Farty's Fortunes

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Absent Friends

It's mental, innit? Kids might hurt themselves playing conkers, so the powers that be decide to cut down all the horse chestnut trees. You don't want them to get molested or slashed, so you ban them from going out alone; but then don't have the time to take them to the park for a game of football. No wonder kids spend so much time in their rooms, on the computer, getting chatted up by pervs.

It was all so much simpler when we were young. I still fondly remember when our own "gang" used to go to the nearby park - still a good ten minutes from home - and play on the swings, seeing if we could swing so hard that we could loop the loop. Many was the time we'd get hit on the head by the seat, but we just got up and kept playing, maybe a bit concussed but what the hey, that's life.

On the other side of the park, we could trot under the railway bridge, then climb up the banking on the other side, through a gap in the fence and onto the railway line. Digging deep in our pockets, we could usually find a few pennies - proper, big old pennies, not your modern, tiny little crap - to lay on the tracks. And when the train came along - Bam! Sometimes the coins would come shooting out sideways, although I don't recall anyone ever getting hit by one. We'd scramble to pick them up while they were still hot and see whose had been spread out the most.

Then on we'd go to the next railway bridge, the one over the canal. The trains hardly ever used that one, but we didn't care. If you went part-way across, you could climb over the side and swing yourself underneath, then climb up inside the bridge into a secret world that, barring the graffiti evidence, no-one else even knew existed. That was our own little den. We took great delight in walking across the criss-crossing network of struts from one side of the canal to the other, trying not to use our hands to steady ourselves and daring each other to look down at the assembled prams, bikes and other detritus lining the bottom.

Sometimes we'd take a rod to the canal and go fishing. It didn't seem to matter whether you used a spinner or a fly, all we ever caught were pike. Completely inedible, even the cat wouldn't touch them, but it passed the time and gave us something to do. We would walk for miles, sometimes as far as the tire dump. Once we saw the dump in flames, thick, black, stinking smoke rising far into the sky above us. Did we hide indoors from the toxic fumes? Did we hell! We tried to get as close as we could. We would have toasted marshmallows over the flames if the police hadn't stopped us.

Or we'd wander up to the new flats at Wester Hailes, and play in the gutted wreck of a van. No wheels, no windows, no seats, but even in those days there was always some spoilsport ready to chase us off. "Eek!" we'd scream in mock fear. "Here comes Homo Jim!" And we'd run off, laughing with delight, as the fat, wheezing old fool tried to catch us. We didn't even know what a homo was, it might as well have been Injun Joe for all the difference it made.

Did it do us any harm? Or did it teach us how to get along together with our peers, to work as a team, looking out for each other and having fun while we were at it? Kids today really don't know they're born. Would I be ten again today, if I could? In this world, swaddled in cotton wool?

Would you?

8 comments:

Memarie Lane said...

I have memories like that too. My kids are still too young to venture out like that right now, but the funny thing is, what I'm afraid of isn't perverts or strangers, it's the other kids in our neighborhood. They don't respect adults or any kind of authority and are pretty much allowed to do whatever they want, without reason. I don't want their thought processes (or lack thereof) rubbing off on my kids.

Mr H said...

The old "tire in the Union Canal" was a favourite, closely followed by the Tarzan rope at the foot of Johnston Terrace which, if it went wrong, resulted in a 50 foot fall into King Stables Road. Oh, and tennis footie on the brewery roof. Which was made of glass.

Jacki said...

I agree, kids today are too, too coddled. I mean, there are schools here in the US that have banned the children from paying dodge ball and tag because it might hurt a child's feelings.

1st Lady said...

Ha! I was just thinking about conker trees this morning (another blogger mentioned Autumn weather, I dont generally wake up with conkers on my mind).

As to you asking "Did it do us any harm?" - I'll get back to you about that, from my early days of reading your blog the answer is not clear.

Brom said...

Nice! Kids these days just don't have a clue!

I used to connect things up to the mains, didn't do me any harm.

john.g. said...

Farty, that was brilliant! My childhood in a post! But, Pike are beautiful to eat if you get a 2-5 pounder!

Z said...

Ten years old, with the wisdom and craft of my present years? Heh heh, bring it on, darling. The bastards wouldn't know what hit them.

You do know that remembering real money ages us horribly? I still think in half crowns.

Mr Farty said...

Marie - We had to avoid some other kids too, the stories I could tell...

Stu - Stoppit, you're making me all nostalgic. Fountainbridge brewery, right? One of my pals grew up to get a job there as a taster. Spawny. Get.

Jacki - You do realise that these coddled kids will grow up into the next generation of, well, us. Hold that thought.

1st Lady - I hardly ever got hit in the head, young sir!

Brom - You too? That's how I learned to change the fusewire in the junction box.

John - I'll have to take your word on that, although they've probably stocked the canal with proper fish by now.

Z - Half crowns, ten bob notes, threepenny bits, ah, good times!