One aspect of writing a blog that I find quite difficult, apart from actually writing it, is what are my boundaries, where does my story encroach onto someone else’s story and reveal stuff about them which they might not want reveal. I counterbalance this by remembering that surely my dear reader must understand that there is only a scintilla of truth in most of what I say.
I should put a disclaimer in, along the lines of “If you like what you read, it’s probably about you, if you hate it, it’s about someone you don’t like, and if you’re ambivalent, who cares anyway”.
Once I’d reconciled myself to the fact that I was never going to meet anyone I would wish to have children with, let alone them being able to countenance such a thing, I met my darling Nancy, The Dancing Queen. And she already had two children, The Girl Who Believes She Should Be Obeyed and Flash. There might be a smattering of autism and a syndrome or two lurking about, but that doesn’t define them nor does it matter. And that’s their story, and not mine.
However, we used to have a dreadful time getting Flash to leave the house due to his anxieties – we still do, but that’s more to do with him being a teenage boy – so we got a dog. I’ve written about Mungo before, and I’ll write about him again. But he was a tool, a tool to get Flash out of the house, to think about something else, to perhaps even learn to love.
Dogs need walking, children need to get outside and parents need to get some fresh air.
We used to go to a wood with a friend, she was called Emma, so naturally it was known as Emma’s wood. Then we got Mungo, and Mungo knew every inch of that wood: we would let him off the lead at the start of the walk and, an hour or so later, put him back on the lead and leave the wood. We hardly saw him in all the time in-between, for all I know, he could have sat by the stile, smoking a fag and eating a pie whilst we got our exercise. Who knows what dogs do when they are out of sight, I suspect Sprout runs a card school when I’m out. The point is, the wood became Mungo’s wood.
So, whilst we were in the general vicinity of Mungo as he took his exercise, we had to find something to do. Because ”Just walking is boring”.
So, we invented the “Whacking Stick” game, and having rewritten this section four times now, I can understand the looks I received when the children described it as a (adopt the voice of a rather breathless 8 year old) “game where our step-father walks behind us and threatens to hit us with a stick and hits it on the ground if we walk on the path, rather than climb over fallen branches”.
To deflect from this game, we invented “Ambush” the rules, as explained by a 10 year old, are quite simple: “Your step-father goes ahead whilst we are walking in a stream and when we are below him, he throws leaves and sticks at us”.
Now, in black and white, I accept these games sound dreadful, but they were fun, the kids got filthy, we got filthy and there was always hot chocolate in a flask for half way round. And don’t forget, we live in a Country where Pooh sticks is a much treasured game.
This wood also hosted Flash’s birthday one year, half a class on one side of a valley and the other half of the class on the other side. With a river running through it. And adults hiding, ready to ambush. And the sides slippery with mud. No one died, it was fun.
Then there was running through the swamp, and if you stopped, there was the threat of the monster coming to get you, unless of course your wellie fell off, you were allowed to go back for that.
Or stream jumping, which is as it sounds, jumping across a stream whilst Mungo tried to trip you up.
I’m beginning to realise why Flash didn’t want to leave the house.
But it was fun, the kids got filthy, we got filthy and there was always hot chocolate in a flask for the end of the walk. And don’t forget, we live in a Country where rolling a cheese down a hill is a much treasured game.
We only ever had one mishap, and, on reflection, we perhaps shouldn’t have allowed The Girl Who Believes She Should Be Obeyed Who Also Has No Sense Of Direction (I must come up with a shorter nickname) choose where we walked one Sunday, only to find ourselves in the middle of a Pheasant shoot. It did add some realism to the war game we were playing. I think they believed it wasn’t deliberate.
So get outside and terrorise your children in the name of fun. The Dancing Queen says I can’t write this – but you get it, don’t you, it’s a joke, there’s no truth in it all. Well, the fun bits true. I’m going to stop now.