#StayWild Tip: Inspire a wild child. Let your kids or grandkids run wild with their imaginations.
It feels like I’ve always been excited by nature. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in animals and the outdoors. Even as a moody teen I enjoyed solitary time climbing trees in woods or on railway embankments to sit, quiet and stealthy, watching rabbits below, or at home watching wildlife documentaries, especially those narrated by the ubiquitous and venerable David Attenborough. When things seems confused or stressful, or I didn’t understand my place in the world, my frustrations were often relieved by a walk along a quiet canal or field margin.
My grandparents (on my father’s side) were hugely responsible for making me who I am today. I spent a lot of time with them, often staying with them at the weekends, holidays and, once, an entire extended summer in kinship care where I devoured Tolkien, built a cardboard tank and enjoyed trips to wildlife rich destinations. During these times my grandparents played an enormous part in educating me about the natural world, and shaped my personality more than anyone since.
My gran was amazing at getting me, my brothers and cousins out and about. She would gather us up early on a Saturday morning, pack us into a tiny yellow Mini (later emblazoned with a red firebird on the bonnet, courtesy of a mischievous Uncle), and off we would go with sandwiches and a flask of tea.
She was a huge fan of the seashore, flower shows and country parks, especially at Dean Castle where we would spend hours in the grounds, visiting the “zoo” and looking for wildlife.
We spent a lot of time at Troon, and took regular trips on the ferry to the Isle of Arran, where we paddled in the water and studied rockpools. Gran took this photo of me trying to befriend a guillemot.
She would bring a small compact camera and a pair of old binoculars, and gave us the responsibility of looking after them. Even on rainy days when we didn’t travel she would spend hours at the window, watching and identifying the garden birds on the feeders outside.
Both my gran and grandpa were wonderful gardeners, with gran enjoying cultivating ornamental flowers and grandpa at his happiest growing vegetables, at home and on the allotment. I strongly recall the smells of being inside a hot, humid greenhouse, the scene of young cucumbers and tomatoes, and grandpa showing me how to pick out the shoots to encourage growth.
I learned a lot about tiny garden denizens from grandpa – the midge larva developing in the water butt were a constant source of fascination – as well as the satisfaction of growing things, and its amazing how much of it all I remember, tucked away in the back of my mind from the days of following him around the vegetable plots and being given jobs to do – digging, watering and climbing trees to prune them.
Its a cliche, but I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the encouragement and inspiration that my grandparents gave. Together they taught me kindness and compassion, that everything has a place and function in the world, and that wonder can be found in the common and uncommon unlike.