I don't work any more because I don't work any more.
The good old days.
I now follow a number of nostalgic pages on Facebook. So many people hanker after the innocent days of childhood when we would go out for the whole day armed with jam butties and sharing a bottle of pop. And what adventures they were: Sometimes I’d walk the few miles to my friends’ houses and knock up a gang. Most times, it was the others from our street. We’d walk along the street like cocks of the north giving evil glances to similar unruly mobs intent on doing similar hanging about together.
Where would we go? There was a huge park by us; great for football and cricket. There were the docks where steam trains still plied their trade shunting stuff around. Standing on a footbridge as an old steam engine caked us in smoke left a lingering smell in our jumpers for us to proudly take home.
There were little lakes for fishing and footpaths to new lands where the thugs of North Birkenhead tried to chase us. We’d try to impress the girls with acts of derring-do involving lakes and trees. Then we’d decide to fight back the incoming tide. It was a futile gesture but we’d nick our parents’ spades to build impressive sand barriers if only to extend our fighting time. One of us would fall into the onrushing stench of fetid Mersey water.
There was no sympathy. Just howls of laughter.
It was a steep slope down to the prom and there was a wonderful grassy bank by Guinea Gap baths (also a source of great fun). Sledging down the slope on a flattened cardboard box was the best ever.
So was going down the enormous slide in Central Park when it was raining. The aim was to squat on your feet and just let go. By the bottom, I was always a mess of flailing legs and a saturated arse.
In the evening, we’d sit on Todd’s wall, laughing about the day’s events.
One of us would always take off a shoe and tip the sand out. When the street lights came on we went home. There were many hairy moments but we survived. I remember being chased across the docks by some ruffians after the pump on the bike I’d borrowed. I took risks with traffic to escape them before spending the rest of the afternoon trying to work out the way home.
Around us, we knew the weirdos and the pervs. We knew who to avoid and who to talk to. We knew the other young people in the street. Let me prove it. From the top: Alan Williams John Percy Julie Percy The Hazelhursts Dianne Williams Owen Williams Julie Williams Alan Williams Paul Easton Dave Easton Paul Kay Martin Kay Joy Barraclough Elaine Darling Sandra Williams Mark Williams Steven Williams Julia Ray and Peter Decass the Walkers Pauline Thomas Ray Knowles Susan Shaw Ray Goode Andy and Dave Walsh and some others.
Then there was Beryl. Beryl was a downs syndrome child-she was actually 22 who used to play out in the street. We all gave her time. We’d throw her a ball to hit. She was delighted. Apologies if I’ve missed anyone out. We even knew the names of the dogs and cats. Can your modern day young person name their local peers so comprehensively? Will there ever be such a sense of community again?
What of our living conditions?
Central heating was a good breakfast and a thick jumper. And there was ice on the inside of the windows. But the living room was always warm. We’d have to keep the fire going in the summer as well. It was our only source of hot water. We had a few touches of luxury; the best being electric blankets. We didn’t get a phone until 1977.
In the yard was a coal bunker. Between my brothers and I, there was always be a lively discussion about whose turn it was to fill up the coal scuttle.
Dad never learnt to drive so it was the bus for us.
There would be long cold waits at the bus stop. I’d feel the ice numbing my toes. Upstairs I’d find the seat above the heater. Then it was off the bus and straight into Connor’s sweet shop before getting back and clinging to the fire.
Saturdays were good because there was Grandstand. Telly in the daytime. Oh yes! There was always live coverage of the second half of a rugby league game. At school on the Monday we’d all be doing Eddie Waring impersonations.
School was a cold place. Ancient radiators would clank away while we scrawled on the misty windows.
I can’t draw a line at the end of our days of innocence but they did end as growing up began to require some form of responsibility and self-awareness. For me, those days are wrapped in my own personal bubble; to be recalled with a nostalgic smile or recounted with old friends.
What is there now?
Days out with parents, cars, foreign holidays in child-centred resorts and being clueless about the local geography?
I would ask 11-year-olds if they had any interest or idea of local routes beyond the main shopping centres. I’d be met with shrugging shoulders. “We just sit in the car with our Nintendo.”
The few families who eschewed modernisms for a more traditional approach were at best seen as different and therefore eccentric. My Rose is seven. She is lucky enough to live in a set of flats and houses with a play area. How wonderful it is to build up friendships outside the constraints of school.
When I was six, I was just left to it. We’d be all over the place. Armed with a vague knowledge of kerb drill, we crossed main roads, climbed over walls and howled like Tarzan from the trees. My knees were a mess.
Going out is now more organised. There are soft play centres for children, open farms and llama parks.
Each one comes with its own cafe or ye olde tea shoppe ready to add to the outrageous entrance fees. While the likes of Drusillas and Blackberry Farm are top places for memorable days out, it’s not quite roaming around collecting junk to build a den, is it?
For one, parents are involved; usually to drive their little ones and look out for them whilst they’re there. Then there is the cost. It all seems compartmentalised to me.
My last flat was next door to a family of four. Neither the two children or the parents were ever seen setting foot outside their home. They only went out in the car. That’s denying them the chance of developing more fully as individuals.
On the long days of the summer holiday, I’d hear the tantrums and the screams. The children were loud too.
Is it all wrong? Are we so much in love with our childhood days that anything else is tantamount to child deprivation?
There is no comparison.
This is a changing world. Technology is king and information is its queen.
That’s it really. I love our modern lives. I have no right to criticise. I couldn’t imagine what I’d be like without my technology.
Watching the fantastic slick personal communication devices of The Thunderbirds it all seemed too far ahead to be possible in our lifetime.