Come and Join the Carnival: Community Inclusion.

It was one of those afternoons that dripped into early evening, dusk and beyond, where everything came together to create a perfect moment in time that shall be hard to forget. The kind of lived snapshot that could not be recreated, that could not be entirely planned for, for the magic ingredient came from the cocktail of those present.

Natty ready for World Cup carnival

The weather was warm and bright, breeze-filled trees cast a dappled border to our scene. The kind of day where you feel glad to be alive, energetic, positive, more sociable that usual. We met together and waited excitedly, chatting and priming our cameras, eagerly glancing across the grass, waiting for the gate to swing open and our samba playing carnival kings and queens to come dancing out.

A sun of papier mâché led the way as costumes and colours burst across the green, drums and dancing, flags held high. Painted faces beamed with pride, each child equal, each one vital and important, playing their part in the community scene. There were flowers and fruits, teams of World Cup, animals wild and free. From tiny to tall, big and small the procession wound its way through a crowd with hearts bursting forth. Every detail was thought out, even wheels were pimped to the max, staff and onlookers couldn't help their smiles, couldn't help but celebrate the wonder of Childhood, the innocent perfection of all children.

Then a concert. In breeze-filled shade each class performed to their families, their community, their peers. The audience sat or stood, passing babies for snuggles, a joke, an exclamation of wonder or two. And in that moment we all knew how lucky we were, we all appreciated just how special this moment was.

The hours that followed were filled with an easy flow of stalls and games, a fete with a difference, proper grub and a sneeky mojito or Brazialian lager. Older children sold their loom band wares and our Mia was no exception. Apples were bobbed and home-grown plants were sold. It was the kind of back-in-time village event that is so rarely enjoyed. Natty mingled with friends as they shared an authentic burger. We were still on red alert as ever at public events, but Natty stayed close, for once giving no cause for concern by darting silent and swift between the legs of a packed crowd. For once I didn't urge, 'Where's Natty', for once my heart beat at a constant pace. For the first time she was as engrossed in the events as we.

Then the finale, the icing on the cake, the boat race that had had us all planning and crafting ahead of time. Some for weeks it would seem, others the day before and at least one admitted to minutes prior to the race. Yes, after much anticipation the meat trays and empty drinks bottles beautifully hand-crafted vessels were launched down the stream. Teachers in wellies waited at the finish line, ankle deep in brook to catch the precious contenders. The crowd gathered, on bridge and bank. The excitement became too much and children cast aside their shoes and socks and waded in, waiting, waiting, wondering if their work would make it through the reeds.

As each boat passed under the bridge, a cheer, a universal delight in the fact they had fullfilled their purpose. 10s streamed through. More and more children and parents waded in to retrieve them. Natty and I waited for sight of her shuttle-inspired creation. Daddy and Mia stood guard atop the wee bridge. But where had it gone? Was it stuck nose-deep in the river bed?

'Where's my boat? Where's my boat?' we danced and chanted, always a good excuse for learning a nice sentence by heart...

Then finally that signal from Daddy DSU, 'Ship ahoy!', all signed of course.

The excitement overtook me, shoes and socks were hurriedly shed and jeans were rolled uncomfortably high. Others helped, egged us on and in we went, 'Quick Natty, quick!' I held her firm.

We got there a moment too late, the boat aloft, safe and dry, saved by another's hands.
So.... I sneaked it behind my back and offered it to one upstream to relaunch a few metres in.

'Look Natty, look. Here comes your boat!'

This time she watched and held her hands open, but the boat was taken downstream to our right. Saved again, but not by its creator. Drat and darn!

Third time lucky... and this time she caught her precious handiwork fair and square.

And the smile will remain with us forever.

Or our highy acclaimed little book I Love You Natty.

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