Bushcraft Dad, Lock-Down Living – Bluebells, Bugs & Bike Maintenance

As a kid growing up in the 80’s I fondly remember a TV programme called ‘Why Don’t You’ which was all about getting away from screens and engaging in practical fun. Since my last blog I have been proactively seeking hands-on activities during my working week and wanted to share some with you.

Bluebells & Whitebells on Barnes Common

We have been making the most of our daily outdoor exercise by taking a family walk, on the local common or in Richmond Park, which mercifully are within walking distance of our home.

Rather than marching on past these beautiful Bluebells I took a moment simply to linger and enjoy them in the afternoon sun, growing alongside Spanish Whitebells.

Bee Fly – [Bombylius]

During the same wander an unusual bug alighted on my wife’s jeans, which turned out to be a furry Bee-Fly! It’s fun to have lived in a country for over 4 decades and still realise there is plenty I have not yet encountered. Hence a bit of bug research showed that the impressive proboscis is fortunately for flowers and not legs!

We all enjoy cooking in our house, and yesterday I made a simple carrot soup. Nothing complex just some onion, celery, about a kilo of carrots and a vegetable stock cube. I realise it took a momentary pause in the kitchen for a smile to develop, as I breathed in the scent of frying onions. It is funny how I sense the the need for permission not to hurry. It seems to require an active choice sometimes to avoid missing pleasures as basic as an aroma.

During a recent stroll in Richmond Park we met a friendly Police Officer, who clarified that only NHS Staff and kids under the age of 12 are presently free to cycle there. Thus the opportunity arose to invite my kids into some basic bicycle maintenance! We grappled with the process of puncture repair in our back garden and had a chance to use some tools from Daddy’s ’round-the-world’ tool kit (collated specially to minimise weight on Humanitarian Air Service Flights). So, not just fixing time, but story time too as I recalled adventures my tools had experienced ;o)

Back Garden Bike Workshop

Subsequently my children rode while I scurried cross-country to keep up with them. Contact was adequately maintained by VHF Radio during the parts where my legs were slower than their pedals. Okay that was most of the time!

Bushcraft Dad, Lock-Down Living, ‘Do real things’

Given my inclination to be outdoors and enjoy wide open spaces with my family, the notion of lock-down could easily seem untenable. However, I respect the national necessity to minimise movement during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have thus been eagerly exploring the possibilities of adventure at home.

Making Lime hearth boards for Bow Drill sets.

Within a couple of days of recent social-distancing restrictions I realised my ‘media intake’ had reached an unprecedented level, and that my soul was struggling to keep up with the global strains and stresses being reported. Not that I am uninterested, neither that I lack compassion, but I recognise my capacity to absorb ‘news’ is finite. Spending that capacity wisely is crucial to my functioning well as a husband, dad and community member.

In a recent podcast about ‘The Hour We’re In’ by one of my favourite authors, John Eldredge, a single phrase rang out to me like a clarion bell;

‘We need to do real things!’

Every garden needs a jungle cot-bed ;o)

My heart immediately responded ‘YES’! Amid the busyness of lock-down life at home – the needs of my kids to learn, my wife to work remotely, my own requirement to reinvent how I freelance in the sudden absence of any paid work – I need to make space do-real-things.

Why? I find it a powerful antidote to the incessantly demanding virtual world I inhabit. When I work and play practically, using my senses of touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste, it draws me back to the real world. Some part of me relaxes when I do this. It satisfies a deep desire to go through a simple process and see something completed. It invigorates the child like sense of wonder in me, and helps me exercise gratitude.

I’ve been proactively fixing things, playing with my kids in the garden, cooking and taking notice of the natural world while out on my daily exercise. It is definitely helping my sanity levels and I’ll post some further blogs arising from my practical adventures. Meanwhile here’s to staying well in body and soul as we go forward a week at a time!

Discovery during family exercise on the Common.

Land Rover door shenanigans