I spent yesterday afternoon building a forest den. As you do.
It was the last day of my super fun-packed weekend with my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys and their parents
at Center Parcs Longleat. Den-building was the perfect family team activity, we agreed, as we gathered in the Den Clearing to receive instructions from Den Master Jake. We were, moreover, the Perfect Team, led as we were by My Boy (who has built dens before),
and assisted by two boys who love nothing more than mucking about in woods, the muddier the better, the mother of the boys who we knew would be good at Organisational Advice and, of course, me who brought enthusiasm but not much else to the task. Not forgetting
the Duracell Bunny who, as everybody knows, never runs out of energy. More of whom later.
We were one of two families participating in this activity which might have been a bit of a disappointing turnout for
Den Master Jake but, if so, he disguised it well. He introduced us to a set of Den Rules including the boundaries within we had to work and the fact that we could only forage what we could find on the ground. There was to be no wholesale cutting down of greenery.
Once our dens were built, we den builders would gather within and Den Master Jake would tip water over our dens to see how water-tight they were. At which the little lass on the other den building team started to wail such a loud and woeful protest that Den
Master Jake had to execute a strategic retreat and allow certain team members to excuse themselves from Trial By Watering Can.
We set to with a will. Our den quickly took shape. We gathered pieces of bark,
moss and leafy twigs to fill in the gaps in our construction in a bid to make our den watertight. The Duracell Bunny opined that we needed a proper roof rather than our wigwam shape. Too late, someone said. Next task was to choose a name for our den and to
draw up our own six Den Rules. We took a very democratic approach towards this, each of the six of us choosing a rule. Mine was "Kisses must not be rubbed off" - try kissing the Duracell Bunny and you will see what I mean. The DB's rule was "Don't eat puppies."
None of us knew where that came from but he was most insistent on its inclusion.
It was while we were completing this task and the next (decorating our den), that we became aware that the Duracell Bunny was
in deep conversation with Den Master Jake. The latter was looking a little shell-shocked at being quizzed by a three year old - which I understood completely, having enjoyed the privilege of sharing a bedroom in our holiday villa with the Youngest (Still Quite
Little) Welsh Boy. Every morning of my stay he was awake at 6.45 at the latest and ready to engage in discussions ranging from the importance of space travel ("You can see the earth"), the impressive fire service as operated by the inestimable Fireman Sam,
the unfairness of life in never being able to catch up on the six years that separate him from Older Brother Sam, and his need for a bigger bed at home on account of him growing up so fast. (I later asked Den Master Jake what they had talked about so earnestly.
Apparently the conversation revolved around the use of small twigs in den building...)
What a lovely holiday I had! The swimming! The ten pin bowling! The delicious lunch in The Pancake House! The painting
of pottery! Getting lost! Oh, well, perhaps not that bit - but how very welcome it was, after wandering around in the darkness trying to find the path leading to Villa 204, to see my son cycling towards me having scoured the site to find his Errant Mother.
For the rest of the holiday, my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys kept me firmly at their collective side. Just in case.
All the boys faced new challenges in the swimming pool and emerged victorious. The older
boys tackled the Rapids, the Duracell Bunny mastered the Lazy River. Me? I just had fun. That's what holidays are all about when you have reached A Great Age. Incidentally the other family on our Den Building Challenge said their Nanna had declined to get
involved in the Muddy Den Business, choosing to remain behind in their holiday villa to watch TV. I think she missed out, personally.
How grateful I am for the invitation to join the family fun. A short break
from the everyday. New experiences. Plenty of hugs. Watching the deer from our window. Plus early morning conversations with the Duracell Bunny.
What could possibly be sweeter?