Each week I spend lots of time with my pre-school grandchildren and I love every minute of it. I have so much fun joining in their fantasy worlds where dinosaurs roar, toy trains hurtle through tunnels, sparkly unicorns upstage colourful ponies, and teddy bear families have picnics under blanket-covered playpens.
There is not a bit of my tiny house that hasn’t been given over to play, and that includes the garage, shed and garden.
I realised this week that although I may be getting close to my second childhood, I am actually reliving the one I missed and wished I had enjoyed.
I was born just after the second world war in a northern city which had been in dire straits with poverty and unemployment even before the shipyards, mines, factories and chemical works were bombed. The after effects of the war meant more joblessness, more shortages, and rationing of even essentials like food. Toys were a luxury that very few children in my area had, unless they were home made. Thankfully I had a clever mum who knitted dolls and soft toys, and a wonderful dad who wittled away at wood to make tops and whips and covered them with shiny paper for decoration.
Add to the mix the fact that in the 1940s children tended to be tolerated in the family rather than central to it as they are now. And, as well as all that, or maybe because it, I was a very sickly child who spent a lot of time in hospital, or a horrendous children’s convalescent home where the idea of play therapy was light-years away.
The result as I remember it, was a rather unhappy childhood, thankfully worlds away from the one that my grandchildren are enjoying.
However, the advantage of my early experience is that I developed a vivid imagination and have a buried need for creative play, which is at last being given free rein.
The trigger for this line of thought is in the photo. No, not my puppy, but the mouse! I have been collecting the characters from The Gruffalo story for the grandchildren and the mouse is rather special. It was created by a local woodcarver from a bit of fallen tree in the Forest of Dean. There is a marvellous museum there called the Dean Heritage Museum celebrating the mining and forest crafts that used to go on in the area. One of the attractions is a magnificent Gruffalo trail where each of the characters is carved from wood. I just had to have the mouse for my garden. I thought it would enjoy living among my daffodils for a while. As I stood atop them I wondered if I could find a home in my garden for a 6 foot Gruffalo? The grandchildren would love it!
The Gruffalo Trail
The mouse meets the snake
the mouse meets the Gruffalo
Thea checking that he really is asleep
Having fun atop the Gruffalo
Stanley and Thea atop the Gruffalo
Grandma’s house is very small
Just 2 bedrooms off the hall
A tiny kitchen, shiny-floored
A larder where my treats are stored
A shower with a seat inside
Wardrobes where doggy and I can hide
An archway leads into the lounge
Where furniture gets moved around
To make a station for my trains
Or an airport for ‘copters and planes
Sometimes it’s a racetrack for my cars
Or a farmyard with tractors, paddocks and barns
Grandma puts blankets over the table
To make a den, a forest or a stable
In the garden there’s gravel that scrunches when I walk
And a patio where I can draw pictures with chalk
In granddad’s shed there are drawers full of tools,
Boxes of nails, tubes of glue, jars of screws
A little mouse is nesting inside the wood store
While outside live birds, bees, hedgehogs and more
Grandma says her shed is a magical place
It’s furnished and carpeted and curtained with lace
Lavender hangs drying from the painted ceiling
While pine shelves are covered in things that have meaning
Like Icons from Finland, and medals from Lourdes
Calabash from Africa made out of gourds
Matrushkas from Moscow, maracas from Spain
I can’t wait for summer to play there again
Grandma loves it when I come to play
She makes indoor picnics we eat off a tray
She has lots of photos all over her wall
The best one is my mummy when she was small.