Where the wild things are…

February 10, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wild spaces. Is it a wilderness or a patch of weeds in a vacant lot that attract songbirds. What is vital to the human psyche about wild spaces? Bonus points for inducing something cute and furry.

Charli  has softened this week after her power trip with this prompt.

My early years were spent in a kind of manicured suburbia – not quite Revolutionary Road conformity but close enough – in North Surrey. Then we upped sticks to the New Forest and our own little bit of wilderness. We have acres of heather and gorse and bog – boy did we have bog. There’s one particular piece of sodden peat where it is said, during WW2, two tanks sank without trace. Matley Bog. I’ve walked across it jumping from heather clump to cotton grass outcrop with the Archaeologist and Dad, avoiding the glutinous pools, knowing full well that, at best, I’d lose a boot, at worst a relative….

But there never was a worst not with the Old Man guiding us. He’d take us across all parts and, while we would inevitably get wet, we’d never feel at risk.

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Not that that stopped him trying. Latterly when I brought friends to stay we would head over to Mead End, the nearest bit of classic bogland to our house and take these townies onto the ‘quakes’. These are a series of linked heather and sphagnum moss lawns that sit above heaven knows how deep bogs. The crusts that have formed over decades can take the weight of ponies – always a good guide to where is safe – and therefore people. But as soon as you stand on top, the ground gives a little. And if you are unsuspecting enough one of Dad or the Archaeologist – I never did this, rest assured – would come up behind and jump up and down.

Suddenly the land ripples like an earthquake zone – a grass trampoline. No one actually shat themselves but there were a few who tested the strength of their sphincters.

Mostly, however, the Forest is a benign place to visit. There aren’t any real hills, the woods are reasonably small and easy to find your way out of and there are roads and railways that criss-cross the landscape so civilisation is not far away. You can get lost – we’ve walked in the odd circle in the fog before now – but it won’t happen often.

This week Mary and her daughter Penny are in the garden, looking for their own wilderness…

Wild thing

 ‘Mum, can we have a wild patch, like Grandpa?’

Mary nodded. ‘He loved that patch. For the butterflies.’

‘They’re pretty.’

‘Useful too. It encouraged all insects.’

‘Bees?’

‘And wasps, and ladybirds. All sorts. I loved the caterpillars.’

‘Yuk, they’re green and slimy.’

‘Wait and see.’

A while later, Mary gave Penny a plastic bag. ‘There you go. For your patch.’

‘What’s in it?’ Penny looked concerned.

‘Caterpillars.’

Penny pulled a face as Mary opened the top. A sleek black larva undulated its way out.’

‘Ooo. I didn’t know they could be cute.’

Mary smiled. Not a bad life lesson.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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35 Responses to Where the wild things are…

  1. I hope she had some vegetation for those caterpillars. Perfectly paced, this story, liked it a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sacha Black says:

    sphincter testing – I nearly choked you are hilarious.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Quaky marshes followed by a story of a cute and furry caterpillar ………… and a moral!! I didn’t see that coming! Good one Geoff 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. merrildsmith says:

    Good story, and an interesting explanation before it. I can just imagine the face of someone standing there as the ground begins to shake.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great story, even better…the intro. ☺

    Like

  6. Judy Martin says:

    Ha HA! Your dad and brother were mean jumping up and scaring people like that! I bet it was funny though! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Anabel Marsh says:

    Did no-one ever clatter your dad and brother (when they’d recovered sufficiently)? If not, I feel they had a lucky escape!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. jan says:

    The bogs sound a bit like quicksand! Sounds like you’re in the mood for spring!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Charli Mills says:

    See! There’s a usefulness for the New Forest ponies! I can only imagine bogs so vast. My experience of bogs is small-scale. What a great photo of your Dad. Wild spaces are so important as is the diversity of pollinators they attract. Penny is in for a lifetime of joy with learning to connect to it as a youngster. We’ve been in a slow melt for two weeks and then in a day, I could see ground, moss, grass, pond. Oh, I wanted to get my fingers in it all.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. roweeee says:

    Loved the bog story most of all Geoff. It appeals to my inner child. I lived on five acres in primary school and we had a dam filled with a green algae which was like slimy hair. I used to go fishing for it with a stick. Great stuff. We never went swimming in there despite the heat because my mother told us about horrors like cramp and having those very same weeds, wrap around your ankles like triffids and drag you under.. Your bog sounds a bit similar.
    By the way, my aunt the academic tells a story of her friend losing a university vehicle in quick sand in Western Australia. I believe it’s true and not another tall tale.
    I have joined the challenge today with quite a different slant…being stuck in the wilderness after fame on the big screen.
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Mick Canning says:

    Great one, Geoff. I’m reminded of the bogs on Dartmoor where I spend a certain amount of time. I once wondered what on earth a strange shape was that I came across as I picked my way through one of the bogs, and then realised that it was the very top of a cow…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Norah says:

    I’m so pleased to hear that you weren’t one to jump up and down, Geoff. If it had happened to me I don’t think I could have contained myself! 🙂 Many years ago I was crossing over a gully on a rope bridge. I wasn’t very confident (I don’t like heights!) and asked that nobody cross while I was (it wasn’t a very long bridge). A “friend”, who could see I wasn’t very comfortable, thought it was hilarious when he joined me on the bridge and started shaking it all about. I was not impressed!
    But your flash now, with caterpillars and butterflies, you know that is a story meant for me. Thank you. Our garden was replanted nearly two years ago. I didn’t have much to do with it other than insisting that is be filled with natives that either attract insects (especially butterflies) and birds or are edible. My family did a wonderful job. I’m not sure that our butterfly numbers have increased (we always had a few) but we had some wonderful ladybirds last spring. Awesome!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Pingback: Wild Spaces « Carrot Ranch Communications

  14. Annecdotist says:

    Enjoyed your true story of the wilds of the New Forest and your flash, Geoff – well done for getting in a cuddly caterpillar.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. jeanne229 says:

    Loved this. Rich post with beautiful details. Great testimony to your father too. Living in the desert, bogs are not something we have. But it reminded me of the feeling I got going up on the canal bank as a kid, before they cut down the giant cottonwood and eucalyptus trees. You felt like you were in the country by the river. And the slight titillation of danger (we all knew the stories of kids who had drowned in the canals) made it even more enticing. The flash was great too. A different kind of cute and cuddly. And this line was a real gem:
    “No one actually shat themselves but there were a few who tested the strength of their sphincters.”
    Great writing!

    Like

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