The one where I lose Belle in a wood

Yesterday I lost Belle in a wood for 25 minutes. I know it was 25 minutes because Belle timed it. Not in a ‘I’m going to get lost on purpose and see how long it takes my stupid mother to find me way’ – she happened to have her ipod with her, so was able to anxiously check the time as we tearfully searched for each other’s bodies amongst the leaf mould.

We were at Blaise Castle, driven outside by the two-hour window of sunshine in an otherwise wet week to do something wholesome. It was just the two of us, and when we came to a fork in the path Belle decided she wanted to go exploring. “I’ll just see what’s up this way,” she said, “then come back and catch you up. Walk slowly!”

I walked slowly for about 20 metres then sat on a rock to wait for her, trying not to look like a suspicious lady in the woods on her own waiting for a small child to grab and take back to her hut. I waited for what felt like about two hours but was probably about three minutes, and then went back to look for her.

"Balise castle"

My crazy wood lady hut

I walked up the path she had taken, but after only about 30 seconds it came to a clearing, with four separate paths leading from it. Brilliant. You couldn’t write that. I chose the one I thought Belle would have taken and had a quick nose but couldn’t see her. I shouted her name, casually, like I might just be calling out for a puppy that has temporarily scampered away. No one wants to be the parent that has lost a child in a wood.

I went back the way I had come, unaware until an hour or so later that Belle had instantly forgotten saying she would catch me up. Still no sign of her. I pressed on, thinking maybe I would find her waiting at the castle at the top. I didn’t.

"Blaise castle"

NB I didn’t take these pictures as I searched, thinking it would make a great post – I got them from Flickr.  Just so you know.

By now I was beginning to get a little worried, especially whenever I looked to my left at the steep and sharp drop down into the valley below. I tried to push the images of her lying face down in a stream from my mind, and considered asking for help. I didn’t. Every time I thought about saying ‘I’ve lost my daughter’ out loud tears started welling up.

Instead I decided to walk back to the car, which was only actually about five minutes away, to get my phone. If she was feeling lost, I reasoned, she would either come back to the car or she would ask for help, and someone would call me. (A bit like when someone called me at a festival to tell me they had her, and I hadn’t even realised she was missing. Except better, because at least this time I wouldn’t sound surprised.) Back at the car too I could take off my cream fur coat and sunglasses and wouldn’t look quite so ridiculously out-of-place in a damp wood should an emergency situation occur. (You have to think about these things).

I arrived at the car but there was still no sign of her. I stood for a moment, my phone clutched to my chest – partly for warmth as I was now minus coat and partly so I could phone Boyfriend hysterically if I’d not found her in a few minutes and stand crying in the car park until her came and found her for me. I was in two minds at this point. Heading back blindly into the wood to look for her seemed pointless – we could follow each other around for hours – yet just lounging around by the car seemed heartless if she were actually lying in a ditch somewhere. (‘Well officer, I did consider the possibility that she might be hurt, but figured someone would find her eventually and bring her to me’)

Fortunately I was spared any further internal moral debate. Far on the horizon, on the other side of the field, I spotted a tiny figure wearing what looked like turquoise jeans and a panicked expression. (I couldn’t see her face obviously, but there was something despairing in her gait.)

I ran, (yes ran), across the field, (casually), calling her name. As I got closer I was sure it was her and relief set in as I realised I wasn’t going to have to tell my mum I had lost one of her grandchildren. Eventually she saw me, (although it took a while as she was probably looking for the fur coat), and she began to run as well. There was a brief Chariots of Fire slow motion film moment, and then there she was, arms around me, sobbing.

“I thought you were hurt!” she cried.

“I thought you were hurt!” I cried back.

She rummaged in her bag and pulled out her ipod. “I was looking for you for 25 minutes,” she confirmed, always keen to emphasise the drama of a situation.

“Well I’ve found you now,” I said, “Let’s go home.”



  1. 2 January, 2013 / 10:21 am

    Its such a horrible feeling when you lose them. Glad you both found each other.

  2. 2 January, 2013 / 10:32 am

    We have all been there! It’s great to read your reactions, as most wouldn’t admit it!MV x

    • 2 January, 2013 / 11:54 am

      It’s weird the stuff that goes through your head! I know the theory is that all you can think about is finding them, but all this other stuff pops in too. I think that’s OK :-)

  3. rinsimpson
    2 January, 2013 / 10:35 am

    I love your “me and Belle” posts, they’re my favourites :)

    • 2 January, 2013 / 11:55 am

      I like them too – I’m just very wary now of Belle reading and going ‘Oi!’ every time I write something about her!

  4. 2 January, 2013 / 11:06 am

    I would have taken a big shit down my own legs.Blimey.

  5. Lorraine/Squeakymom
    2 January, 2013 / 11:43 am

    I thought I’d covered every inch of Blaise Castle in my teens, when I was meant to be revising between exams, but I’ve never seen that house. I get frightened if I lose sight of La Squeak for a minute, never mind 25!

  6. auntiejanola
    2 January, 2013 / 1:19 pm

    Oh my, so glad you’ve found her and even though 25 min probably seemed like eternity it is not sooo bad. I have had situations like that with my little ones, too. Makes me feel like I should go to prison for not having eyes all around my head…

    • 5 January, 2013 / 6:25 pm

      Sitting on that rock waiting for her to catch me up did feel like about three hours!

  7. 2 January, 2013 / 2:00 pm

    Oh my goodness how frightening!

  8. mummysallygg
    4 January, 2013 / 7:17 am

    I read this the other night and then went on to dream I’d lost my daughter. It was very frightening, and that wasn’t real, so this must have been an awful experience. So glad it had a happy ending!

    • 5 January, 2013 / 6:26 pm

      Oh no, I’m really sorry I made you have a bad dream! At least you could wake up and be relieved :-)

  9. 4 January, 2013 / 7:01 pm

    You must have been beside yourself with worry! Husband has lost The Boy in a softplay centre with three nearby exits into the zoo and 500 people nearby.

    • 5 January, 2013 / 6:27 pm

      Cripes, that must have been terrifying! At least I knew there were no tigers nearby…

  10. 5 January, 2013 / 6:25 am

    i lost laurence in a ball pool once. he hid under the balls for 15 minutes. when he finally emerged (after i had frantically searched the whole play area with some drama and decided that someone had taken him), i felt a bit silly. i mean, how can you lose a child in a ball pool?

  11. 5 January, 2013 / 6:30 pm

    I wouldn’t feel too silly – I lost Belle BEHIND A CHAIR once for twenty minutes when she was about three. We were at a friend’s, playing hide and seek, and she got in underneath the loose cover on an armchair. I had absolutely everyone looking for her, we were up and down the street, everything. I was calling for her, and the whole time she could hear us and was just chortling to herself about what a good spot she had found.

  12. 5 January, 2013 / 8:59 pm

    My eldest Emma has never forgiven me for not naming her Belle. Not relevant but thought i’d mention it ;-)

  13. 14 January, 2013 / 4:38 pm

    How scary!

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