Growing up in a time with fewer restrictions wasn’t that bad.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned seven deadly (and stupid) things I did as a child. It seems that there are loads of others out there who grew up in a time of open roads and bare feet, with penknives and ropes as our most trusted toys. Here are some more experiences we may have shared:
7 deadly things I did as a child
5 dangers your child faces when alone at home
Near where I lived, someone had strung a couple of thick ropes into the tree canopies. This coincided with Tarzan being a popular character on TV, so I can remember trying to perfect the “vine-cross in mid-air” technique, complete with ear-splitting yell. Trying to perfect it meant plummeting through bushes and ripping all the skin off my hands and lying winded in a puddle.
Smoking and drinking
Yeah, in those days you could smoke everywhere. Cinemas and aeroplanes had ashtrays in the seats. Shops had them on the counters. So my parents smoked; the morning after one of their dinner parties when they were still fast asleep I’d find their cocktail Sobranie cigarettes, the really strong ones, or just the cigarette butts in the ashtrays and sneak out to the garden for a good cough. If I was really brave, I’d filch a swig of something vile in their drinks cabinet. Coco Rico was one horrid drink.
Walls and roofs as diving boards
If you or any of your friends had a swimming pool, you know about improvised diving boards. Any high enough surface would become a leaping point: a brick braai, a wobbly Vibracrete wall and, precariously, second-storey roof. Often these were climbed dripping wet, but we must have had special climbing powers.
As a teen, I didn’t always have access to lifts in cars and if I was going clubbing (as a fifteen-year-old idiot) I occasionally hitched. There was a vague sense of unease about doing this, but it was more about getting to go somewhere. Mostly, I’d get annoyed with drivers who’d stop 30 metres away as if they were going to give me a lift, and then they’d roar away as I jogged towards them.
No-money sweet shopping
I’m not proud of it, but quite a few kids go through that nerve-jangling experience of shoplifting. I stole some sweets once, but the guilt haunted me so much that I went back to that shop twenty years later and gave them some money. I know kids that were caught who got into serious trouble, so I was very lucky.
Shooting it up
Catapults with ball bearings, air rifles and unlucky snails and other shooting games were ordinary for us. I shot myself in the leg by accident once when trying to strip a found cartridge of its gunpowder. It only left a massive bruise, but I was more concerned about the noise and the neighbours. Bows and arrows, clay pellets. We shot them all. The rule, as I recall, was not to point at each other, but this didn’t always work out.
We had those Oxford maths tins that contained a protractor, ruler and compass. Dull classes would have us using fountain pen ink and a compass to tap little tattoos into the backs of our hands. The tattoos didn’t last, they’d just form impressive scabs, and we’d pick at them idly wondering if we were going to die from blood poisoning.
Looking back, I’m certain children are doing some of these things now, too. It’s just part of testing the environment, keeping the adrenalin flowing.
At least I know the tricks, so I’ll be watching my children, discreetly of course.
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What’s the worst thing you ever did as a child?