Tuesday, March 30, 2021

that's dentertainment

One of the things that will have been a major factor in determining the specific flavour of your COVID-19 lockdown experience, it seems to me anyway, is whether you have kids or not. Many people have (as part of a generally commendable look-on-the-bright-side attitude) written about how, hey, lockdown is tough and the general loneliness and sense of social dislocation is a mental challenge, but at least it's given them a chance to really get to grips with learning to knit, whittling that scale model of the Taj Mahal, playing the euphonium, and of course baking a bewildering variety of bread products, assuming that they'd panic-bought enough flour and yeast

As entertaining as those anecdotes are, my first thought is always: aha, there's someone who doesn't have kids. I mean I'll grant you we did have a half-hearted crack at making bread, but any serious hobbying designed to eat up several consecutive hours is a non-starter. I should add I'm not about to attempt to reach a verdict about whether a child-free or child-rich environment is better/worse/harder/easier in terms of surviving lockdown with sanity mostly intact, I'm just making the point that it would have been two very different experiences. As brilliant and generally delightful as our three kids are I will confess to finding the need to keep them constantly entertained a bit relentless at times, especially when combined with needing to keep up with schoolwork as well.

One of the things I expect a lot of people with kids have done during the period of enforced being-in-the-house is make dens, this being a thing that all kids love doing. I myself recall my parents having a set of rather bizarre brown foam-rubber furniture (probably an absolutely appalling fire hazard by modern standards) when we were kids, whose corner units, when flipped on their side, were perfect building blocks for dens. We don't have any of those, but as you'll see below the kids did manage to come up with some alternatives. Nia, as befits the oldest of the group, was generally chief engineer, with Alys providing labouring muscle and Huwie fulfilling a key quality assurance role by running into things and attempting to break them. 

So here is a pictorial summary of the 2020/2021 den-building season:

Number one is a solo effort from Nia. The legend on the front reads "Nia's umbrella den. Must have permishion." She insisted that she was going to spend the night in it, and subsequently did, commendably bloody-mindedly as it can't have been that comfortable. 

Use of umbrellas as a key element of den construction is going to become a bit of a theme, as you'll see. Luckily we have quite a few of them as Hazel has a stash of white parasol-style ones from her wedding photography supplies. 

The next one is an extension of the original concept to include a couple of extra umbrellas, some towels, a large number of clothes pegs and our pop-up Peppa Pig tent. An increase in the amount of interior room, but as you can imagine it's a bit of a complex labyrinth of umbrella-stalks once you're inside. 

The next one harks back to the original, but increases the headroom somewhat by introducing a couple of kitchen chairs into the mix. This one has a slightly yurt-y look to it, though we were unable to grout it with yak butter in the traditional manner as Asda were out of that as well.

Number four is similar to number two, but the addition of the two upright white parasols in the centre of the structure gives it a vaguely Middle-Eastern feel, or possibly just evokes thoughts of the Mound Stand at Lord's. 

Structural details of this next one are unclear except that it evidently encompassed one of the sofas. Huwie is revelling in the illicit thrill of being somewhere his sisters have probably forbidden him to be. 

A sudden shift of both location and design ethos for the next one as we relocate to the bunks in the girls' bedroom and a stark and simple design in white. There was a version of this which enclosed the top bunk (Nia's) as well via the addition of a couple of my old golf clubs and another couple of sheets, but I don't have a photo of it. I'm not sure whether Huwie is just messing about on the floor or has just been violently ejected from the enclosed lower bunk by the girls.

The next one is more of a pre-fabricated den, in that it's one of my old tents, which the kids insisted on sleeping in out in the garden. The original idea was that we'd put our family enormo-tent up and all sleep in it - what larks! - but tragically there wasn't room so Hazel and I had to take one for the team and sleep in our own bed. 

Those were all from the first half of 2020; what I like to call "denthusiasm" wore off a bit after that, or perhaps it was just my inclination to bother taking photos of them. Anyway, the next couple are from this year after we rediscovered our mojo. Here's one from February which all three of them insisted on spending the night in. You can see that it's basically three adjoining interconnected slumbering podules: Alys on the sofa, Nia in the middle on the floor and Huwie in the Peppa Pig tent. 

Finally, this one from a couple of weeks ago: no thought to sleeping comfort this time, just maximum unsupported internal span thanks to a light bedsheet-based design and use of four kitchen chairs. Once again the boy is taking his quality assurance role very seriously by seeing how many of the clothes pegs he can remove before the whole structure collapses on his head. 

So there you have it. I just get the feeling that we're starting to exhaust the possibilities now, so either we need to start getting back to normal life again or I'll need to start sawing up some furniture. 

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