Thursday 1 July 2010

Danger: Boy at Large!

For some reason I've been thinking a lot recently about my childhood; and, frankly, it was OK.

Occasionally I moan, because at school I was whacked A LOT for doing plain ordinary 'human' things (hand in pocket, eating a sweet, being late for dinner), but I didn't really mind (other than the inconvenience of temporary buttock-pain), because it seemed as if it was THEY who had got things wrong, and THEY would eventually understand. Otherwise, outside of school, I had perfect freedom.

I'm not much of a fisherman, but I've always liked the idea of fishing. When I was about 5 or 6, I had a small red bicycle, a bit like the one above but more bijou. It was plain, had no gears, and was a little rusty (my mother had bought it second-hand); but I loved it. On sundays I would often get up early, make some tuna flavoured flour paste (it was rumoured to drive fish crazy), and head off, with my ten-bob fishing rod attached to the crossbar, to a small pond that belonged to a Farmer Bell; a friend of my father's.

This pond was about 6 or 7 miles from our house and I would just go off by myself. No-one fussed, no-one worried, and no-one expected me back at any particular time (I didn't have a watch anyway).

Nowadays this would be unthinkable. And when I look back, I suppose it should have been unthinkable then. Not only was every part of my trip hazardous, but I suppose my mother was slightly irresponsible in simply letting me go off like that (I know she'll forgive me for saying so).

But that's how we boys were, and if our mothers had known half of what we got up to, they would have been horrified. We did very dangerous things. We climbed precarious trees, we threw ourselves off rocky crags into disused water-filled quarries, we made unstable bombs out of copper tubing and weed-killer. Health-n-safety had yet to become the Socialist's battle cry, and children were still able to have proper childhoods.

We've come a long way since my sort of upbringing, to the angst of today. Nowadays you can't even take a photo of your own child in his or her school play, without some goody-goody clapping you in irons. I know which version of childhood I prefer.

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  1. We used to go down the road to a small section of forest—seemed big to us. There was an old stone bridge and remnants of someone having lived there at one time or another. We ate indian gum, wild garlic, found locust shells on the trees. And someone would always tell the tale of a farmer who'd give it to kids with salt-shot if they edged too close to his fence (just on the outskirts of the forest).

    I agree, kids these days have no idea of the fun we all used to have. I still want to go walk the frozen creek every winter and listen to the hushed sounds of cracking ice and falling snow.

  2. Right out of my own brain, that's where those words came from. It's a relief to read them. As if one can or should be protected from Life!

  3. Melinda. I'm so sorry, I recently called you Melissa. I apologise wholehearedly!

  4. Always like your posts Cro. Child hood memories - good weren't they! We used to go off on endless bike rides and swim in the River Severn and play on the railway line -_ there only used to be about one steam engine a day. Small wonder we ever made it past the age of 13. I suppose there was danger then but nobody worried that much. It's sad that the kids today have to miss so much.

  5. I'm going back to those long, childhood summers. It must be stress giving way to age.

  6. Hear-hear! Loved this. I know it's a different world now, but kids are raised in a bubble!


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