Ah, Happy Days

Character day at school can be a chore. Come as your favourite (insert author here) character. Well, usually that means parents digging through wardrobes and drawers trying to find something that’ll do, followed by persuading your children they look great when, in fact, they look ridiculous.

This year the instruction was to come as a character from a favourite bedtime book. Or, as a get out clause, they could go in their pyjamas, but that’s a challenge right there isn’t it? It’s as if the school is laying down the gauntlet. They’re saying that if we can’t be bothered to rummage through the cupboards, just send them in their pyjamas. Well that’s not happening. Not in my house. I’ll not have them call me a . . . what’s that? It’s about my daughter, you say? Oh, yeah. Right. Of course it is.

Coming back on topic, my daughter is well past the bedtime stories stage and she didn’t want to go in her pyjamas so she decided to go as Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. Well, that’s pretty straight forward, isn’t it? The film was out not long ago, so there’s some good visual reference material but . . . what is it that makes Katniss stand out? Visually, I mean – I’m not talking attitude, here.

She has some kind of complicated thing going on with her hair but, you know, I’m a bloke, I can’t be expected to get involved with that. I can barely tie my own shoelaces, how am I ever going to plait hair?

So what else? Oh yes. The bow and arrow. My wife suggested a toy one from the dress-up shop but, well, no daughter of mine is going with a toy. She’s not going in there with some flimsy thing suitable only for a hobbit. Oh no.

Awesome home-made bow!

And, for a moment, I was ten again. Remember those days before iPads and playstations when we used to entertain ourselves by making  . . . stuff? The days when it wasn’t weird for a boy to have a penknife? These days we’re too worried they’d use them for stabbing each other outside the school gates, but back then we used them for digging, for getting bits of potato out of our spud gun (remember those?) and for whittling. We’d go down to the woods and use them for sharpening sticks and making effective, ranged offensive weapons. We weren’t satisfied with just a knife, we made catapults and spears and bows and arrows. Ah, happy days.

Or was that just me?

Anyway, I had great fun the other day, choosing a good bit of wood and making an AWESOME bow, and both my children were suitably impressed – ‘You made that?’ – making me feel like a proper Dad ‘n’ everything.

We tested it out in the garden with some arrows made from bamboo garden stakes and it worked a treat. Fantastic. My daughter was pleased with it and she looked great as Katniss. There was a real sense that she was excited to dress up and go to school looking like one of her heroes.

But making that bow just reminded me how different things are these days, and it made me wonder if it’s the softening, romanticising effect of time and age or . . . well . . . do children in this country feel the same sense of freedom these days?

That’s all.

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12 thoughts on “Ah, Happy Days

  1. Ah, this had me reminiscing! Long Summer holidays of leaving home in the morning on our bikes (I was lucky enough to have a Chopper) and not returning until tea time. We went on proper adventures. We’d sometimes come back with bloodied knees or a broken toe here and there, but we had fun. We made our own fun – dens, hide & seek, Japs & Commandos (sorry to my Japanese friends! That came from reading Commando comics and watching black and white war films). We ran free. Maybe these glasses are a little rose-tinted, but damn things have changed and not for the better. The only things we were afraid of were our parents and the police. They’d both give us a clip round the head if we were cheeky or stepped out of line. I suddenly feel very old!

    • As long as we were back by tea time! So true. I’m sure you’re right about having rose-tinted glasses, but those days do seem a long way off now, eh? Building a den in the woods, damming a stream, making a tree swing . . . Funny how something as simple as making a bow and arrow brings all that flooding back.

  2. Aw! So sweet. I remember huddling up behind the coal bunker (Oh yes, coal… remember that?) and making perfume from rose petals. It was vile smelling stuff, to be honest, but I loved the whole process of making it. And I spent hours weaving from twigs in the garden and scraps of wool.. and… and… yes, Dan, things have changed. I think, unless we as parents remember to do these fab things with our kids, they’ll cease to exist. Really glad you did. But – the hair, the hair, what happened with dort’s hair (being a girl I am hugely interested!)

    • I remember thinking my Gran’s coal bunker was creepy – too many spiders hanging round there! My son went to a fab birthday party for 6yr old boys last year, which involved building a camp in the woods and learning how to build a fire. There was something very controlled about it all, though – very Health and Safety conscious.

      As for the hair . . . well, it involved some kind of complicated plait thing that took ages to put in. I’ll stick to the bow making, I think.

  3. Even us girls had our own bows and arrows. If you wound up stabbed and bleeding, that was your own stupid fault. I’m surprised your daughter’s bow and arrows weren’t confiscated for her own safety. Is she undergoing trauma counselling? Is your local Child Welfare Office about to turn up on your doorstep asking awkward questions and talking about digging up your cellar? Maybe you should have given this a little more thought and sent her as Prim Everdeen, the useless kid.

    • Ha ha! Prim Everdeen! You’re so right about all the health and safety stuff; I made sure all the arrows were blunt and tied together, knowing full well what kind of trouble could ensue. I also made her a hunting knife out of cardboard that looked so real I half expected worried teachers to take it away . . . It’s any wonder the human race has managed to survive this long, eh?

  4. I probably had the most dangerous childhood ever (by today’s standards). My sister & I grew up at an environmental studies centre deep in the countryside, and were always off climbing trees, disappearing for hours on our bikes, lighting fires, making bows and arrows, catching newts and frogs and doing all sorts of other stuff that would make a H&S officer pass out in terror. And we were forever nicking my dad’s swiss army knife to make boats out of bits of tree bark (it was one of the ones with about eleventy billion blades, too).

    One of our favourite games was to go ‘mountain climbing’ inside a huge, crumbling flint wall – it was hollow because it used to be part of a walled garden when the centre site was a family home in the 1800s, and had a space inside for fires to be lit to warm the glasshouses. It was full of rubble, broken glass, rusty wire and God knows what else. Once we got to the top we used to sit and watch people walking about many tens of feet below.

    Seeing how long we could stand to walk barefoot on the centre’s gravel drive was another favourite game… Yeah, my childhood probably explains a lot about me now… 😉

    • Sounds like you were a right little stray! I suppose there’s so much more to keep children indoors these days. When we were children there was nothing to do inside – except read, of course. Mind you, I’m not sure I’d want my two climbing a mountain of rubble and glass!

  5. Nice one, Dan! Though you are making the rest of us Dads look thoroughly lackadaisical.

    And if in future there might be a character that wields a crossbow, I think you may have one in storage somewhere? 😉

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