When I was very little, I decided to run away. I remember feeling very cranky with my Mum. The specifics of why have long since been forgotten, although I’m fairly certain it had something to do with being made to change out of my beautiful, sparkly party dress and back into dull play clothes. I do recall very clearly, packing a bag. It contained; one pair of knickers, a pair of click-clacks, a packet of whiz fizz, my toy bunny, a towel, a packet of matches and of course, my beautiful, sparkly party dress.
I asked my sister if she would like to come with me but she was quite content to stay inside playing with her Holly Hobby doll. She was never one for grand adventure.
As I stepped out the door, with, I might add, a fairly determined swagger, I scanned our back garden looking for the perfect place to escape. It had to be somewhere I was certain never to be found. And bang! There it was. My mother had not long before hung a week’s worth of washing, including all the bed linen on our Hills Hoist. The sheets were a whisper away from touching the ground, creating a perfect series of tunnels in which to set up my hideout. It took me about an hour to arrange my new home, during which time I had to reassure my toy bunny that we would be “just fine” and also to change back into my beautiful sparkly party dress. It took only a further 30 minutes for Mum to discover me as she came to collect the now perfectly dried washing off the line. No matter. It was beginning to get dark, my party dress was starting to itch, my tummy was rumbling and I’d forgotten food (Whiz fizz, despite its deliciousness is not a food).
In the 5 years I’ve been writing about the importance of connecting kids to nature and outdoors, I’ve asked everyone I come across (upwards of 500 people) to name a time in their life when they were filled with an unbridled sense of wonder or joy. Around 98% have responded with stories and memories of being outside in some form. Generally they were by themselves or felt they were by themselves. Mum may well have been keeping watch from a distance, (as I suspect mine was when I made my escape to the Hills Hoist), but importantly the respondents didn’t have a sense of this. They all recounted feeling as if they were exploring and discovering at their leisure, in a deliciously secret kind of way. Some took a trusted friend or sibling. Most stated that they felt they were discovering something for the first time and the intense pleasure it gave them. They felt empowered, thrilled and immensely content.
Many Australian adults also recounted stories of the role the iconic Hills Hoist played in their childhoods and now plays in their own children’s lives. From swinging on it (and getting into terrible trouble with Mum); helping her hang out the washing as punishment for the swinging, counting the pegs as you went; running through the drying clothes; using it to make a tent, whooping around it making wild Cowboy and Indian noises, or, like me, naively believing it was the perfect permanent bolt hole.
Did you have a favourite place to explore, play or hide when you were a child? What is your favourite outdoor memory? Do you have a Hills Hoist?
Are you still tempted to swing on it every now and then like I am?
Until next time.