Nice Life Reminders Pip-Life

Is Mucking Around A Dying Art?

I was watching Love In A Cold Climate the other day. I watched the old BBC serialised version from the 80s, because it’s (naughtily) freely available on YouTube

It’s a delicious and delightful program. Have you ever seen it?

Episode One opens with two beautifully dressed, precocious teenage cousins being chased down by their father/uncle through the woods. He is on a horse, with barking dogs in tow, fox hunt-style… They are being chased FOR FUN. They like it. They collapse amongst the undergrowth against a tree, giggling and out of breath, when he finally catches up with them.

Terrifying-yet-thrilling. Class A larking about.

Later the cousins lower their friend Polly into a well, in the rain, mud abounding to look for jewels lost in a tragic tryst. Polly almost gets lost down the well, amidst the messing about, but it ends okay and they have hot tea soon after. I can confirm that (spoiler) the rope does NOT break.

Later still, an even larger collection of cousins huddled in the attic, talking about how privileged they all are and the benefits of wicked mothers, via candle light.

Look, basically there is a LOT of mucking about. Mucking about is key.

After that, I watched the (twinning!) Great Pottery Throw Down. (I was sick on the weekend, hence much watching.) It might not seem to be much like Love In A Cold Climate, but it is in that there is a lot of messy, edge-of-seat pot throwing with the same irreverent, risk-taking mood of the Mitford classic.

Giggling features, disasters happen, explosions, colour, it’s muddy, really, parallels abound.

That got me thinking about other mucking about – The Famous Five and The Secret Seven and Swiss Family Robinson and Danny The Champion of the World’s sausages cooking in a little caravan in the woods, pre-poaching expedition/policeman visit. Pippi Longstocking, even.

Sigh. Fuzzy feels.

I remembered with fondness the stories of soggy gumboots, the messing about in boats, the beacons from distant coves and the speedily-packed picnic baskets unpacked in leafy clearings. The gentler adventurous bits got me hooked on the mucking-about ideal.

My own childhood was packed full of dam exploring, reedy ponds, blackberry scrapes, cliff climbs, fish flopping, crab hunting, fire building, treehouse assembling, wildflower picking, echidna cuddling goodness.

The things that makes mucking about so great are things like irreverence, risk, trial and error, surprise, creativity, humour, time and vulnerability.

(I don’t mean the confessional kind of mid-life-lady self-aware vulnerability we hear about so much now in self-help-y circles, either. I mean the other kind of vulnerability, the kind where people are doing things on the fly – possibly with mud or gumboots or giant raindrops plonking on heads or a flip-flopping fish in a bucket – and they forget to consider themselves because they’re so caught up in the moment that you get to see their unbridled realness.)

As an adult, I admit, I am talking the talk with this messing about ideal, but rarely walking the walk.

Mucking about adventures are pretty few and far between and picking through the puddles in the reserve at the end of our street is about as close as it comes to messing about, at least for now.

While my creative leanings give me lots of opportunity for mini adventures, in the form of unexpected ideas or surprises, it’s really not quite the same thing…

There aren’t flip-flopping fish, for starters. Hm.

I wonder if what we might really need (you? me!), in this quite sanitised age of digital, decluttered, streamlined, self-aware, follower-facing life, if what we really need is an unbridled, naff, kind of Muck It Up Club? Something that doesn’t need to be witnessed or recorded or documented or strategised, but just experienced (flip flopping fish or not!)?!

Maybe the muck it up is part of why people love messy and exhausting events like The Colour Run or Tough Mudder?

To be clear, this kind of ‘fitness themed’ mucking about is a skewed version of the kind of mucking I’m talking about. But maybe there are parallels?

The kind of mucking about that seems good to me is done without any health or audience-facing or philanthropic endeavours in mind.

Instead, it’s done for the total heck of it and for no lofty purpose or ultimate goal – apart from doing fun stuff together with friends or family.

The benefits of this? Getting to know each other in deeper, more dorky ways. Allowing time for exploration, innovation, dumb jokes, idle chats, daydreaming, unscheduled creative fun. Possibly that actually is lofty, but in an accidental and unpredictable way… My favourite kind of loft. #nice

How about you, reader?

Have you been mucking around?

Are the kids you know mucking around?

