"It is truly the mark of a happy and healthy person in the throes of youthful development that he/she is able to fall into a pile of dung or a pond of water lilies and emerge beaming with the delight of innocent bliss. How marvellous it is to see such a dare-devil-do and carefree approach to life and its daily experiences from a heart so young and an imagination so vivid that adult convention and conformity has not yet harnessed within the reins of safe restriction.
It is ironic but the developing young are not shaped in a frightening mould. It is adult socialisation and conformity that lead man and woman to fear those things in later years that they once faced in fearless fashion when they remained unadulterated and free from the contamination of adult influence.
I recall my early years of development with much fondness. These were the years when 'danger' was as distant an emotion to my body as 'safety' can often be today. While I never saw a lily pond in my youth, let alone swim in one, I did swim in numerous mill dams, jumped from the roofs of partly-built houses on Windybank Estate into a pile of sand to break my fall and play 'chicken' as we raced mates across railway lines and level crossings. Most boys then play the common game known as 'Cowboys and Indians' with arrows made from willow shafts with a dart fastened in the end. Sometimes we would plan ambushes and carry air pistols armed with pellets just in case we got chased by the enemy. We regularly fought to the death with rival gangs on the estate, but bear in mind, that the person considered to be dead was the one who first mouthed the words, 'Give in' while patting the ground three times to signify that they wouldn't continue fighting when they got up off the ground. In the main everyone got hurt or incurred serious injury requiring hospital attention or admission at least once in their youth, but such setbacks didn't prevent us returning to the fray of boisterous development at the earliest opportunity.
I would find it almost impossible to identify one month between the ages of ten and sixteen when one of us wasn't taken to hospital with a fractured or broken limb. Indeed, it was a mark of glory to have had one's nose broken in a fist fight or to have broken arms and legs in pursuit of some other dangerous activity.
I also remember that while teenage boys and girls kept to their separate groups during the holiday day-time hours, the boys would always let the girls play with them during the evenings, particularly when the nights became dark soon after tea had been eaten. Girls who went around with gangs of boys in the evening hours would sometimes get a bad name for themselves; often unjustifiably.
The week before Bonfire Night would see rival gangs on the estate in competition with each other as to which gang would have the biggest bonfire on the 5th of November. Every day,(one week before November 5th), one member of the gang would take their turn to bunk off school to guard their bonfire stack during the day. The gang with the biggest bonfire stack always had to be the most vigilant from 'chumping' raiders. On a few times, I have been known to go to bed at 10.00 pm, only to get up at midnight when the rest of the house was fast asleep, and meet up with other gang members to have a little fire as we guarded the bonfire stack. Many a gang woke up the following morning to find their bonfire stack either ablaze or in ashes; having been burned down by a rival gang as they slept soundly in the belief that they had the largest stack on the estate.
Then, around the age of 15 years, school attendees would become young workers. Most of the boys would don the working clothes of mill labourers and factory workers or enter apprentice schemes, while girls who started work would usually become apprentice hairdressers, junior typists, office workers and shop workers. Some entered the mills to learn how to pack yarn, spin and weave.
Usually, any young man or woman who wasn't married or engaged to be married by the age of twenty-one years would be a cause of parental concern. Any young man who was still single on his twenty-second year of life was considered a gadabout and any young woman who still hadn't found herself a husband feared life as an old spinster. As for those young men and women whose sexual preference was that of homosexual; this category of person existed in the shadow of society and feared to show their faces in daylight hours.
Just think what type of adults we might all have turned out to be, had we not allowed our fearlessness, our love of excitement, our vivid imagination, and our desire to live life on the edge of constant risk and danger to be slowly drummed out of us by adult society?"
Love and peace Bill xxx