Spring in the step for a grand dad’s day

By John Lewis

The older I get the simpler the joys become.

These days, shiny cars and guitars and Mediterranean cruises pale into shadows compared to a 20-minute walk in the bush behind my home with two young boys wild with curiosity on a sparkling spring day.

Father's Day down the years has delivered enough bottles of Shiraz for a small cellar and more Beatles Yellow Submarine socks than can fit in a top drawer.

But this year I got a hand-drawn doodle on a card from my son and a walk in the bush with his two sons, one of whom wore a sparkly purple skirt over his jeans because he liked the sparkles.

No overblown and deafening pub meals, no beery barbecues, no blokey rounds of golf, no three-hour drives to a fancy winery.  

Just me and my pre-school grandsons and a slice of bashed, trashed and carved up leaf-strewn sandy carpet under a shimmering blue sky.


The bush at this time of year is at its most magical — the wattles are out and the egg and bacon plants are sizzling, frogs are chattering and the kingfishers and swallows are flitting through tree branches on a mission to multiply and go forth. Off the tracks, the ground is green with escaped couch grass and what's left of the native grasses is thick and spiky after a good dollop of rain.

And it's cool enough to believe the snakes are still sleeping.

Like all the best things, our bushwalk was a spontaneous act of madness.

We had just walked down the overgrown garden path to the battered metal gate for a gaze over the wire fence into the greenery beyond when the eldest — a wild-eyed sprite of five years — just couldn't hold back the anticipation of an adventure any longer.

"Let's go!" he yelled and started to fiddle with the lock — an old dog-lead chain.

Hang on, I thought, what about your mum and dad, what about Grandma, what about your aunty? We don't have any water or proper shoes, and what about snakes, feral trash dumpers, wild dogs and kangaroos and falling tree branches and sudden climate change?

Then I thought, to hell with all that, let's go.

I found myself clambering over rotting wood, through muddy billabongs and down sandhills pitted, flaked and scraped clean by flood. When the boys found an old water course strewn with leaf litter things got feral.

The depth and expanse of this rustling arena was huge and they just couldn't resist the challenge of standing on one edge and running down a slope to the other side without falling over. Neither could I.

Nobody succeeded, nobody won, everyone fell over and nobody cared.

Suddenly I was five again and running through the blue-belled quarry at the bottom of my Welsh street chasing Germans and Choctaw Indians and falling over to be stacked on by cowboy and commando mates.

We arrived home covered in dust and glory, just as the search party was about to leave.

It could have been a blokey sort of dad's day — but the youngest had found a wild daffodil, a bunch of oxalis flowers and some golden gum leaves for his mum.

My Indian-chasing mates would never have thought about their mums.

But times have changed. Boys can wear sparkly purple skirts and pick flowers for their mums if they want to.

I'll have to think about this — but I'm looking at op-shops for next year.