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Playing clothes:Charlie

If you had the opportunity to see my wardrobe when I was a child, it would become very clear where and when being outdoors became my priority! Of 4 shelves, 2 were my "playing outside clothes", one was my "school uniform shelf" and the other was my "decent and not to be worn for playing under any circumstances shelf!"

I was lucky enough to grow up on a little farm in the bush in Zambia. My parents employed 7 or 8 staff who lived on the farm with their families and many of them became our extended family and provided me with a mixed age and gender playgroup as well as a number of caring adults who were always around but never really interfered. We played ball games, we skipped, we climbed, we made swings and we also made little homes, lit fires and collected our own food to prepare and cook. We argued, fought, made up and rebuilt our relationships as we went. Animals both domestic and wild were integral to life and the changing seasons brought predictable and unpredictable cycles to our lives. Creatures and people were born died, crops failed or flourished and lives were affected accordingly.

My teenage years at boarding school five hours away from home allowed me to become part of a new community. Parts were familiar as I had friends from my primary school that came too but most of it was new and not just to me. The school was brand new and the first students helped to plan, shape and build it. Being outdoors was central to so much of what we did and the ethos of the school required that the school built mental strength, physical strength and a sense of awe in the students that went there.

Fast forward through the challenges of teenagehood, the move to a new country, discovery of a new culture, building new relationships, starting a family and the decisions to leave behind at least three different versions of what I had thought would be my job for life and here I am at Muddy Puddle Club. It has been a long journey to get here but the formative experiences that shaped my early years have repeatedly shown me that those outdoor clothes and that outdoor life were so valuable in making me who I am today.

I remember the first session that I brought the children to meet Lizzie to talk about volunteering with her and as we sat and chatted, my son climbed as high as he could get and looked down at us. I waited for the usual friendly but ultimately damningly judgemental comment about leaving him to his own devices to explore and test his own boundaries but it never came and it was at that point that I fell in love with the idea that there were other people that belonged to this tribe. People that trusted children to know their own bodies and limits within a safe and gently guided setting. People that wanted an outdoor community built on foundations of mutual respect, acknowledgment that we make mistakes when we learn and that is good, but most of all, a community where everyone is valued for who they are and what they bring with them.

My passion is around understanding attachment and it's impact on community as well as how we develop those invisible cords that tie us to feelings and places. Those cords that mean we notice injustice and stand up for people, places and things that may lack a voice of their own. Those cords that allow us to access a safe place where we felt at peace, accepted and loved by the world around us that we can turn inwardly to when we are having a bad day. Those clothes that we wear that allow us to fully interact with the world around us...playing clothes.

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