I’m sick of being regulated. Not allowed to eat this, not allowed to park there, not allowed to do that. Pah! You’re not the boss of me! I just took a really good look at the pompous-arse sign at the edge of the park up the street, with its list of little black silhouette pictures – each of them overscored with that red circle, slashed through the middle, which means the little silhouette picture is verboten in the park.
So – no dogs, no horses, no golf, no kites, no motorcycles, no bicycles, no camping, campfires, knot-tying, dib-dib-dobbing or anything bloody else. No nudie yoga at sunrise, either, which will disappoint one of my nephews immensely. He lives in a lovely, bohemian town which welcomes nudie yoga at sunrise, and gleefully – with quite a few Jaegerbombs under where his belt might have been had he been clothed – fronted up (at every possible level) one morning in order to dingle-dangle at daybreak. From what I gather, things were going marvellously well until the local constabulary were called and informed my nephew, amongst other official-sounding policey things; ‘… you are not in command of your faculties and it might be better if you went home, Bud.’ According to his mother, my nephew was actually semi-qualified to take part – after all, even though he’d never done yoga before, he had, on occasion, been nude. But I digress.
The point is, I’m getting more ornery as I get older and having turned 51 this week and being over halfway to a century, all these rules are making me feel as if I want to be very disobedient indeed. I want, in fact, to get a great big motorcycle, panniers filled with dogs, kites and other random sporting equipment, and perform the shitkicker’s waltz all over that park. In the nude, too – but with a sheet wrapped around in order not to scare the horses (who aren’t allowed there anyway and shouldn’t be looking).
What was wrong with a childhood where we left the house after breakfast and only showed up in time for tea? Why was our world not populated with paedophiles and perverts? According to the Warrior Queen, you were in danger of slave traders dragging you into sinister vehicles which had blackened windows and leering men intoning, ‘Have a sweetie, little girl …’ – but I never saw any in my neighbourhood, and seeing as boredom hadn’t been invented then, none of us felt the need to cover the local shopping centres with graffiti or wrangle pensioners to the ground in order to steal their fluff-encrusted sherbert lemons and soggy tissues.
Local parks are no longer dangerous and fun. Gone are the high, steel slipperydips from which you hurtled into a hollow of hard-packed earth – which might have a few inches of mud in the bottom if your mother was unlucky – and gone also is that long plank swing, which eight kids could straddle while two more stood at the ends and made it go parallel with the top bars. Many arms were broken by the plank swing – and many more on the maypole, or from bicycles, go-carts and frenzied whirls on the Hills Hoist when no mothers were watching. Indeed, my multi-talented brother – he the inventor of so many goodly things to do – was able to sustain a marvellous head injury by hurling himself onto the bed from his top cupboard – while the ceiling fan was in full and splendid motion.
Alas, these things are merely a memory. Our park has a mean swing with a rubber sling which will only seat babies. People like me are unable to fit our legs through the legholes in order to revisit childhood even for one whimsical minute – and there would be absolutely no chance of squeezing one’s bargearse between the chains anyway . Under the swing is a pit of sawdust laid on rubberised mats. You couldn’t decently break a limb if you tried.
It’s all very well to purse our mouths, stop the fun and deprive today’s children of a proper childhood. They may not run on beaches with wild abandon and joyous dogs at their heels – nor may they eat too much icecream or climb a tree or ride a bicycle down a killer hill with no hands on handlebars nor helmet on head – and they shall not use imagination; that free and wonderful commodity which has died and been buried by technology and plastic crap.
It’s time to stick up for ourselves and be allowed to live again. Gather together in local parks this weekend with illegal animals and appliances. Build a bonfire, burn an effigy, smoke something herbal.
Bring me my chariot of fire …