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My First Explore

To some extent, everyone explores, exploring is such a general term that can cover pretty much anything. People explore different types of food, various sexual pursuits, caves, jungles, derelict sites, the heavens through a telescope etc. Exploring is great, it rewards risk with discovery, enlightenment and a sense of achievement.  From birth children are constantly exploring, everything is new to them. What's down here? What happens when I do this? What does this taste like? And so on and so on. It's the former that stands out for me, and one which i've enjoyed the most.

My first explore was when i was just shy of three years old and living in a small town in Somerset. It was autumn in the mid seventies. Labour were in power and as usual screwing up the country, three day weeks, piles of rubbish everywhere. Fashion was unfashionable, and the worst since the middle ages. My grandfather was a carpenter by trade, and used to build sets at Pinewood Studios among other places. He built me a little wooden bike for my second birthday and I took to it with gusto, riding all over the house and garden. It was the start of another love affair, cycling, although it would be a few more years before I graduated to two wheels and pedals. There's something about being told not to do something, that is always alluring and attractive. The Prohibition era in America showed that, as does this website. And at two years old, being told not to leave the property just seemed so limiting.

After my mum had filled me up with lunch, she put my brother outside in his cot by the front door. In small town Britain, this was common practice, before paedophiles were on every corner waiting to pounce. Although in truth, they've always been there, although they were mostly called Priests then. I saw my chance, and grabbed my trusty wooden bike, and tip-toed out of the front door, past my brother snoozing in the Autumnal sunshine, and down the garden path. I lived at the bottom of a cul-de-sac, and across the road was a hedge that divided my street from the next. In the hedge were a couple of holes that local kids used to go between the streets. I happily shunted through the bumpy path and through the hawthorn hedge. I was now in the next street, which to a toddler is another world. I trundled down the street and through a set of garages, within which would be parked such advanced cars as Ford Cortinas, Morris Marinas, Vauxhall Cavaliers and the ever glamorous Ford Capri.

Meanwhile my mother had become alert to the fact I wasn't playing with my matchbox cars in the lounge. A search of the house proved fruitless, and lead to knocking on neighbours doors in case I'd gone around there. No sign. By now, somewhat understandably, my mother was starting to panic. According to her she looked around the neighbouring street and garages, but no joy. Somehow we'd missed each other at that crucial moment near the garages. The alarm was sounded, and neighbours were despatched to try to find me along with the Police. The town wasn't very big, so there were only so many streets and places where I might be.

I was making good on my adventure, and had managed to leave the town and was heading off into the countryside. Many hours had passed now, and people were returning from work. A neighbour arrived home and heard about the news, and he set off to join the hunt. He set off and started to check the area outside of town. It being autumn, a combine harvester was working away in a wheat field. He was quickly told to stop, as there was a lost toddler somewhere in the area. The idea of a blood splattered windowscreen and child limbs everywhere would traumatise the toughest of men.

Beside the field being harvested was a small country lane which hadn't been tarmacked over. My neighbour walked down it and a while later came across a toddler on a wooden bike. I was picked up and taken back to my grateful parents. I had gone over a mile and a half, through the town, past the outskirts and down a country lane. No one had queried why a toddler would be trundling around by himself. Even more disturbingly, there was a Catholic Church at the end of the street, luckily I had gone across to the next street, and not to the end of my street. I had been gone over four hours. The following day my mum locked all the doors and windows and my home had properly become a prison.

I had found my wunderlust, and it would pop up again when I moved to Herefordshire a few years later. There again I set out to explore my surroundings, even though I was restricted to my street, and later the village boundaries as I grew older. By 10 I had been to all the villages in a 12 miles radius, and kept looking for new ones to see. As I grow older the barriers have kept falling, and what is prohibited becomes accomplish-able, and the distances have gone from a few miles to tens of thousands of miles to the other side of the planet. I don't remember my first explore, but I'm sure it would have been similar to my experiences in various metro systems and walking around the desert in Chile, Oman, Morocco etc etc. What's around this corner? Where does this lead...




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