Wednesday, 26 December 2012

I always wanted a treehouse

One of my friends, when I was about 11, had a lovely treehouse. We used to climb the 20 feet or so up the ladder into the hatch and a different world suddenly presented itself. It was in a lovely straight apple tree with an unusually long trunk. Apple trees are usually stumpy little things, especially these days when mechanical picking seems to be selected for. But this was a majestic specimen and rarely, as I remember, produced many apples. But as a site for a treehouse, it was perfect.

But then he had a garden that was an acre. In our diminutive (though large by modern standards) garden, there were only a couple of spindly silver birches and they rapidly outgrew the space and had to be cut down.
No chance fora treehouse there. I was envious.

My friend used to sleep out occasionally in his treehouse during the summer months. It was a six by four space with a felted roof which easily accommodated an eleven year old boy in a sleeping bag. This, we considered, was very cool.
A dark Boxing day landscape and some rain on the lens.
Today, we went for our Boxing day walk somewhere I wouldn't usually go. Our traditional walk was deemed unwise on account of the route skimming the edge of the Somerset Levels where at the moment, some villages are still cut off by floodwater after several weeks of watery isolation. Best not go there, we thought.

So we headed up towards the Cotswolds to the area I grew up in around Wotton Under Edge. It rained a lot, of course it did:  It hasn't stopped raining since April. But it was nevertheless very beautiful and I revisited some boyhood memories of fossil hunting and string spear-throwers. It's all a bit overgrown there now but when we were kids, the trampling of many pairs of juvenile feet kept the undergrowth down. All manner of games were played here and what finer playground could a ten year old lad and his friends hope for?

How could you NOT imagine hunting dinosaurs here?

It was, until that unreasonable tyrant puberty changed my motivations and made me feel acutely isolated and miserable, a great place to be a kid

And though I didn't really find myself experiencing any nostalgia for the place or the time, I did occasionally view it through the eyes of my ten-year-old self. It's strange revisiting somewhere from your distant past, but as I mentioned once before, memories are best viewed as just that and to attempt to recapture their atmosphere is usually a mistake. But I did stumble over some of that and I did get the urge to make a bow and arrow. But I didn't have any string and it was raining too hard anyway.

Looking at the small settlements, Wortley, Aderley, Nind, it struck me that the old ramshackle farms and crumbly buildings which used to house farm labourers are all now pristine, renovated and very des-res. Many of the old tumbledown cottages must now be worth half a million or so, with their limestone facades and in one case, thatched roof (we never had thatched roofs round there. What are they thinking?). One place even has a pair of stone stags on plinths. I know taste varies, but that is a bit tacky, surely? No, no, I shouldn't judge and perhaps they come to life at night and are joined in the garden by satyrs and centaurs. I like to think so.

There is, it seems, money about, if you look in the right places. And I do not begrudge this development: The places would surely have fallen down and been lost had they not been bought and done up. And it means there are plenty of people with sufficient disposable income to finance the local farmers' markets and enough pushy determination to keep the local schools open and to a high standard.
I always wanted one of these!
But in one garden, I saw this, and though I do not harbour any envy for the big, remote, beautiful farmhouses, I do envy these kids their tree house. I hope they use it and don't spend all their time on the PS3.

4 comments: said...

As a kid of 12. Us kids meaning friends built a tree house in the big Elm tree in a farmers field in the summer vacations.

The boys mostly built the tree house and made the ladder up to it and a rope.

One day walking home I noticed a snorting noise and as I turned around a big huge Bull came running. I ran with all my might and I ran up to the ladder to tree house as fast as my long legs could take me. I did have long legs. Sorry to say my adventure up there for two hours was so scary. The bull kept banging and snorting against that tree. I thought I was going to be shaken righ out of that tree. After many hours of the bull not wanting to leave. Finally he did. My home was like 5 minutes and I was so thankful to put my feet on home ground. So for me to want a tree house after in my own yard even . It had given me second thoughts. Your tree house you put up is lovely.

PerlNumquist said...

Alas, it is not mine. It's one I saw in a large garden in Wortley.
Bulls are not to be messed with. I know farmers who have been badly injured by bulls. However, we tend to have the last laugh on account of how good they taste.

Friko said...

I hope one day you’ll get one! It’s never too late and growing up is much over-rated anyway. I always wanted a swing in a big tree and guess what? In my forties I got one. As a surprise birthday present. The swing was nothing but an oak plank and a thick rope, but it was wonderful. Was? I still have it!

Happy New Year, PerlNumquist in Bristol.

PerlNumquist said...

Thank you Friko. I am convinced that 2013 will indeed be a good year, if only in contrast to the awful one I had last year. But that is gone and hints of Spring help it recede into sepia-tinted memory.
My old dad always kept a rope in the car for days out in the country. Whenever we had a picnic in those long, sunny, lazy days of childhood Summer that probably were rarer than memory asserts, he would find a tree and make us a swing. I remember that amusing us for hours with strange trajectories and swirling round till the world was a blur and your head spun.
Perhaps I will make a swing somewhere this Summer.