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Friday, 13 July 2012

Childhood Revisited

Last weekend I took Pip to visit my parents; a special visit for my Mum’s birthday.  On Friday morning we embarked on a two hour car journey to the sleepy north east Essex village I grew up in.  Since having Pip, my parents have visited us far more than we visit them. I find it easier that way (although writing this, I realise whilst it’s easier for me, that’s not necessarily the case for them.)  Since returning,I feel slightly remiss for not taking him to visit them more, he absolutely loves their house and the part of the world they live in. As we rolled into the drive, the delight at having us visit them was obvious, they bounded out to the car like a couple of young puppies; excitement had it seemed, banished any sign of  the ‘old dog’ in either of them.

Life in my parents village is everything that London life is not.  It’s calm and quiet, a Co-op, a post office, a hardware shop and a butchers is about as exciting as it gets on the shops front, and I jest not when I say, you need to drive 10 miles to find a decent latte.  ‘Popping out for a coffee’ is an alien concept to my parents.  The only place they pop for a coffee is into the kitchen, to put the kettle on.  Little things like this remind me how different life in London is - and how much I take the infrastructure, the amenities and facilities of my everyday life for granted.

I don’t think I could become a village girl again.  But that said, every location has it’s pros and cons, and as much as our little corner of London is relatively leafy and green, it doesn’t even come close to the wonderful countryside my parents are blessed with every day.  Woolly sheep roaming in a field at the end of the garden; tall, oxygenating trees towering over gardens; neighbouring properties with chickens clucking contentedly as they roam freely during the day; next door’s cat popping in through the open back door to have a no-strings-attached cuddle.  In closed off, security conscious London, life just isn’t like that.

As I watched Pip race around my parents house and garden exploring this weekend, I enjoyed a long trip down memory lane.  We sat at the dining table eating our lunch, the same table my brothers and I ate at all our lives, and I found myself thinking about the continuity of life, about real life genetic family trees, and how special it is to have generation after generation sitting around the same old ancient table.

On Friday we took a walk to the local woods.  As children we played there a lot, picnicing on play dates with friends and playing hide and seek.  My brothers had no fear of getting lost, they would march with purpose off the beaten track to make dens from sticks deep in the wood.  I was more timid, Hansel and Gretel etched in my mind. What if I got lost and couldn’t find my way back?

Walking through the wood with Pip and my parents was magical. The recent wet weather meant it was muddy, but the sun shone on us and we didn’t see a single other soul - the wood was ours for the afternoon.  Our mud spluttered wellies strode through the well worn paths exploring. Pip was sure he’d seen the Gruffalo..."with two eyes and a big shiny nose". Then, he decided, it was time for a ‘Bear Hunt’, and so, just as the book decrees, we sloshed through mud and waded through a big swamp. ( Actually it was a large puddle, but you’ve got to use your imagination.)   Experts say that reading to your child is invaluable, and as we enjoyed our afternoon, role playing our way along the meandering paths lined with ancient trees, I realised how much storytime and reading has benefitted him, and that he’d absorbed far more than I thought, as his memory reeled off ‘I’m going on a Bear Hunt’, word for word.   Seeing the obvious benefits of all the reading we’ve done, shared by him in such a spontaneous and fun way, made me very happy.

The wood we visit is wild, there’s still some coppicing, but large areas are just left for long periods to let nature take it’s rambling course.  If you know what you are looking for, there is lots to forage for.  Visiting these places with my Dad is special, his knowledge of nature and wildlife is so comprehensive, it always makes for an interesting walk.   On this walk, we found thickets of wild raspberries growing freely.  I’ve never found wild raspberries anywhere before.  ‘More’ cried Pip; ‘More’, as he cupped his little hands for the juicy red fruits before stuffing them into his mouth all at once.  I was reminded of my walks home from school. I would stop to pick blackberries from the hedges along the way, one day I put them in the pockets of my summer dress, and stained them purple.

Can you see them? Raspberries peeking out from behind the brambles.

