I was born in 1958 and grew up running to red telephone boxes if I wanted to talk to girls at night time, even when I lived on a farm.
There were so many ways to lose an eye in those days. Boys ran around with air rifles, knocking of rats and mice (good) and birds out of trees (bad).
Rarely were there gunfights between 10-year-olds, but I have a scar on my ankle from one afternoon’s play date, or whatever it was called back then.
I remember limping up to this village and buying cigarettes, saying they were for my Dad and smoked a couple on the way home to calm my nerves.
My mother had interesting values. Some boys were coming out for the weekend to go camping with me at the edge of a lake. She barged in while I was packing supplies and asked what I was hiding behind my back.
Cigarettes. She was so relieved. She worried it was a Playboy or perhaps the illustrated sex-advice book she kept under the seat in her old Morris Minor.
Mostly, though, she complained at the many ways I tried to kill myself in the name of a good time.
Jumping off the garage roof, week after week, trying to fly
Everybody wanted to be Superman and generally accepted, fairly quickly, the laws of gravity. I did not. The drop-point was into a grassy paddock. Quite often I landed fully outstretched on my stomach, chin and knees, because that’s how I preferred to launch myself into the air. If it was ever going to work, I had to commit. This went on for six or seven years, until my testicles started to complain.
Running over my left foot with a lawn mower
The folks didn’t want me to use the lawn mower because they felt I wasn’t on the ball. It only took me five minutes to chop off my big toe.
Forgetting I’d lit the wick of a penny bunger
Kids losing their fingers to penny-bungers which looked like a mini stick of dynamite was a routine news items in the ’60s. I was on the garage roof with a big bag of fireworks. When it went off, and I still had my fingers, and my ears were ringing, I jumped off and hunted down my mother for comfort. She couldn’t speak, looked me over and walked off muttering.
Tying myself to the top of a poplar
I’d seen big shrubs bend and touch the ground in storms. So I tied myself to the tree and swung my body hard to see if I could too. Managed to go from side to side three or four times, and was having so much fun before the tree gave way. Landed on my head. Did better next time.
Staying on the train instead of going to school
I wanted to see if I could live on it for a few days. Made friends with a man who took me to his caravan. Had already survived an older boy trying to get his end away during a Scout camp. And so, for once could see where things were headed. Hitch-hiked home. Found the sound of shouting despair somewhat comforting.
Starting a grass fire to appease God
I stole some exercise books from the school stationery cupboard to write stories and poems. Couldn’t go to sleep from guilt. We were church people. Started to panic at the idea of going to hell. Took the books to the back paddock and burnt them as a sacrifice. The fire got away from me. Just as quickly, it burnt itself out. Took this as a sign from God. Stole more books the next day.