16th Oct 2012
This was the day that CaveBoy turned the big Four. There was playing to be done with the new Gotham City Jail playset and I expected some resistance to leaving the new toy to go outdoors but I was pleasantly surprised. We always go to nanny’s house in Cabra to pick up CaveCousin and my plan for this day was to have a car-free adventure, where we would just walk out the door in the middle of the housing estate and keep walking until we found a bit of auld nature. We were heading in the general direction of Tolka Valley Park, the park that straddles the Tolka River between Finglas and Cabra/Glasnevin. I liked the idea of not having to get in the car to go somewhere, of them walking the journey and being able to appreciate the transition from one environment to another and hopefully becoming a bit more aware of “Nature” as something they co-exist with on a daily basis and not just once a week on a Tuesday!
So we kitted ourselves out in our rain gear and went off up the road. There’s a wide grassy space just before you come to level crossing into Finglas and we had a bit of a play there, splashing in puddles and walking along an odd looking line of concrete in the ground that they used as a balancing beam. I was thrilled when I spotted some blackberry bushes and came over all forage-y. I brought the boys over to have a look and warned them quickly that we could pick them now but we would have to wash them before we could eat them, just in case they popped them straight in their mouths. I need not have worried. They looked at each other and then back at me and CaveBoy told me, with the maximum derision that a four-year old can muster, “we don’t WANT to eat them mammy, they’re disgusting”. Thus ended our foraging adventures.
Next we waited at the level crossing for a train to pass and then walked up and over the raised footpath across the canal and on down towards the disused warehouses on the other side of the railway line. Adventure doesn’t have to be all wood and leaves and bushes; there’s a low wall with fencing along the outside of the warehouses and so they shuffled down this for the next twenty minutes, feet not allowed to touch the ground, danger at every step. I wasn’t in too much rush to get to the park so we took it easy and let them enjoy this bit. When we came to the traffic lights, they spotted a landscaped hill at the side of the industrial estate and wanted to explore up there so off we went, summitting the peak and claiming the sign on top, advertising the Polish Mroz shop, for Finglas.
We eventually got over to the park proper and wandered along one of the paths, looking for somewhere to have a root around. We tried to get into one patch of trees but the nettles were too high and we had to retreat, hands in air to keep from getting stung. There was panic among the little men! We found another spot that was much better, just a nice big stand of trees, lovely light coming through the leaves and plenty of sticks lying around for whacking and thwacking. There was what looked like an improvised shelter in there, branches pulled over and kind of woven together. I wasn’t sure if it was a drinking den for the local lads or a sleeping spot for some poor unfortunate but I made out that it might be a wild man’s home and they got some milage out of that.
We kept going, along the high path in the park, following the wall on the Glasnevin side. We could see the river to our left and, beyond it, the lake and fountain, so we set that as our aim to reach. There’s a lovely stone bridge across the river further down and there was plenty of investigating over the edge of that before we came to the open grassy spaces on the Finglas side of the park. One big open hill had a tree on top surrounded by fencing and Cave Cousin announced that this was a rocket and another game started. It was space travel and superheroes and a bit of plain old thumping each other with me and CaveBaby playing referrees but it all worked out with no serious maiming or injury. I shooed them on then, heading for the lake, but sure we came across a big path of swampy grass and muddy puddle and they took full advantage of their rain gear there for a while. CaveCousin managed to get extraordinarily filthy, even by Tuesday standards, so it was a good job that we then found a shallow spot in the lake where they could wade in and wash the worst off. They threw stones and talked to the ducks and then we decided it was time to head back. The difference this time, of course, was that we didn’t just have a short hop back to the car but a good forty minutes walk back to nanny’s house. At this point CaveBaby was fast asleep on my back, dreaming whatever CaveBabies dream, and the boys were getting really tired too. We managed to keep spirits up enough for the walk home but they were both exhausted! For the first time, nanny saw them as they are directly after the adventure (they are normally semi-cleaned up and in dry clothes before we get back to her house) and we had to corral them in the kitchen to stop them muddying the whole house as they got stripped. They left behind a puddle of mucky water at the kitchen table, as a memory.
That night, CaveBoy fell asleep on the sofa at six o’clock, was stripped and transferred to bed at eight and slept through it all until seven o’clock the next morning. That’s what an urban wander does for you.