For a birthday treat, C took me away to West Somerset, to Binham Grange, a country house and farm. It was a chance booking, turning out fortunately to be a wonderful place. No keys for the two rooms, no bar or room service, just turn up in the kitchen and ask. Marie, the owner, was a slightly scatty Welsh woman, full of tales of farming life, the Jacobean manor ghosts and always happy to sit down for a chat. Dinner consisted of two equally delicious options, perfectly cooked, with vegetables from the garden. As our starters were cleared, we were told of the amazing sunset outside and advised to go outside to watch. After dinner, we lounged on squashy sofas, drank more wine and nibbled at cheese, made in the farm dairy.
I slept incredibly well, and as I slept, I had the best dream. I dreamt of a huge house, especially for anorexics and their carers and an alternative to hospital. In this inpatient facility, both the patient and their carers were welcomed and shown to spacious rooms furnished with beds in which exhausted people sank into crisp white cotton. Miles from anywhere, the house was surrounded by acres of gardens, scattered with hammocks hanging from trees, small clearings with chairs and a firepit or the occasional summerhouse. Meals and snacks were prepared by a specialist team and served on time, with privacy to help your loved one eat, but support on hand to soothe and comfort or take over if things were tough. In between meals there were craft classes, films to watch and pets to stroke. There are therapy classes for everyone, for the eating disordered, for the terrified parent or for the couples who have grown estranged by the endless battling with Ed. There is a spa, for aromatherapy massage, manicures, reflexology or just to float in a heated pool. There are no worries about work or unpaid bills, for all that is sorted out for you. There is time to talk with others taking the same difficult journey, space to laugh at the ridiculousness of hours spent urging a teenager to finish some lasagne. It is a place where not only is your child helped to heal, but you are nurtured and supported. When you cry in despair, one of your new friends cries with you, then makes you laugh, hugs you and you start all over again. At the end of your stay, there are no invoices, just warm embraces and fond farewells, with the option of returning.
If the Around the Dinner Table Forum was a physical place, rather than a cyber space, this is how it would be.