Street play comes in many forms (and ages)

Yesterday some neighbours’ kids came round on their own to play with mine, as is becoming the norm. When I told them that my children had exceeded their screen time and therefore they’d have to find something to do without a screen on it, they choose to conga round the sitting room.
It was impossible to hear yourself think at the far end of the house. (This, of course, is why we let our children spend hours staring at screens. It sedates them nicely.) So I threw them out on the pavement with one of the foam footballs that our friendly local estate agents donated to our play street, and got on with my life.

They sensibly moved to the end of the street that has an off-road area for rented garages, making it perfect for football. For a good hour they ran around getting some proper exercise, judging by their rosy cheeks when they came back to tell me the ball had ended up in a bush and they couldn’t get it out. I promised to extract it some other time.

Today we hosted a church bring-and-share lunch, including lots of kids, and the Redster led a small gang back to the garages to reclaim the ball from the bush. They failed. Could they have the very last foam football of the five originally donated to the street…? When they came in again to rummage in the back garden, emerging with longer and longer bamboo canes, they had to fess up that the very last football was now on the roof of one of the garages. Time to put my shoes on and go and get our balls back…

One of the guests, a church elder in his sixties, offered to help, and another dad (in his early fifties) joined us at the garages. The ball on the garage roof was actually within reach of a neighbour’s garden, a lady who we know and I’m sure would have let us come into her garden to get it, but she was out. You could only see the other ball if you stood on a fly-tipped dishwasher which was lying face-down next to the bush. When I say bush, it was an area of about four square meters full of tall, impenetrable thorny bushes and nettles, with the ball resting on top smack bang in the middle. We discussed fishing rods, but really, it was irretrievable.

‘Can I have a look?’ said the church elder, and I hopped down so he could climb on the dishwasher. Then the other dad wanted a go on the dishwasher. We discussed further unlikely rescue plans, like diving from the top of the dishwasher onto the bush, then we admitted that actually it’s not often you get to stand around outdoors on top of a dishwasher on a pleasant October afternoon and we were all enjoying ourselves. (I can’t quite remember what the kids were doing at this point – possibly sneaking back indoors to play on the iPad…)

I don’t know what the moral of this story is, so you can construct your own. I hope the friendly local estate agents take it well. I note that not all the children at the lunch were enticed outdoors – for instance the Cutester was upstairs in her bedroom running a beauty parlour. When one church family were trying to round up the kids and leave, I found their six-year-old in there, wearing nothing but her knickers and a load of make-up.

I’m sorry, but when your two front teeth are missing, no amount of lipstick is going to compensate.

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