it to be the yardstick by which all other venues are judged – Hollow Tree Farm in Semer. It was here that Tom first got to stroke a cow that wasn’t in a book, furrow his tiny brow at a goose and laugh heartily at chickens as they ran away from his excitable reach. A few hours spent at this wonderful working farm have been some of the best times we’ve spent outside of our home.
They also have one of the most beautifully gastronomic farm shops I’ve ever splurged in and a coffee shop-style restaurant which keeps a bottle warmer next to the ketchup and napkin-wrapped cutlery. When we were there last week, the difference in Tom compared to previous visits was astonishing. He has developed such confidence that Jen and I were struggling to keep up with him as he attempted to pet every single animal he met. After three wonderful hours of fresh air we headed back to the cafe for breakfast. It was here, as I stood waiting to pay, that I realised that two of the biggest dreams I’d ever had for myself had not only come true, they were giggling at each other and waiting for me to hurry back with the tea and full English And as we sat in the corner and made it impossible for anyone in the vicinity to have a calm and relaxing time, I knew that Hollow Tree Farm and the Keenan’s were going be lifelong acquaintances.