On the Saturday we visited a vintage vehicle fair at Long Melford Hall.  Steam engines, tractors and vintage vehicles galore adorned the muddy fields.   Pip was in his element.  Stalls and stalls of old tools, agricultural implements, random collections of things; Old Virginia tobacco tins filled with screws, jam jars filled with random buttons. Battered door knobs, old keys.  All things that once belonged to something or someone else, but were now looking for another use or a new owner.  I find it strange how something such as an old rusty key or door knob may seem uninteresting on it’s own, but when you put them all together, collectively they seem more interesting.  I enjoyed perusing the various collections of ‘junk' we saw and keeping this in mind. Later, we enjoyed sampling fayre from stalls laden with handmade artisan sausages, breads and homemade cakes. The rain stayed away, and as the sun found it’s way through the clouds, we gorged ourselves on local delicacies.  Then there was the fairground. Small but perfectly adequate for a 3 year old boy.  It was almost too much excitement for one day.  Pip slept better that night at my mum’s house than he has ever slept at our own.


I’ve always maintained that London can be a great place for a child to grow up, particularly, if as a parent you take advantage of the many facilities, educational and cultural attractions it has to offer. I’ve never subscribed to the view that you need to leave the city when you have children.  But, being at my parents this weekend, surrounded by rolling fields, the outdoorsy-ness, and the sense of open space and freedom I had myself when I was a child, I did wonder if perhaps, Pip is missing something. I have resolved to try and visit my parents at their house more often, getting out of London, enjoying the countryside and exploring new places not just for Pip, but for all of us.  It’s relaxing in a different way from the norm, and as the old adage says, ‘a change is as good as a rest’.  I feel quite excited at the thought of it.

I'm linking this post up to Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart.


Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

18 comments:

  1. What a beautiful place. Lovely pictures too :) x

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  2. Sounds fantastic, kids are happy wherever they are as long as they have love and their family. Mich x

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  3. I always maintain that going to visit parents is always lovely, as long as you space the visits out by not going too often! Their village sounds idyllic! Where is it? Enjoyed your pics.

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  4. That was such a lovely, lovely post. Gorgeous prose. Sounds lovely where your parents live. That also brought back memories for me ... late Summer walks picking blackberries. I loved the image of Pip excitedly cupping his hands - so true. Little A's granny has lots of fruit trees in her garden, and pardon the pun, she goes bananas everytime we visit. That was such a heart warming post. I just feel very content after reading this! X

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    1. Children love picking fruit from the tree and eating it. We've got some apple trees in our garden and Pip couldn't wait to pick them last year. I'm sure some of them could have done with some extra time on the branches but he was far too impatient to wait! Thanks for your lovely comment and the tweet. x

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  5. Superb post and pictures - it all sounds heavenly. I hope you get to visit more often. :)

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  6. What a wonderful post and pictures, thank you for sharing xx

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  7. That was delicious to read - we could feel your joy. Glad you're going to do it more often.

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    1. Thank you. Yes, it was a lovely time.

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  8. Everything is lovely about this!

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  9. I read this first thing this morning, and it honestly has not let my mind! Just as I got on with bits and bobs today I kept thinking what a lovely post it was, so heart warming and a true walk down memory lane. I love passing on traditions to our children, and in years to come Pip will remember these visits with such love and cherish those memories! Fabulous post!

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    1. Thanks Mrs L, what a lovely comment. x

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  10. Looks and sounds like you had a lovely time :)

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  11. Glad you had such a lovely time. What a great post - so in the moment but reflective too. It is so special when they quote what you've read to them back again or bring it out for imaginative play - for us it was The Gruffalo. I told the Little Chap to come downstairs to breakfast with me one morning, saying "I'll go ahead..." to which he quipped, quick as you like "and I'll follow after!"

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    1. I know, those moments when they quote 'literature' to you are really sweet!

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  12. Lovely post, very descriptive so I could imagine exactly what you were describing. Pip is lucky to have the best of both worlds - the buzz and excitement of London and the country visits to his grandparents' house. Polly

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    1. Yes, I think you're probably right Polly. Best of both worlds is a good way to think about it. Thank you for reading to the end! x

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