What has happened to mucking around guys?!

x Pip


image source: Swallows and Amazons


  • Reply
    April 12, 2017 at 10:19 AM

    Yes Yes Yes! Mucking about is so good for the soul – not to mention all of the other benefits. As a mum of five mucking about is a daily part of life for us. Little adventures in the scrub – mud fights when the rains finally come – laughter, tickle fights and more. This has always been a part of our parenting style – we firmly believe kids learn way more from a life filled with exploring and mess making than from sterilised and organised (although we still do organised sport and allow some screen time). I know that this is the season we are in at the moment with so many kids in our life so I can see why mucking about would not be a huge part of your life now Pip with your kids growing up.

  • Reply
    April 12, 2017 at 7:54 AM

    Building dams in streams is one of the most excellent things in the whole world for this precise reason. It makes me feel like I’m in Swallows and Amazons.

  • Reply
    Naomi Bulger
    April 11, 2017 at 7:55 PM

    This makes me so happy Pip. My friend and I used to take off on our horses and be gone literally from dawn to dusk. Picnics and mishaps and adventures abounded. Those were wonderful days. It makes me afraid as a parent because I want to shield my kids from danger, but I hope I can relax enough to let them know the joys of mucking around.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2017 at 7:19 PM

    My little 2 are the king & queen of mucking around! All day long they are outside exploring, chasing animals, catching ( then killing ) bugs, ” working ” ( which entails taking a lot of indoor stuff outdoors, and playing with it in the sand ). Right now I can hear them in the front garden hunting something with sticks, talking in gruff voices about getting whatever they are chasing.
    I however don’t muck around too much these days but on the weekend I took my girl out in her motorbike & rode down dirt tracks while racing my boy in his bike . It felt wild & free & fun even though we weren’t going fast or far.
    I love that I’m no longer recording these moments to share on social media. I love that most of the time I don’t even record them for myself. They are just a memory to look back on & smile about.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2017 at 6:24 PM

    Love in a Cold Climate is one of my favourite books and I too have watched that adaptation on YouTube (and have the more recent version on DVD) – so great! Have you read The Golden Age and Dream Days by Kenneth Grahame? If not, I think you’d like them; loads of mucking about, and also very beautiful and evocative. Another favourite is the Lucia and Mapp books by E F Benson. So funny and a perfect example of adults mucking about too. I love the Pottery Throw Down; there’s another good one called The Great Interior Design Challenge which I enjoy. One of my own memories of mucking about as a kid is one of the many journeys we made on our trusty dragsters (“we” being sister and friends). We lived on the outer edges of suburbia, so had purple and yellow hills covered in Salvation Jane and Soursobs, and green fields dotted with cows and sheep a short ride away. I don’t know how we rode up steep hills on bikes with only three gears, I can’t even manage it with twenty-one gears now, but off we went, our goal, an abandoned church and cemetery on a windy hill. Very old graves with rusty wrought iron fences around them, twisted yew trees, and the crumbling chapel complete with a baptism pit half-filled with rain water and leaves from the hole in the roof. I remember my sister walking down the tiled steps into the pit and me crying and pleading with her not to, as I felt sure she’d disappear under the water and disappear for good. She loved to scare me silly. 🙂

  • Reply
    April 11, 2017 at 5:41 PM

    My friends and I, now in our 50’s, call this ‘pottering’ and aim to do it on a daily basis. Time spent alone or with like minded souls messing about adhock as the mood takes you. Beach combing, crafting, cooking, gardening and wandering on a walk are all the ‘grown up’ activities that engage us in the way the childhood messing about did. We are so thankful to have had unstructured time and play centered childhoods in the 70’s. Before education became all outcome objective based and progress measured obsessed.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2017 at 5:07 PM

    I think we’ve become a very curated society. If it’s not choreographed and photographed and shared then it’s not worth doing.
    Maybe I’m just old and cynical. I miss just doing stuff not needing to share it, not needing any outcome, just mucking about.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2017 at 3:22 PM

    Oh Pip! You have absolutely nailed it! I crave the mucking-aboutness of my childhood almost daily and I think it’s because it is so essential to my wellbeing. But as a mum of a 5yo girl I get to re-live all those wonderful outdoorsy explorations and adventures, though. Through her, I get to experience the world anew and re-connect with my childhood simultaneously. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reminding me of what’s important. X

  • Leave a Reply

    previous post
    previous post
      Collector Bunny Mellon was a very, very well-to-do lady,…