I admit I bought a couple of things. A 50p plank of wood and a few metres of rope. And yes, I’m 30 entire years old….but guys….I’ve got a rope swing!
As I turn my head, an entire branch of holly slaps into my face. Swearing and teetering at the top of an incredibly unstable pair of ladders, balanced on 2 bricks, I grab at the nearest small branch to steady myself and fling the rope over a suitably sturdy looking branch above my head. The gale unleashes another prolonged gust of freezing wind, whipping through the spiky leaves, resulting in a few more scratches and some more ungainly wobbling on my part. I am having a GREAT TIME.
After declining some help from my husband, who is monitoring the brick/ladder situation, I manage to wrap the suspiciously thin rope a few more times around the branch and tie it off with some terrible knotwork. Feeling decidedly unprofessional, I wrap the rope end around a few more times and tuck it in, figuring if it looks neat it will make it stronger. Definitely.
Crossing my fingers, toes and eyes, I do the same with the other end, then descend unsteadily down the ladder to firm ground. The wind blows even harder and the whole tree sways, trunk bending over and back, causing my new plaything to bash hard against the bark and twist into a knot. My confidence levels aren’t the highest they’ve ever been.
My husband assures me the rope will take my weight. The b&q shelf ticket never lies. I take a deep breath and lower myself onto the seat. The rope stretches…and holds. Warily, I take a foot off the ground. Still fine. I close my eyes and raise my other foot up….and it’s fine…and then I realise, I’m on a ROPE SWING! A rope swing that I MADE! I swing a little further out, giggling to myself. It’s freezing. It’s blowing an absolute gale. I have 3 jumpers and a coat on and yet I am having the time of my life. My mind flits back a couple of decades to a time where trees and rope swings and dens were part of everyday life. Remembering the feeling of hiding high up in the branches, leaves and caterpillars and birds and cobwebs all around, scrapes and scabs and mud and tangles.
I get off the swing and climb a couple of branches into the tree. I stick my hand on a new sprig of extra spiky holly growing out of the trunk. But it’s a good pain, reminiscent of a rose tinted past, a time before mortgages and MOT’s, a time when homemade Ribena lollipops ruled and countless hours were spent playing out from morning until evening without a care in the world.
What did you love to do as a kid? I sit on my shiny new swing in the cold, and shiver and think back. To our Peak District village. To our street. To being a tomboy, although I didn’t know it at the time. To tree houses and dens, to playing in the dirt and in abandoned builders yards, to digging tunnels and finding fossils. To skateboards and mountain bikes. To collecting ladybirds in a bucket, to the longest cardboard slide in the world. Guinea pigs and long family walks. Bouncing on tree branches, running through parks.
I’m so lucky my childhood involved so much outdoors and nature. The Peak District on our doorstep and woods opposite our house. But what now?
My little rope swing hit a nerve. I have the great, beautiful Yorkshire countryside on my doorstep. I have open fields around my house. I climb right over my rickety stone wall into nature. But I don’t give it half the attention it deserves.
So I’ll take my rope swing and the memories and happiness it brings. I’ll play on it every day. I’m an adult, I’m 30 years old. I have a husband and a car and a cat and a huge mortgage. But I also have myself and the experiences that brought me here. And it’s time to go out and play.