THE COMING OF AGE QUESTION

As I have returned to the UK for an extended period, I am spending some very belated time with my nephew and nieces, and am reminded of how the innocence of a child’s thought can provoke such wonder and amusement.

How will my brothers, like any new parent, answer the questions that unfold on a daily basis from the mouths of someone so young? And how, in those early years, do you answer questions of a sensitive nature?

Whilst I play with all three children and wait the arrival of my fourth nephew or niece, I am transported back in time to my own childhood.

How the confusion of words and the misspoken letter can have an effect that lasts well in to adult hood.

Living on the border with Wales, as a family we would holiday on the lengthy Pendine sands. The journey seemed to take an age as a child and following the map closely with our young eyes we noticed signs written in both Welsh and English. Hoping our car would get us to our destination where we could run for miles on the sandy beech. And praying more importantly, for sunshine.

But these summer holidays were not before taking in much of the local countryside in and around the Royal Forest of Dean. It was here that I learnt to identify trees, collect chestnuts and watch wildlife.

Indeed, this is where it all went wrong. Along the roads in rural forest country lay signs reading, ‘Slow Sheep.’ Sheep have the freedom of the land, the cause of countless accidents and wonderment as outsiders stare open mouthed at the sight of a flock of sheep walking towards them, on one of the many narrow roads.

Also on these roads are signs reading ‘Slow Deer’ and through September to November, it can be a dangerous period to drive after dark as the Stags stalk out their Doe. 

With this in mind, along with the aforementioned innocence allotted to young children, and looking closely at this next road sign, can I now be forgiven for entering Wales on one said holiday and asking: “Dad, what’s an ARAF?”

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