Friday, 2 October 2009


Apologies for my absence. Summer holidays, mixed with business of life, mixed with 3 noisy boys produces not a lot of time for thought. Still, here I am again ready for action. I am still on my mission to make the world a more understanding place for boys to live. Even more so, in fact.

Today on Radio 2 I heard the end of a discussion about back gardens. From what I could gather the main thrust of the discussion was about gardens that are a mess and how terrible it must be for the neighbours to have to look at it.

My mind obviously wandered to our back garden. Well, garden would be too pretty a word for it. Playzone? Warzone? High Risk Area? Those are more fitting descriptions. Our garden is full of tyres of a shapes and sizes, footballs, gardening tools, material (yes it does get wet in the rain), sticks, a trampoline, bikes, scooters, a play house and countless other things. Mess would be an understatement.

One listener phoned into the radio station and said that people (like us) who have disgraceful gardens should be forced to live in a flat. I wondered how old this man was. I wondered if, when he was a small boy, he was allowed to play out in the fields making dens and swings to cross rivers. I wondered if he had space to ride his bike and to carry out daring exploits with his friends. I wondered if he collected sticks, stones, conkers and other treasures, took them back to his den and put them in his custom made treasure chest.

In the 'olden days' of my parent's generation boys could do these things. They could learn about risk taking, they could discover whether it was safe to swing from a certain place or not. They could learn about teamwork with their friends by making shelters. They could catch frogs, snails and other bugs and have races with them. We made a decision when we moved into our house that our garden would be a place where our boys could do just those things, but with the safety of being at home.

One day I might have a beautifully manicured garden that the neighbours would delight in looking at. At the moment though, I have 3 boys who need to learn about the world around them. Whilst it may look like a garden that needs to be cleared out, the naked eye does not see the learning that goes on there. The neighbours who look on will not see one brother helping a younger one to find a frog; they will not see the excitement when they find spider eggs; they will not see how one brother comforts the other when they have hurt themselves; they will not see the fear in a face as they step out for the first time on a bridge they have made and the pride in their faces afterwards when it has worked; they will not know that a 2 year old watches his brother and learns how to ride a scooter; they will not see all the mud pies and other creations that they have cooked and dried in their home-made oven; they will not realise that these boys are playing out in the fresh air instead of inside on a computer game.

I would never ever give up my mess of a garden. It is a garden of delight, wonder, learning and creativity and is worth every raised eyebrow that it receives.

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