Backchat: Lucky to be Alive!

Backchat: Lucky to be Alive!

We gave each other Chinese burns, shot each other with home-made arrows, threw fire-crackers at each other on Guy Fawkes night, and played king-o-seeny till we could run no more. And when we went home bruised, burnt or in tears, our mothers just said: “Serves you right!”

We seem, these days, to have an over-supply of rule-makers, risk-avoiders, party-poopers and wet-blankets. No, there’s nothing wrong with ‘sensible precautions’ – but some of these safety-freaks don’t know where to stop. If even HALF of what they say is true, those of us who were kids back in the 50s and 60s are extremely lucky to be alive …

I mean, as children we played in dirt, drank water from taps, swam in unfenced pools, had a bath once a week, let dogs lick our faces – and stayed healthy. We cycled four-abreast to school, never thought of wearing helmets, doubled each other down steep hills – and were hardly ever run-over.

Instead of watching other people take risks on TV, we went and took risks of our own – with friends who were waiting for us outside. We shared each other’s gob-stoppers, slurped each other’s ice-creams, sucked from each other’s fizz-bottles, swapped spit and germs – and none of us actually died. 

We built huts in the long grass, made shanghais out of old rubber tubes, played marbles on busy roadsides, and burnt holes in paper with a magnifying glass. We skinned our knees, fell out of trees, broke bones and got cuts – and, because it was usually our fault, we learned not to do it again.

And if we didn’t come home till dark, nobody seemed to mind that much.

We gave each other Chinese burns, shot each other with home-made arrows, threw fire-crackers at each other on Guy Fawkes night, and played king-o-seeny till we could run no more. And when we went home bruised, burnt or in tears, our mothers just said: “Serves you right!”

And if we got growled at by the neighbours, told-off by the cops, strapped or caned or kept-in-after-school – our fathers just said: “Good job!”

We imagined stuff. We tried things. We took risks. We made mistakes. And when our schemes came unstuck (as they frequently did) we were expected to sort it out (as best we could). 

We had a childhood, a good one, and it seemed to last forever. Let’s hope today’s kids will be able to say the same …

JOHN (GRAPEVINE’S FOUNDER) ACKNOWLEDGES THE COUNTLESS OTHER WRITERS WHO HAVE TAKEN SIMILAR NOSTALGIA TRIPS AND TRIGGERED LONG-FORGOTTEN MEMORIES IN THE REST OF US.