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Head over Heels

What is it about small children and cartwheels?
 Just come off a lovely weekend with friends that included this year’s Folk by the Oak day festival in the grounds of Hatfield House here in Hertfordshire. Despite several days’ worth of doom laden weather forecasts in the end it was a gloriously sunny day and a very relaxing way of spending ten hours entrenched in a canvas chair eating a picnic and sipping beer while being serenaded various forms of English folk – from the wafting of The Unthanks to the bouncy folk rock of (the soon to be no more) Bellowhead. I even managed to learn a new folk concept this weekend, in the form of ‘diddling’. Somewhat intrigued and after a few childish giggles I have since discovered that to get together with some like-minded people and have a bit of a diddle is also to do some ‘tune singing’ where you warble along to what would normally be a piece of dancing music turning it into a vocal piece (albeit with lyrics of the ‘diddly diddly dum’ variety). Based on the ladies that form the band Lady Maisery this is one of those things that sounds a terrible idea and probably often is but can also be surprisingly appealing.
Anyway, cartwheels. One of the other things about Folk by the Oak is that it is very family friendly and there are always lots of young children running about and getting increasingly wild as the day drags on and they do that thing children sometimes do the combat tiredness – i.e. go hyper. In particular, the amount of impromptu gymnastics that seems to go on increases over the course of the day, with varying degrees of proficiency (depending I guess on how much gymnastics they normally did). It’s hilarious and quite impressive – I struggled with a forward roll at that age – I find there is a lot of amusement to be had in seeing children play physically with so little concern for life, limb or dignity. You get it wrong and then end up in an unseemly heap all you do is get up and do it again and again until you get it right. And then you do it again. Possibly again… Repeat until called off by parents. There is something both sweet and indomitable about it. Any kind of equivalent adult activity would result in shamefully slinking away from your failure and giving up or at least furtive looks to see if anyone was watching before you try again. But when you are a child, it seems to be just that bit easier to have a go.
I think it is such a shame that so many of us lose that freedom as we get older. It is like skipping. No one skips beyond the age of about the age of 6. Yet it is delightful to watch as it just cries energy, delight and carefreeness. I tried slipping a bit of skipping along into a run the other day and started giggling as I bounced along the road. Then I saw an incoming car and stopped quickly and went back to pounding the tarmac more conventionally. But for a few seconds it was like being a small child again (I will confess that the other thing that can do this is skinny dipping, but that’s kind of off topic) and it is a good feeling to tap back into. When I eventually reach the inevitable status of benevolent world dictatorship I think near the top of the list I will insist everyone who is physically able should do a quick 10 second skip at a convenient moment for the therapeutic benefits. If they want to add cartwheels or the odd handstand up against a wall then that is perfectly fine, but only the skipping is mandatory. It will not create world peace, but I pretty certain the smile quotient will go up just a little bit.

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