Family: Janet Christie’s Mum’s the Word

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When park life’s an education

As the academic year blends into the start of the holidays, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference (yes I mean you Eldest Child, ‘studying’ out back on a deck chair, in dressing gown and sunnies, with my Viv Albertine book in hand – well, he is doing a music course).

Ditto when Middle Child tells me about his day, as I crash teatime pans around.

“Had SUCH a good day today,” he says. “You?”

“Yes, marvellous,” I lie in case the positive thinking police (aka Eldest Child) are lurking. “But tell me about yours.”

“Well, I was at the beach with my friends. We went for a ten-minute walk alone and counted how many different birds we could hear.”

“Aw, cool…”

“Then we lay on the ground for five minutes and counted how many noises we could hear.”

“I’d like to lie on the ground…”

“Then we built shelters out of whatever we could find – driftwood, sticks, a couple of tarps, then walked down to the beach and thought about all the habitats we’d walked through.”


“And we built a model out of natural materials – we did the Bass Rock, with rocks and shells and sticks and seaweed. And we drew stuff in the sand... waves, puffins.”

“Aw, I want to do that…”

“And built a miniature nature reserve. I built a little tyre swing using a shell on a stick and there was a tiny climbing wall. And we thought about where people would park, how would it make money. It was such a cool day, I stayed the night.”


“The other night. I had my hammock with me, and some brie.”

Oops, thought he was working late in the restaurant.

“Yeah, that was the best day’s education I’ve ever had,” he says. “My best learning environment ever. And it WAS the environment.”

“Education? Thought you were with your pals at the beach.”

“No, college, learning about the John Muir Award, why people do it, and having awareness of habitats and treating the environment so it keeps being around. John Muir started the first national park, in Yosemite. And we had a slackline…”

“A what?”

“A rope between trees you walk along…”

“Did John Muir do that too?

“No, hippy festival thing. But I think climbers in Yosemite maybe started it, so he kind of did.”

On balance, I’m sure he would approve.