During the school Christmas holidays, the minxes set up their usual refrain “Nooo! We don’t want to go for a long, boring walk! We want to stay in the warmth and watch TV and gorge ourselves on chocolate till we can’t move!” I may be paraphrasing just a tiny bit, but I’m sure you’ve all experienced the same attitude at times. As luck would have it (!) our heating broke down for a week, so it soon became warmer outside than in. Perfect for winkling my trio out for some fresh air and exercise!
And as is usually the case, they left the house whingeing and moaning, and within seconds of kicking at the first of the orange leaves, or spotting something interesting, they were jumping and skipping about, congratulating themselves on their brilliant idea of coming to play in the woods. Sheesh!On this little January jaunt, we just went to our local little patch of beech trees. Midi soon tired of poking Maxi with a big stick and started flinging leaves at her. Maxi’s more nimble nowadays, and dodged her sister’s onslaught. The leaves piled up quickly (Midi was a one-girl-leaf-flinging-dervish. Think cartoon Tasmasian Devil. With sound effects. And more leaves).
Ever-resourceful Mini decided that the pile looked comfy and flung herself into it with a squeak of ‘Wahey!’ For a golden twenty minutes, sisterly-feuds forgotten, the 3 of them joined forces in building huge piles of soft leaves to jump into, run through, tunnel under, and fling to the skies. Then, dastardly natures surfacing again, they decided to build man-traps, piling the leaves along the sides of the bog-bridges to disguise the drop off the sides. In a final fling of energy, they leapt and threw each other into the piles, making the edges of the bridges safe once again for our neighbours.
We’d gone out on a promise of ‘Just 10 minutes. Till we all warm up a bit”. After 2 hours of this, it was me who had to beat the retreat with promises of mugs of hot chocolate with marshmallows and the evil treat of “scooshy cream” and sprinkles. I should have joined in the jumping around! Because alas, my own outdoor gear just isn’t as efficient and effective as the girls’ – theirs lets them just get on with being kids.
We did have to pause for another half hour on the way home, though Midi’s suddenly pretty eagle-eyed with her new glasses prescription, and she spotted a red squirrel darting about in the branches above our heads. Like a wee trapper, she suddenly and silently dropped to the ground on one knee and pointed like a statue at the sky. Mini thought it was a game and demanded to know the rules. Maxi and I blundered over noisily, shouting “Where? What? What’s going on?” Midi hissed quietly between gritted teeth and a frozen position “Squirrel. Red. Up there. Shut up!” “OoooooOOOOooo!” we stage-whispered, making enough racket to frighten away any creature within a few miles.
Eventually, we 3 idiots settled down to standing as still and quietly as Midi. Midi kept her eyes on the squirrel and just moved her finger to keep pointing at it. After a few minutes of vainly trying to follow the direction of her finger, we all finally saw it (and Midi could rest her arm). Maxi practised following and focussing on a moving target with the binoculars Santa got her for Christmas. The squirrel danced closer and closer over another 15 minutes, before finally darting away in the direction of home. Our home. Where it was cold, but at least the kettle still worked!
Later, while we sat happily licking cream and heating hands on mugs, I tried to remind the kids that it’s always, always worth the effort of getting out. I think I was trying to remind myself as much as the minxes. They agreed that they couldn’t remember a time that they’d gone out for a wander and regretted it. “So, next time I suggest we head out to the woods, are you going to argue?” I asked hopefully. “Probably”, said Midi the Realist, as her sisters nodded. As did I when I was their age..!
Written by Jay Greengrass on Saturday, 13 January 2018.
Posted in Environmental Education and Wildlife