Boy Urchin it was who set the afternoon agenda. I want to build a den, quoth he. That was on the Saturday, when the weather was fine and he was cheered by another home victory, another clean sheet, three more points at the top of the league. The weather changed, even before he tucked into Granny’s home baking. Then Favourite Uncle dropped by, and off they all went to the bonfire and fireworks in the park, in the rain, torrents of it.
A new day dawned, rain still pattering the windows, wind on the fresh side. After a quiet morning when all the chores fell on other shoulders, off they went. Guitar lessons, exams looming. Lunch on the table for the return. Jam roly-poly to follow. No great plans for the afternoon. Perhaps a wander in the woods, fresh air, ancient oaks maybe. The suggestion fell on deaf ears. I want to build a den. He hadn’t forgotten.
With the post lunch chores involving gloves, protective clothing and boots – it’s a chicken shit thing – it was best to stay protected, and off we went, together. Down the hill, where the wind doesn’t blow quite so much. Across the bridge, and into the woods. There are trees, and a burn running fast and high. Beasts are known to wander, sheep and coos, escapees.
In later hours others may gather, fires to light, perhaps a fish to roast as the beers are shared. But on Sunday afternoons the risks might come from the mud-pluggers as the 4by4s play in the mud and test their toys in the river; all rooftop exhausts and winches, and noise. But the burn was too high, and the moto cross track was strangely quiet too. Not a sound, at least not a mechanical one.
Now the den itself was brilliant, for it’s dens for softies; none of your survival skills, wood-craft stuff here. It comes in a kit, packed neatly into a haversack. And it has instructions for things like knots. Suitable ground between the trees, a couple of round turns and a few half hitches and a length of rope stretched out at the appropriate height. Camouflage tarp, pegged down as the wee man gave it plenty with the mallet. Ground sheet spread, after checking for stones and other sharp things. An enamel mug for the hot chocolate and an unmelted wagon wheel in the pocket.
Then we wandered, along the river bank, stopping to skim stones. The sun shone, brightly, lower in the sky by the time we packed up than the moon that was appearing over the hill. We looked at the waters, wide and flat calm in one place, white and turbulent, burbling over the rocks in others. Why is that? And we looked at the trees, talked about the golden needles of the larch, which meant these weren’t pine cones, but those are. Aloft the breeze rippled the tops, and as we lay with heads out the den, those pines swayed, and clouds drifted, and birds sang.
The river was the magnet, sticks and stones, and a bridge where the troll might hide. I hadn’t walked those banks since old Skye-dog had gotten too old for this mortal world. It had been a long time. And it was good to be back.
I see those good folk at Flibberty also do girlie den kits, and fairie gardens. Somehow I think the boy-den will be getting a bit more use, and I might be walking the woods again, and again. But the real question is, at what point do I let him loose, to explore alone, or with a pal? Now that’s a tough one. I’ll need to lie down under the tarp, in the trees, by the sound of the burn, and think about it bit more.