mumsnetBack along, my family and I swapped a house for a three-acre field in Devon and a leaky caravan where we lived off-grid for two years. Sadly, we failed to get the planning permission we needed to stay. We are now back within four walls, with a proper loo and everything in a cottage in Dartmoor. So this is now a blog about living ethically amid a fabulous landscape with our home educated kids while we adjust to being 'normal' - for a while... and what we plan to do with our land next

Saturday, 13 August 2011

In the absence of anything-else-to-do

We went camping this week – at a rather nice little campsite in Kuggar, Cornwall. The Namparra site was just up our street – a big field with fairly sparse facilities with owners relaxed enough to allow real fires. It wasn’t up everyone’s street – not for those, perhaps, who like to take a regulation shower at 8.30am. But it felt like proper old-fashioned camping with the added bonus of a quirky little bar in a converted barn, which sold rather moreish local real ale.

But the most rewarding aspect of it all, was the absence of moaning or boredom. The children have now been without any electronic entertainment for several weeks and it shows. Whereas previous camping trips were fraught with post-electronic device lassitude (and this from children for which screens were limited), this one was amazingly easy.

We had stopped on the way there at McDonald’s. Yes, I know McDonald’s is the spawn of the devil, but we were very late and very hungry and very emotionally overwrought, what with having to stop off and put down poor Ollie, my sister’s aged cat, on the way – she being away on holiday at the time and he having gone downhill rapidly. So, anyway, we all had happy meals, which yielded a Smurf each as a give-away toy.

They played with those Smurfs all the way to Cornwall and for the entirety of our little break. The Smurfs came with us into the maize maze on the Lizard and helped us get hopelessly and happily lost. We went to the beach, where the Smurfs were buried, taken swimming in the sea and showered in what I very much hoped was a fresh water outlet on the beach. Then, the Smurfs helped us pack up the tent and kept the children amused all the way home.

The children have been doing this more and more, becoming completely engrossed in an imaginary world peopled by soft toys, Bionicles and even coloured pencils.

However, it’s not all Christopher Robin – for young Matty has taken to hanging his teddy bears. I’m not sure when his fixation on asphyxiation began, but I think it harks back to his birthday in June, for which he was presented with a very fine book on pirates by his uncle Ken. Sparing little on detail, the book had some graphic illustrations of the sticky end to which pirates could look forward – that is, swinging gently from a gibbet. Shortly after, I was startled one day to discover Kyo, Matty’s favourite teddy, bound to the scaffolding tower by a thick chain around his neck. The next day, Kyo was joined by Baby Annabel who had suffered a similar grisly fate (albeit one I secretly enjoyed). As many soft toys as chain length permitted were added over the following days, swinging weirdly and macabrely in the wind and buffeted by the rain, which never seems to stop. Soon, the Smurfs were dangling there too.

I am hoping this is a sign of a brilliant imagination – but am prepared to admit that it could be a symptom of some kind of serious derangement.

Links: The Role of Pretend Play in Children’s Cognitive Development

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