We thought we'd get the adventure off to a good start by taking her along to a Country Show. The weather was great, the show was not a million miles from home and we knew that there would be plenty to see for adults and tots alike. Thirty years ago we took our own daughter along for the day.
Mother and daughter - 1979
Of course she was too young at three months old to appreciate much and, inevitably, she has since developed a more refined dress sense. A knotted handkerchief as a sun-shield is now so passé.
We may have been alert to the dangers of too much sun three decades ago, but I can say with some certainty that E.coli was not on our minds. That one completely slipped us by, which meant that we had a stress-free, family day out amongst the livestock and anything that they were inclined to leave behind.
The experience was similar this weekend. Speckly-Woo! was fascinated by the pigs in particular and eagerly gripped her way around the outside of the pen. We also got up close to the cattle and horses.
Spare a thought then for the parents and grandparents of those children who have been struck down with E.coli after visiting Godstone Farm. There will no doubt be fingers pointed, blame apportioned and lessons learned. But at the centre of this story are children, and accompanying adults whose worlds have been turned upside down by a potentially fatal infection. Here's wishing for a full and speedy recovery for those concerned.
We all know (or should know) the basic rules of personal hygiene. Washing hands before they find their way to mouths is so important, but it's not always straightforward with little ones. Juggling children in and out of temporary toilet blocks at big events, doing regular head-counts and generally trying to keep at least one step ahead requires concentration on a superhuman scale.
As for the hand-washing, we probably took a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, but a handy-size bottle of alcohol gel (as seen in a dispenser at the door of an NHS facility near you) is good. Easily applied and offering adequate protection and peace of mind.
Incidents like this do make you think though. When I was a youngster I dread to think what I was carrying on my hands. We had a dog, whose kennel I was known to share on occasion. I was always out of doors, touching this and that. There was a large garden, liberally fertilized, where I played and got myself dirty. Yet, I wasn't a sickly child.
At the pump
Maybe the answer lies in my curiosity for and ability to work the hand-pump in the yard.
© 2009, copyright Martin T. Hodges