Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Further afield: Joue-ing in rural France

-Translated from the original French

Although this particular contributor has been on a brief hiatus from posting (an absence for which I must apologise profusely), I am returning from dormancy bearing the fruits of my numerous labours and exceptional research carried out on the continent.  By which I mean: I have been living in France.  Let me tell you about it.

Let us leave aside the hows and whys of my sojourns in the land of wine and cheese, and skip straight to the relevant bits.  I have discovered that in the French countryside there exists a plethora of opportunities for playtime, many of which differ wildly from the sorts of diversions that we urbanites have now become accustomed to (see our Playpark map, for example).  And while most activities are dependent on the rural landscape for their essential functioning components, the reader would do well to bear in mind that it is, above all, a spirited imagination which brings such adventures to fruition, regardless of locale.  

My observations commenced in the sunny south, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.  I would also like to take this moment to preface my account with a brief note on the accompanying photographs: there aren’t any.  My camera is broken and I very much doubt it would have occurred to me to take photos anyway.  Please kindly make do with the primitive illustrations I have so generously furnished you with.

Part un: the south.  

So, the south.  When it is hot in the south (or anywhere, really) adults find all manner of dull ways to avoid the heat.  Sitting inside somewhere is by far the most common, often accompanied by drinking copious amounts of n’importe quoi.  As I was blessed to be in the company of several other highly spirited young people with inclinations towards the outdoors, I was happily able to avoid this pitfall.  We decided the best thing was to head for a really high place that we could fling ourselves off of, ideally into the water.  This place exists in the form of les vasques, a series of three deep, cold water holes situated on river cascades that make for a fine jumping ground.  As soon as we could render our bodies suitably numb, off we went, climbing up the waterfalls and inching towards the edge until – hop! – off we went.  PLOOSH!   

pondering the void
The more daring among us opted to try somersaults, whilst the more antagonistic (cough cough) decided to heckle a bit and loudly hum the theme from ‘Jaws.’  Afterwards we decamped to the river below and spent some quality time building dams out of river stones and sending little leaf-and-stick boats into the eddying currents.  

On other occasions in the south we found it wise to escape heat or boredom by climbing trees in the cool forest.  A side note: this is also how I learned a lot of useful vocabulary such as ‘monkey,’ ‘squirrel,’ and ‘look out!’  Although tree climbing was not a frequent occurrence, it proved an excellent way to enjoy the mountain views and catch a bit of breeze (please refer to fig. 2, below).
what a person in a tree might look like
Part deux: the north.  

What do adults in the northern countryside do when they fancy a bit of playtime of an afternoon?   The answer of course is hay bales.  Once again in the company of like-minded miscreants, I stumbled across a free source of entertainment that is as limitless as those blonde blobs of straw dotted across the landscape.  Just what does one do with a field full of hay bales?  Well, I suppose you could spend some time looking at them.  If you’re Monet you could paint them – at sunrise, during the afternoon, when the clouds get fluffier, when they dissipate, and again in the dusk, and once again the next morning when the light looks slightly more pinkish… but I digress.  Absolutely the best thing to do with round hay bales is to jump on top of them and attempt to walk or run while your friends roll it from below.  It’s trickier than it looks and you fall a lot.  

please note: doodle is not to scale
It’s even better when there are two of you up there, each one trying to stay on the longest.  Once we twigged that this was hilarious to watch and even better to do yourself, we tried every style – forwards, backwards, down a bit of a hill (difficult), slow, fast, in between – well, admittedly there are limits to this game but it was certainly never dull, especially when people went thudding to the ground and landed in an ungainly heap.

What can we glean from all this exhaustive research into the playtime habits of rural types?  Not much at the moment.  In fact, if there’s any type of analysis to be done or quantitative data to consult, I really can’t be bothered.  I’ve got wine to drink, more cakes than I’ve seen in my life, and a lot of stuff to explore.  A bientot…

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