Updated: Mar 21, 2019
I was inspired to write something about this theme by my mum. In the last post, I may have implied, by suggesting she was lost but we had found her slippers, that she was in some way prone to forgetfulness or eccentric behaviour. And what would be wrong with that? Nothing. In any case, I can categorically state that she is very astute and has all her faculties. Not only that, she is always aware of where her slippers are because she keeps them in the bread bin with the remote control and the shower gel.
When I was a kid, we had a lot more freedom to run around where we wanted to. Providing we told our parents where we were heading, who we were going with and what time we would be back, there was mainly no problem. It was always to the same places; round someone’s house, directly outside (we lived in a quiet cul-de-sac so could play on the greenswards and road in relative safely), over the nearby field or into the woods at the back of the house. Thinking back on what we had, the outdoor life was fantastic, although we all complained like mad that there was nothing on television outside of the hours of 4 till 6 o’clock. It gave us all a great sense of independence, I think. Despite that, if I was ever anywhere unfamiliar, like most kids I guess, I would be worried about getting lost. The importance we attached to it might have been demonstrated by the common retort at school, when someone upset you, which was to say, ‘Oh, why don’t you get lost!’Generally, I don’t think I did get lost much, not for any great length of time. Although, looking back, there was one incident when I could easily have done so.
We live in an army town and I recall a joint family day for the police and military, when I was about 7 or 8. We went to the barracks for various activities which included, for us kids, the free use of their assault course. Let’s take a moment to process those words ... ‘we were allowed free use of their assault course’. There must have been some soldiers around supervising, surely? Not that I can recall. If there were any, it was a notional watching brief, probably just a private telling us to be careful before we went on it. What about parents? Yes, of course they were there; ‘there’ being in the canteen having a bite to eat and a cup of tea (military / police get together – I’m sure ‘tea’ was available).
Let me be clear: this was not, in any way, neglect. Our parents cared for us and loved us very much – they’ve made that abundantly clear over the years. This was just how it was then (back me up, older folk). The 50 page risk assessment for the day was spatially on the premises but temporally thirty years away (I had to get a science fiction reference in somewhere in case sci-fi visitors to this website wonder what’s going on with these blogs). To be fair, my sister and I were with slightly older family friends, Paul and Julie (who, being 12 and 13 were fully qualified in all aspects of army assault course training).
I thought this was fantastic. I was dashing about all over the place, trying out all the equipment. The only thing I steered clear of was the 5 metre crawl through the tunnel full of water because we had been told that could be 'dodgy'. I remember going off piste slightly, away from the others. I was belting along towards my next target when, all of a sudden, the ground disappeared and so did I. Now, I hold up my hands here – my mistake. I should have time-warped to the open day of the future (another sci-fi reference and a big tick for fans) and seen the sturdy barriers and the four people around in high-vis jackets holding up the signs saying, ’Danger kids: Massive, deep hole. Do not enter!’ Instead, I found myself very much in danger and fully entered in the aforementioned massive, deep hole. Used as part of the soldiers’ training, it must have been at least eight feet deep. Incredibly, I was not hurt. But I did feel lost. Very much so. I knew I was a way away from the others and was very concerned. It went through my young mind that no one would think to look for me here. It was dark and scary. Not nice.
So what happened in the end? I don’t want to ruin the suspense but I did get out. Paul heard my yells and screams and went for help. I was in luck. If you’re going to fall down a deep hole, do it where the combined might of the local constabulary and a significant proportion of the country’s military personnel are nearby having a few 'cups of tea' together. Actually, I think it was Dad, with back-up if required, who reached down and hauled me out.
Maybe the experience has made me more cautious. When I am out driving, I hate the idea of getting lost. Ask my wife who will tell you that I am fairly calm in the car... except when we have taken a wrong turn. Panic starts to set in. I don’t want to get lost, to fall into a hole, real or metaphorical.
So, in conclusion, you could say that, because of this, I am not a great risk-taker... except when it comes to winding up my mum. Which is why, on one of the next blogs, I will be sharing those couple of stories I promised in the last blog about her experiences of getting lost.
PS I have given Mum writing privileges on this site, as a member, to post and comment with freedom on all blogs. It is only fair she has the right of reply. I am counting on her ‘developing skills with I.T.’ that it will prove far too difficult to work out what to do.