Do you remember making paper boats as a child? Or perhaps paper hats? I was thinking last week about how easy it would be for these oh-so-simple and yet so magical crafts to vanish in the modern world. I grew up knowing how to make boats and hats, how to write secret letters in home-made invisible ink , how to tie a myriad of different knots – albeit mostly with the aim of binding my brother to a tree – and how to build bivouacs and signal in morse code using my torch, illicitly, late at night.
It helped that my mother was a Girl Guide leader, and that most Friday nights saw the garden filled with girls flamboyantly lighting campfires (health and safety be damned..) and practicing outdoor skills. It was a gung-ho upbringing and I just assumed that all parents knew this stuff and could whip up a sailing boat, a double-half-hitch-crossover-hench-twist* or a series of intelligible smoke signals at the drop of a proverbial hat.
*Don’t try to look this one up; accuracy is not my strong point.
Of course, I have forgotten nearly all of it, so in an attempt to ensure I can create the same delight and awe in Harry, I gave myself a refresher crash course in elementary boat building. If your skills are similarly rusty, arm yourself with a sheet of letter paper and follow this. Pause it when you get lost and start-over. Don’t do this after a glass of wine.
I made my boats from map paper and poked twigs and wooden skewers through each to form a mast. Washi paper tape and scraps of fabric complete the sail, and I used a rubber stamp kit to print random numbers and letters on them. I christened my boats with suitably nautical names – Tradewinds, Siren Song, Night Trawler et al – and prepared to set sail.
Tiny silver bells and paper dolphins accompany the boats as they take to the high seas; these are beautiful if you’re making boats to tuck into bookshelves and on mantels, but obviously won’t survive a voyage across the bathtub.
If you find you’re having balance problems, try adding an anchor; I used a handful of beads from an old necklace which look a little like ancient maritime fishing bouys.
And finally if you want to produce an armada to be sailed across lakes, rivers or ponds, try using an old book. The pages are perfectly thin and work brilliantly for folding. I found an old book of letters in my local junk shop for 50p and now have a handful of tiny boats that we can practice bombing, sinking and blowing off course…
Staying with our nautical theme, we managed a long weekend at the seaside, having a very British kind of minibreak; each day we acquired a smattering of freckles, a dash of windburn and the kind of bracing exfoliation that only frequent, brief hail-storms can provide. Every time we turned to face each other our hair had been coiffed into evermore improbable positions by the briny crosswinds, and we practised our sprint-starts by racing each other to shelter under the pier when the heavens opened.
And yet, and yet …it was beautiful.
In three brief, heady days we had a ball; crabbing in the harbour with leftover bacon from breakfast; building mermaids and forts in the sand; watching astonishing sunsets with a glass in hand, and gradually amounting a huge collection of dubiously scented seaweed, driftwood and flotsam, which has left a lingering & evocative presence in the car ever since that no amount of ventilation can quite dispel.
We came home, unpacked the car, collapsed in a heap together on the sofa, and then remembered our sunflowers. A feverish scramble to the windowsill revealed…
..that we have life!! A magnificent 4 inches of life no less; we are very proud.
Have a wonderful weekend when it arrives, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. It’s a holiday weekend here in England, and for once the skies are blue and cloudless. I feel a barbeque coming on…