This week has flown, but equally we seem to have been here forever. There is a noticeable difference in the way that people move around the farm - they are now quite at ease; regularly popping into the herb garden to make tea, or taking on one of the Trill kids at table tennis. Some of them simply lie in the grass. We are all very much at home.
It’s the final morning, and Alex needs a record 5 rounds of saucepan banging to shift them out of their beds. The breakfast cupboard is completely bare, and rogue crumbs around the toaster speak of midnight feasting. It’s cornflakes or nothing, but Akira encourages the sceptics to try them with jam, which they find rightly weird, but good enough at least to be able to eat. M is cross when he realises I don’t like cornflakes and therefore am without breakfast. He happily snitches on everyone who was up eating in the night, and as each one arrives sheepishly at the breakfast table, having been told sternly that Akira, Fabian and I are “starving because of them”, he insists on them making a heartfelt apology. “Don’t worry, K” he tells me, while scowling at them, “When it is lunch time they will give you their lunch. I make sure”.
Muji takes half of them to make healing balm; some of the others crowd around Ruth in the workshop, clamouring all at once for her attention in the rush to finish their stools; my group go with Sam to use up the clay they dug from the ditch the other day. They make mugs and ashtrays, with leaf impressions as decoration. These are surprisingly skilful, and it turns out several of them have worked with clay back home. K says it reminds him of being a child again - he used to make clay animals for his siblings.
The final meal is self-made pizza, cooked in the outside oven we made on the trip last year. The assembly line is snappy and ruled by Akira with a rod of iron. And just as the last one is pulled out of the coals, it’s time to go.
I ask them all if they have everything and they assure me they absolutely do, and they have checked many times, definitely. I do a scan of the guest house and return with an overflowing armful of socks, t-shirts, shoes and boxers which were all hiding in plain sight. We have forgotten to tell the coach company that we might need a trailer for the way back, as we are now bringing 14 kitchen stools with us, so the driver creates a jigsaw stack in the boot and then bags are crammed under the seats instead.
Last year, saying good bye was hard and so I am already apprehensive. But it seems to be going well. Each person in turn takes time to give their thanks to Romy and the Trill crew, and to express what the week has meant to them. M says he is happy to have been in a 'big family'. R says everyone was so friendly to him and he felt safe. A and M loved the carpentry; S is sorry they won’t let him take a sheep; H says he has got much fatter. It's all jovial and heartfelt, until Sam steps forward. He tells them all that his advice, having been in their shoes years ago, is to take every opportunity that opens up to them, even if it scares them. “You are all so talented, so strong, with so much to give” he says “We are very lucky that you came”. I can feel my eyes beginning to itch, and am clearly not the only one. The Trill team then speak, one after another, all with the same message: thank you for coming; thank you for your warmth and friendship; you are so welcome here; we are so happy to have been with you; we should say thank you to you. The boys look stunned. And when Ash is finally taken down by emotion, we witness one of the most striking moments of the week. Silently, the boys make a line in front of him and each one hugs him, at length, but without saying a word. There are no words to sum this up, anyway.
Finally they are all on the bus, and the Trill team line up to wave us off. The stinging emotion of the last 30 minutes quickly dissipates as Akira and I force sick bags on them all and pretend to vomit in a clear demonstration of how to use them. Last year, you see, S had insisted his pizza was “happy inside his stomach” and he “absolutely did not need bag”, yet 4 minutes into the journey, the same pizza was happy all over the backs of our heads, and none of us have quite recovered from this experience. I also play the mother card by insisting everyone use the loo before we go. No one needs it, they assure me. They are all absolutely fine. I say we will not be stopping every five minutes for someone to find a tree. They look wounded by my doubt in them, and say “No need, K, no need”. Then we have the same old battle over the seat belts (Them: “In my country we never wear!”; Akira and I: “I don’t CARE; it’s the LAW” and repeat, with each person) and by the time we pull away I can’t help wondering whether the tears on the faces of some of the Trill staff are actually tears of relief, after 20 minutes of waiting for us to actually go. I tell them all if they have forgotten anything, we are not going back. Z says it doesn’t matter, because he is going back, for sure, next year. Thinking of the fight we had to persuade him onto the bus to come here in the first place, this makes us grin.
We leave Trill, with everyone yelling their good byes through the windows. 5 minutes into the journey we stop for S to go to the loo. We continue for another 7 minutes, before both Ms think they should do the same. 6 minutes later, 4 more say they desperately need to go. Akira has his head in his hands. Luckily, our driver has saintly patience, and by the time we hit the motorway, all the boys, and Akira, and me, are asleep.
There is a lot to digest: a lot of thoughts to process and it will take a little time to bring them into order. But for now Vicki, Jocelyn and I would like to thank Akira and Fabian, for giving up a week of their time to live alongside us; for their humour and patience and unflappability in the face of the unexpected. We will not let you go, boys, because you are far too brilliant. And of course, our love, gratitude and thanks go in spades to Romy and the Trill team for a wonderful, fabulous week; for the inspiring programme of activities and opportunities, for the fantastic food and continuous provision of tea and cake, for the utterly flawless organisation and inspirational teaching and occasional use of saucepan lids...and above all else, for their warmth, humour and acceptance that pulled us to the heart of Trill Farm and welcomed us to become part of this unique and magical place. To finish with the words of M, “I lived for a while in another world, and now I feel strong”.