Growing up

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

The hell I did!!

Was I a case book boy?  Eating worms, pulling pigtails, building tree houses?  I don't know.  I do know my English years were magic, bordering on idyllic.  I am fully aware that our memories are often filtered by rose tinted glasses but I have faith in my pre-dementia recollections.  We did not live on a farm but our homes were always situated in 'the countryside'.  I was always close to miles (old word for long distance) of fields and country lanes.  As far as I can tell there was no 'stranger danger' or germs back then because children could spend all day outside without helicopter parents and get as dirty as they wanted.  Our council built, playgrounds would have given today's adults a heart attack.  If you didn't break an arm or twist an ankle you just weren't playing hard enough.   We were all so lucky to still have imagination and wonder instead of iPads and computer games.

Yes, these images are from the 1920's but honestly, we had identical installations in our local playground.

My outdoor adventures lasted all day and covered many miles.  While I was still too young to mount long distance campaigns of discovery and conquest, I had open fields and old farm buildings just through the three strand wire back fence. In early summer, before the harvester came around, we spent hours making tunnels and castles in fields filled with head high grass that moved in the wind like oceans swells.   Once the grass was mown, the ocean gave way to the cricket pitch and the airfield for our balsa wood gliders, with lunch time picnics prepared by mum on a blanket.   A small pond waited in the shade of oak trees in the corner of the field.  Using nets made from an old pair of mum's stockings and a jam jar suspended on brown string, we would terrorise newts and tadpoles and return home with jars filled with smelly green sludge and little balls of jelly with tiny, pin point, black eyes.  This was so many years before young people learnt how to pronounce those spine chilling words, "I'm bored".

Once I was old enough to travel the roads I began a new past time, 'Train Spotting'.  The practice of collecting train numbers and characteristics, not the Scottish world of Irvine Welsh.  Laying on a railway embankment, writing down the registered numbers of train and carriages that rolled by.  Again, I lived in a lucky era, before Beeching destroyed the British railway network by closing 55% of stations and 30% of train route miles.  Nearly 60 years later, many English towns are fighting to have services rebuilt.  Good luck.  But I digress.  This period was still in the great steam train age.  Yes they are polluters, en masse, but it is hard to deny that there is a beauty in them.  The practice of train spotting was so popular in England that there were books printed with ALL the numbers and details of the trains, with space to 'tick them off'.  I could never afford one but I kept my record in little notebooks.  When my family moved to Australia, the children (three brothers) all got money gifts from Aunts and Uncles etc.  I was so excited.  Finally I could afford a train spotting book.  I was inconsolable when I discovered there was no such practice in Australia.

Indoors I ruled a bedroom kingdom of knights, cowboys, railways, soldiers, tanks and planes, castles and mountains made of books piled high under the rug  And models loomed large in that world.  Railway buildings, tanks, spitfires, tiger moths and battle ships.  Remember this was when childhood was a safe time, a time of fun and genuine adventure.  Pre PC, pre academic child raising experts, pre guilt wracked parents and pre playgrounds with rubber mat surfaces.  I had toy artillery pieces with firing mechanisms to launch projectiles against my fort walls.  I had toys guns that were exact replicas of the real thing. 'Spud guns' that fired plugs of raw potato.  I destroyed my troop fortifications and models with home made explosive devices manufactured from penny bangers (fireworks), readily available from any iron mongers (hardware store) or news agents.  I can recall making a 'pirate' cannon in metal work class and wood work class.  My friend and I used it to fire ball bearings through rubbish bins in his back garden.

Toys were made by companies with a sense of pride, run by the owners and not accountants.  It is impossible to buy anything near the quality today.  Thanks to purchasers in a race for the bottom and manufacturers creating new sales, everything is made to break from cheap, Chinese sourced plastics.  No you cannot live in the past but I will never stop regretting that we were unable to bring our toys when we moved to Australia.  As a single (divorced) adult I have long searched the English antique and collectors sites for some of my old toys.  Who grew up?  Obviously not me.  I still like toy guns.

In Australia, I used the funds from the ill fated Train book campaign to finance purchases of BIG model kits.  I recall my Revell kit Flying Fortress.  My first 'grown up' model.  And my last 'teenage' model.  I think I discovered girls and golfing (in the same person) just after.  That was closely followed by weekend soccer, over whelming homework and other teenage boy things.  But I still found time to play soldiers in the dirt of our first Australia home.  In my early twenties I returned to toys.  My son was old enough join in.  We built tanks together. He built a radio controlled dune buggy.  I built a massive motorcycle kit but a lot of my free time was spent looking after my real motorcycle.  Now that was fun.

I have continued to collect kits all my adult life.  None of them made.  I have a Tamiya Honda 750 that I found in a garden shed at a friends rental property.  Buried under a pile of rubbish.  I commandeered it with haste and glee.  It is a mess.  Rotten box and opened parts.  It is secure in storage with the thousands of dollars of kit I have.  And so it has been since I was 23.  I think it has waited long enough.

My 'Modelling' stream of consciousness continues begins here.


  1. Kerry28/07/2020

    My heart stopped almost to see that steam engine. Was it 4472 The Flying Scotsman?! No. Wonderful evocation of your days before Australia.

  2. Laurel+Freeland31/07/2020

    I reckon you need to make those models


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