The sun is here to visit, and it has been marvellous. Not here to stay we all know this instinctively and make the very most of it. People saunter around the streets semi naked, BBQs are sold out across the country. My own mother refuses to come in doors. Stationed in her vintage deckchair outside, she coories into her pug and basks in it. Occasionally she will utter, “THIS is the life”. That apart she is lost to us.
In the absence of the sunshine, we become accustomed to being frozen. Layers and tea are my best friends. The Greek is unaffected by the weather. He saunters about semi naked all year round. Still, with the sun having his hat on, he is even chirpier than normal. He hums away to himself in the garden at 6.30am whilst hanging the washing out. He chats to Woody and Jessie (the wood pigeons) and checks the progress of his greenhouse. He shouts up to me with glee that his radishes “are out”! I stand in the doorway, with my tea, and worry aloud “is there a breeze”? My enquiry is lost in the rabble that emerges from behind me. My two kids tumbling over their wilkies. Cilla (the puppy) bringing up the rear with a sun hat on and whistling, “Zip be dee doo dah”. “It’s to be a SCORCHER the day”, she informs me. And out I go.
My favourite past time, along with reading, is to observe. Not one of life’s doers, I work behind the scenes in life. The anonymous cook who takes pleasure in watching the central characters munch. The Greek is not an observer, but very much a participant. At any house party, he is famous. I take on the title of the Greek’s Mrs’. When I arrive at social occasions, people always look behind me “WHERE is he”! Over by the Margaritas is my usual response. As their eyes, locate him he waves and pirouettes in time to the blaring Whitney Houston song.
The sunshine is ideal for the observer. First, sun glasses on. Second, plant arse in the background. Third, observe. The face armour akin to a “do not disturb” sign, it is most peaceful. My favourite subjects to observe are children. My kids have a million toys. Rocking horses, pottery wheels, a 4ft batman, iPad, switches, digital cameras, to name but a few. There are many viewpoints these days about the pros and cons of this. I do not feel it realistic to deny my children the chance to engage in the trends of their generation. I indulge this and become an expert in whatever the current obsession is. Presently I am fluent in Lego dimensions, peppa pig, and all the you tube vloggers.
I also always encourage them to play outdoors. With the current weather, I do not have to ask, they are “out back” right away and it is here that the fireworks of their imaginations put on the most wonderful show. Reality is not welcome at these events, only the incredible and unimaginable. Role-play is always a big feature. When my nephews visit, my daughter is immediately demoted in the ranks. Unsure of her new role she stomps around in the background, shouting, “that’s me away to work”, and “has anyone seen ma glasses”. In these events, they do not reach for their expensive toys but anything else they can get their hands on. Empty beer boxes become communication stations, a series of twigs a tightrope, the garden hose a boa constrictor. At a recent sleepover, my eldest nephew was a sceptic at first. “But, that’s just a garden hose!” Said he. Two hours later and he was running around naked with the rest of his teammates. Hot from the desert he had found himself in, but determined to defeat the venomous villain. My daughter shrieks with delight as she encircles the edge of the desert. Occasionally picking up long weeds and draping them over her shoulder, “scarfs done” she shouts. My son has become his sister’s biggest critic and screams, “you can’t have a scarf in the desert!” Whilst my eldest nephew pipes up, “You can when it starts to SNOW!” Polystyrene goes everywhere and I feel sorry for my neighbours. They have joined the strange trend of hoovering the grass as soon as the sun appears, and are missing this amazing weather phenomenon!
As a child I can remember playing outdoors frequently, and not just in the back garden. My son begs me to tell his visiting cousins about these “olden days”. They listen enraptured to a story where you went out to play for the summer. Out with your mother’s sight, gone independently for hours. Kirby, red rover, chap the door and run away. Spending hours practising my skipping before screaming, “I call in my sister, is she in?” My sister always ready to excel screaming back, “yes she is! Does she like coffee, does she like tea…” Free spirits until our mum shouted down “come in before the bogey man gets ye”. Not a long time ago but a time that will most definitely be lost forever. Technology has played a huge part in this. My son will soon be asking for a mobile phone. He will never know the joy of your pals from across the street chapping the door and asking “ye coming oot to play”. They will text each other, whats app one and other, no tin cans on a string.
The traditional Glasgow school games are an important part of the history of our youth. The birth child of poverty and imagination they have a casual literature all of their own. Rhymes for who was “het”, for playing ropes, for playing balls. They cost nothing and kept the weans occupied for hours. My mother and aunt are both in their 60’s now, but toss them a ball and they are young sisters again, immediately resuming a synchronised routine paused decades before: “My girls a corker she’s a New Yorker, I’d give just anything to keep her in style. She’s got a pair of legs just like two boiled eggs…,” they chant.
Now more than ever it is a harder sell to get the kids outdoors. The draw of the TV, Netflix, the PC, and IPad is a strong force. Pass times are literally at our children’s fingertips. There is a growing trend in the UK towards outdoor nurseries. The ethos being that the outdoors is the best classroom. Outdoor play helps develop problem solving, social relations, balance and coordination. It also promotes resilience and calculated risk taking. Children on a computer all day are essentially engaging in solitary play. The health implications are already evident with the continued rise in childhood obesity. Playing outdoors is a great form of physical exercise, it also exposes our children to bacteria, helping to build their immune systems.
The games and trends of our children’s world will always continue to evolve and change. However, their natural landscape will be a consistent state of play. An eternal mystery of textures and challenges. A canvas for them to create their own apps. To become key characters in their own video game platform. To change the channel they see in front of them by a shared imagining.
Happy Sunday xx