I was reading Lee Evan's book the other night in the bath (as you do) and began to laugh out loud. He was talking about the estate he lived on and the things they got up to. This particular chapter centered around bonfire night.
It reminded me of many of the capers we got up to as well. Not in a bad way, just making use of all kinds of things kids find on an estate.
Where I lived was a cul-de-sac with the closed in end at the top of the hill so, in effect, you could whizz down the hill knowing you only had to worry when you got to the end of the road. Another road crossed it here but, again, just a cul-de-sac road in it's own right and just for housing and one private school's traffic. If you overshot the end of our road, there was a conveniently situated cemetery you could land in if you could navigate the ferocious iron railings with the big spikes on the top (to keep who out or in??).
Many a time have I seen a friend (normal the male ones) whizzing down the road in an uncontrollable shopping trolley, hoping that they missed the hole in the road or the bit of gravel dropped by a truck.
We had roller skates (yes that’s what the picture is I kid you not). Not the posh ones the kids have nowadays. None of this inline nonsense for us. We had ones where you put your trainer into a bent piece of metal around the toe and a couple of leather straps around your ankle. Sound crap? Yes, but they were what we had so we loved them. Then we upgrade to posher ones (shown on the right here). These had a leather bit at the toe you put your trainer into. Then, no matter how hard you tried, you still would never be able to lace them up tight enough for them to actually STAY ON! They could also be passed down the generations as with the help of a nifty little gizmo, you could adjust the length so even granddad could have a go if he wanted. The amount of times they
flew off your toe sending you face down into the tarmac whilst twisting your
ankle were common. What did we do when
that happened? We got up, strapped them
back on, relocated our ankles and went down the hill again!
We found various pieces of old wood which we crafted into...well, ramps! Have ramp can jump! Didn’t matter what you jumped with – skates, skateboard, Chopper bike (oh, how I wanted one of those but the parents bought me a
sodding girls one lovely Raleigh
pink one as befits a young lady), home-made go-cart or anything else with
wheels you could stand/sit on. Yes, the
shopping trolley is included in that.
We had fun!
We had a bin shed at the base of our flats. It was about12-15 feet up and we would run and jump from the concrete roof onto (a) a slope towards the sheds, often sending you tumbling backwards into the brick wall or (b) a slope away from the sheds on the other side usually meaning you had to run at break-neck speed when you landed to avoid going head-over-heels and looking a prat. This also normally involved some kind of flailing arms too. As I reached about 10 years old, I never used the stairs to our flats (we were on the top floor, about 60 feet up – masionettes actually – we were posh council I’ll have you know) but climbed up the railings from the shed roof and did an up-and-over at the top to reach the landing. Stairs were for old people....
We had a rec that we went to with swings, slide, monkey bars, roundabout and rocking horse. This was serious, long lasting, metal stuff. Here’s how we used the apparatus given to us:
Swing – swing as high as you can then jump off onto a grass bank with a slope back to concrete, preferably over the heads of some of your mates. Get it wrong and you were also gifted with a jaw crunching jolt as you went off, biting your tongue nearly in half (not sure why so many of us did that). You could also twist the thing around it’s metal chains so you had a small gap to get into it and then let it go, leaning as far out backwards as you could, trying to avoid hitting your head on the metal supports.
Slide – normally for running up and trying to slide down any way possible except on your bum.
Monkey Bars – two sorts here. One was 3 bars side by side (like parallel bars but..err...not parallel) stepping down in height from the ground. Great for hanging upside down from and practising the gymnastics you were taught at school. The council kindly provided concrete under all of these things for us. None of this bouncy stuff kids have nowadays. I remember doing some kind of front spin on the tallest bar and losing my grip on the shiny metal and landing right on my coccyx. The pain was excruciating but after a few minutes sitting there hoping I’d not wet myself due to the impact, I got up and carried on. Friends were only any good for laughing unless they could see blood or bone. Even then, the former normally just got more laughs.
The other kind of monkey bars were the ones with the metal bars spaced evenly across the frame. My understanding is you are supposed to hang from them and go along and back. We clearly found that too easy and stood on the top of them walking along, making up games such as ‘you can only step on every other one’ or ‘you can only step on every third one’...you get the gist.
Roundabout – used to spin you as fast as possible (normally by some of the much bigger boys and girls) to make you feel sick and fall over when you got off as you were so dizzy.
Iron Rocking Horse – fantastic piece of workmanship (see picture). There is still one in park near us which I constantly warn my children to keep away from for fear of being (a) knocked out or (b) losing their teeth when someone is on it. You know the sort. Solid metal. The one that you could get so high it almost came off it’s rocker and if it caught you, it sent you into next week with the impact. The head had a habit of being beautifully positioned so that the mouth of the horse was at face height to you when you got it going. I’ve seen teeth go missing. Yes, we laughed.
Then, every November, Bonfire Night was on the rec and all the locals put wood on and lots of things they probably shouldn’t and it was lit by some random person. No barriers. No standing back from the fireworks. Jumping Jacks thrown into the crowds for a laugh and throwing bangers at people. Yes, you did hear about people getting hurt or burned but it never stopped anyone.
I won’t even go into no seatbelts and no child seats....
We didn’t have endless Internet and TV finished in the evening and didn’t start again until the next day. There were no mobile phones and digital cameras, no computers at home and no games consoles. We were out, in all weather
So, how did we survive? Heaven knows but we did.