When does a boy become a man, stop jumping in puddles, stop building dens, stop climbing trees and swinging on ropes? I’m twenty-eight, married and I still like to regularly do all of these things. My friend Sam is about to join the ranks of husbands and wives when he ties the knot in three weeks, across the pond in Miami. Today we went for a hike and decided to claim the day as stag. We drove to Shirley Hills, notorious for dog walkers and doggers alike.
We packed light, with a few cans of gin and tonic and a bottle or two of ale. I found a rope swing in Shirley Hills a few weeks ago, but thought it best not to test its strength without a buddy to heave me out of the precipice below if the rope turned out to be weak. Armed with boyish enthusiasm and a can of gin, we set off in search of the rope swing. I have an awful sense of direction which meant we walked for two hours before eventually finding it. We came to a clearing which had recently been logged. Some opportunist den builder had erected a huge structure in the clearing that resembled, from a distance, the skeleton of a brachiosaurus. The temptation to climb this wooden palace was too great for Josh who was at the summit in a flash.
We trooped on through the woods, picking the most difficult routes we could find, to be more adventurous like. To our dismay, we reached a road. We doubled back and took a different route up a steep hill where we came across the wreck of an old car that must have careered off the road above the woodland at some speed in order to end up there.
We left the wreck and headed for a suitable area for gin drinking. I realised that we had probably walked in circles several times by this point, but was happy to enjoy the scenery all the same. We found a small clearing with another den. This den was very well built and somewhat permanent. The builder had decided to wrap the thing in barbed wire as if to ward off any would be den saboteurs.
Josh refused to get in the barbed wire den, even though I assured him it would make a glorious picture. We left it, empty and abandoned and went in search of somewhere less prison like for a gin.
Thirst quenched, we continued our hunt for the rope swing. We did eventually find it, although the sun had gone down and it was starting to rain. It held my weight well enough for me to gain the confidence to hang upside down for a while. There is something quite liberating about hanging from a stick tied to a 20ft rope above a drop. We decided rope swings and beer were a good combination, messed around for fifteen minutes or so and then headed back to the car.
Here’s to rope swings and wedding rings. Good luck Sam and Stephanie.