I like to pick my granddaughter up from school each Wednesday afternoon. I mix with the young mothers and other Nannas and Pops who are on duty to ensure that their little one is safely in their care.
I am often amused by the other children who are smaller and must wait with their parent for an older brother or sister. This week a little boy, still in nappies and with a pacifier, which was more an ornament than a necessity, was watching some other children as they ducked and dived into a bush which is in the garden just outside the kindergarten window.
There was a hollow arch in the bush and it was a great source of fun for some little boys and girls who played hide and seek among the branches and leaves. The small boy I had been watching, bent to look in the hole that had been made in the bush, he tentatively stood in the natural doorway and peeped in.
It was then that he discovered perhaps for the first time what a wonderful place it was to play hide and seek in. As I watched him I was taken back to my own childhood in country Tasmania. I was a railway child and the railway line was my playground.
We had a very large back yard of course, but there was always a sense of adventure one had when playing away from home. Along the side of the railway on one side was a hedge of hawthorn bushes. As children we discovered very early what a wonderful play area it was, we played mothers and fathers maybe even doctors and nurses amongst the thorny bushes as the trains whistled and grunted along the railway line beside us.
The hedge of hawthorn bordered a paddock where cattle and sheep grazed, they often came close and nosed into the bushes when they were disturbed by rustling and giggling, for they are inquisitive creatures and we were never frightened, the animals became part of our little bush house and we gathered long grass for them and hand fed them from the boughs of our cubby.
The branches and leaves were so thick that down on the ground we were even kept dry when it rained, we never worried how we would get home, because our home was just over there, just across the railway line.
Sometimes there were some old cattle carriages on a side rail that sat until someone claimed them and perhaps took them to Herrick or Scottsdale. They smelt somewhat, but oh what fun we had clambering around inside, hiding underneath and always getting cattle dirt in our hair and clothing.
Another place on the railway line where we always liked to play hide and seek was a culvert under the railway line – it was so exciting to hide there – ostensibly from the train driver, and be excited by the sparks which flew off the railway line as the train wheels spun, there was also the smell of oils and burning which gave us a thrill, of course there was never any water in the culvert, and no one ever knew we were there.
As children who had to make their own fun, hide and seek was played in many other places as well. I remember quite clearly playing the game around the wood mill that was at the end of our street, after knock off time, when the saws were idle and the men had left after a hard days work, there were always great hidey holes to find amongst the piles of wood.
We also played the game amongst the hay bales in the summer season when they were stacked under an iron roof with the sides open, what great fun and we never once considered that there were dangers in what we were doing.
It was a good thing that the little boy I saw peeped in first to see what awaited him inside the hidey hole in the school yard bush and his father kept a watchful eye from only a metre away.
What careless parents we must have had in my day, they believed that as long as we were home before dark everything was fine. The little boy probably went home in time to see Play School or Peppa Pig.
We got home in time for tea!