When I was a kid, we rode bikes, rowed small boats, climbed trees, worked in the garden that surrounded the farmhouse, worked among the thirty acres of apples, bult dams in the creek, chopped wood, watched, and sometimes helped, as Dad built things, like the house we lived in, a twenty-foot launch, a shed, and we swam in dams, rivers and water skied on lakes.
Try and put all that in a package for a kid these days.
By the time I got to my boarding school, the one with the harsh and disciplinarian PE teacher, I was able to do the activities he demanded of us – climb the ropes hanging from the high ceiling, do twenty push ups without collapsing, and twenty chin ups without hitting my head. I still can.
I am still able to ride a bike and climb a tree and every day I swim or bodysurf and engage in exercises with my dumbbells and on my home gymnastic rings.
I don’t like gyms, all that narcissism and testosterone makes me either cynical or wanting to mock. Or both.
And what is the point of massive muscle mass? For what purpose? Do these people have to lift heavy object for those of us unable? Do they carry the sick and the infirm without the need to call for mechanical assistance? Or is it all just for show?
All I ever wanted was to be able to carry myself and pull my weight. And the weight of someone in need.
Sorry, got distracted.
Recently I visited Albany Indoor Adventures. Took the Grandkid. He was not sure at first, but in no time warned to the built-in adventures. So did I. Mainly because I saw a young boy who reminded me of me,
To see him, all of ten or eleven, leap around on the Unhinge the Ninja set-up and then jump up and move along from one peg to another on a wall, made me think there was some hope.
“We‘re trying to get them off their phones and tablets and working out in a fun setting,” said James McLean, the owner and builder of the site. “It’s the damn games on the things that are so seductive and so corrosive to their beings.”
I looked around. No sign of the Grandkid. We hunted him down in the Monkey Bunker, inside the submarine, his favourite installation.
The long timber structure has a conning tower with wheel and inside, a range of electronic bits and pieces designed to mirror the internals of an underwater craft.
“We use real items for everything, said James. “We want to make sure the kids imaginations are kept alive with real things, not lumps of plastic imitations.”
The Grandkid’s favourite game – Blazepods. On a soft surface, James laid out six light pods and switched them on one at a time and the kids had to hit them off. Best on the day – 18. The Grandkid hit 10, which seemed pretty good for his age group.
Then it was off to the mechanics room, where the kid was put through his paces in changing a car tire and unhitching a trailer from a towbar.
The centre has five activity areas, built for different age groups. The Monkey Bunker is for the young, then up it goes through The Workshop, Mini Golf, Boulder Island and for the overactive, Unhinge the Ninja.
All three of us thoroughly enjoyed the place and if wasn’t for the knee that had collapsed the day before and the shoulders that have been complaining for weeks, I would had let the kid inside me lose. That has been my lesson into old age – responding to pain. Don’t push yourself, Jon, no need to push into and through pain anymore, acknowledge that you are no longer invincible.
As for Albany Indoor Adventures, Grandkid wants to go back, Granddad wants to go back, we’ll be back.
Confession: I have known James McLean a long time. First met him when he was in the Wilderness Society. I was a West Australian foundation member. Back then I could vouch for his environmental credibility and now I can vouch for his ability to build and run an indoor adventure playground, which, for some adults, is also a workout centre.