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6 October 2015

Looking at today’s ‘OSH’ and ‘vaccinate for everything’ society, I can only marvel I lived through childhood. I caught whooping cough, measles (both types) mumps, and chickenpox between 4 and 8 and survived them all. At seven I and 2-3 friends regularly vanished into a huge local park for the whole of any Saturday that wasn’t pouring and freezing. It was vast, empty and open, with pine plantations, rough land, a herd of young boisterous steers, and with several hundred sheep. We disappeared into that after breakfast and returned around 5pm for dinner, starved, grubby, and tired out, while our families propably had a pleasant child-free day.
I often took our huge old tin (dish-) draining tray and we used that in turn to slide down the long steep grassy wall of the crater at the park’s centre. On one occasion one of our number took his bike with him and tried to ride it down the crater. He came unstuck halfway down, tumbled the rest of the way and broke his ankle at the bottom when he landed. An exchange of looks decreed that as the fastest I’d go for help while the other two stayed with him. I ran. It must have been a good mile or more but I landed gasping on our doorstep, explained, mum ran across the road to his parent’s home and they (as just about the only people in the street with a phone) called the ambulance while I sat recovering my breath. Once the ambulance was there I guided them to the scene, and they were not at all happy about having to place our friend on a stretcher and haul him uphill for a hundred yards or more, and for a long distance to the ambulance (no roads in that area of the park.)
His ankle healed, he and his cast were the centre of attention for weeks. And as soon as the cast was off, we were all back in the park each Saturday. Did any of this bother our parents? Not much. Their attitude was that, okay, someone had suffered injury, but no one had panicked, we’d all done the intelligent thing, and as sensible children we could be allowed to continue. Somehow I strongly doubt that that’d happen today. And yet, it made us self-reliant. I see that medical science now thinks that the rising rates of allergies and asthma may be due to children’s over-sterile environments. Ours certainly weren’t, and maybe that explains why I can’t recall any of the kids I knew then having allergies or asthma. We were freer, and our imaginations were well developed by our own games. You can never go back, but I’m glad I grew-up with the friends I had, and with the freedom I enjoyed. In many ways I had it better than today’s kids, and I’m grateful for that. At least it left me disinclined to panic in an emergency – something that’s been useful over subsequent years.

2 Comments »

  1. I remember as a kids we, in my home town, high North Island had a very fine flying fox. When I returned years later it no longer greeted me. When I heard who was behind dismantling it, I said “O Sh–!”

    Comment by Glenn Hibburt — 24 March 2016 @ 12:55

  2. I said something similar when a friend told me several years ago that she won’t allow her children to play in the local park – haunt of junkies, repository of all sorts of lethal rubbish. I don’t blame the council, they’d have to have two people there fulltime, chasing off the one, and gathering up the other, but it’s a heck of an inditement of our time.

    Comment by lyn — 25 March 2016 @ 11:39

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