Monday, 20 May 2013

Going Out Is Really Going In

Our Bairn is a tree-hugger. The basis for this hilarious addiction is lost in the mists of time. I suspect it may have been the influence of one of her “aunties” (female friends of Wife-features and I), some of whom have a fondness for patchouli, meditation and literally embracing plantlife. At least that’s a better outcome than if the Bairn was spending more time with her actual uncle, my ex-stripper brother and his Guy Ritchie DVDs.

I mention the tree-hugging because a love of the great outdoors, or even a slightly squashed-between-housing-developments outdoors, is such a reassuring trait in a kid. The roads near our house can be pretty thick with traffic and we gave up the car so big forests, country parks and remote beaches are mostly off limits these days. Luckily we’ve a jungle of a garden and we don’t have to venture far to find playing fields, river walks and seaside links.

There are days, usually when the weather’s gloomy, when the Bairn insists she wants to stay inside all day. Even if there’s a downpour I normally insist we step outside. There are the obvious benefits of exercise and fresh air (assuming you get far enough away from the traffic-choked roads) but also the less-obvious benefits such as better eyesight (my childhood fondness for playing Pacman on the Atari may wellexplain my appalling myopia) as well as the joys of relaxation and connection. The other night it was dry, warm and sunny till 9pm and we had a great time in the local school playing fields. Afterwards it occurred to me it was an evening full of the kind of parent-kid activity that should result in happy memories for decades to come. I still have a memory of falling asleep on my dad’s shoulders as he walked me home one summer’s evening across a field in East Lothian. That was over thirty years ago and still gives me comfort.

The Bairn’s memories should mostly consist of doing awesome long jumps into sand pits, attempting to climb very large, gnarly trees and being asked to remember the number “999” in the event of mum and dad’s “wheelbarrow” race going horribly wrong.

We also stood underneath a particularly large, gnarly tree as a great spotted woodpecker (dendrocopos major) pecked at its gnarls. At one point we were showered with fragments of dead wood like some sort of carpenter’s confetti.
Not Professor Yaffle - Major Dendrocopos

A walk up the River Esk the other weekend was a wee voyage of discovery. Firstly we encountered four fluffy goslings nibbling on the riverbank in front of the mahoosive Tesco that has been inflicted on the Honest Toun. Going further upstream past the old mill weir (hydro potential?) we came across masses and masses of wild garlic. The whole place reeked but in a nice way.
Wild garlic
As our Bairn gets older her ability to play more challenging outdoor games grows. I think we’re fairly close to trying her out with some kerbie and you’ve no idea how excited that makes me. Of course, we need to find a quiet street. Either that or use our local roads at 6am on Sundays.

It’s unlikely we’ll go anywhere exotic this summer – we’re still trying to watch the pennies and we miss our friends in the Highlands – so I suspect we’ll be making good use of local green spaces. I’m looking forward to summer nights full of breathlessness and birdsong. As John Muir wrote: “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown. For going out, I found, was really going in.”        

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