Monday, October 15, 2012

1978: And you've been caught!

It sounds like one of those I remember the Seventies cliches, but it happens to be true. You really did go out on your bike at weekends and holiday with your mates and only reappear at mealtimes.

Mum was happy to have us out of the house, but perhaps she'd have thought twice if she knew what we'd been up to all day.

I was reminded of the risks one takes as a child when someone posted a link to this film Robbie on YouTube (end of part two). We were never shown this at at school, but perhaps we should. I don't actually recall seeing any safety films at school. It horrifies me now and it would certainly have horrified me then. It might have stopped me playing on the railway line. Or it might not.

Not that it was Intercity, just local freight trains, but it's dangerous nonetheless. And as for putting coins on the line or bits of wood - did we want to cause a train crash? Quite possibly. And what about seeing how far out onto the icy lake we could go as it cracked underfoot, or riding your bike down a hill really fast straight out onto the main road as cars sped round a bend? Not to mention playing on the bridge over the A33 and wondering whether it might be a good idea to drop stones onto the cars beneath. You can go to prison for that now. In fact, I know someone in a nearby town dropped a breeze block off a footbridge and killed someone, so that was the end of that little experiment for us all. I once tossed a bunch of bluebells over. Make love not war.

But then there were the poor cyclists who got stuff thrown at them as they cycled by, the knock down gingers to poor old women, the pretending to collect for charity then spending the money on sweets (I actually felt guilt at this one and posted the money back through the letter box, unseen), as well as the creeping through gardens after dark to see how far up the road you could get before it became impossible. And what about swimming in a disused quarry, and having to cross the motorway to get there. Oh the thrill of it all. That said, I wasn't the only one doing it and I never heard of anyone who came to any harm, amazingly enough.

This song makes me think of the evenings turning dark, and going apple scrumping or climbing into gardens or smoking or anything else I shouldn't have been doing all those years ago. It makes my blood run cold. It's not only a wonder I'm still here but that I avoided a young offenders institute.

No amount of public information films seemed to make much difference. In fact, it just made it all the more forbidden. I think it was the heavy-handed accusation of shop-lifting that brought it all home to me (see 1979: It might be a sin). After that I reigned it in, had other interests, etc. But back then, the more daring it was the more exciting it was. We've all been there haven't we? Perhaps I wasn't as bad as I thought I was - I was never in trouble with the law - but it certainly felt bad. So bad it was good.

For some of us the bad felt so good it spiralled out of control. I'm happy to say I followed a righteous path. Sort of.


  1. No concept of danger combined with a tenuous concept of right and wrong - that's what your teens are for. I can remember my friend and I necking a couple of Mogadon pills and washing them down with whiskey because we'd been told it gave you a 'nice buzz'. Benzodiazepines and spirits - that renowned combination. Within ten minute we were completely off our heads and phoning the local Presbytery to tell them Jesus was coming so they'd better get the kettle on.

    Fortunately we were too bombed to get as far as the front door or we'd probably have wandered into the traffic.

  2. Hiding in the allotments and throwing ripped out Brussels Sprouts plants at passing cars, in the style of the German Army lobbing stick grenades springs to mind, but there were many more:

    Coins on the railway line; roadwork signs repositioned to create a roadblock; firework incidents (multiple); tying door handles to metal bins lids and knocking the door; yanking on TV aerial cables to see if we could pull the antenna off the roof; etc etc.

    What a bunch of bloody hooligans we were!

  3. Yes horrible. Kids today of course...