Back in the late 60s and 70s we didn’t have mobile phones or computer games, our politicians were toffy old upper class English men who sailed yachts (oh hang on that is today as well) and our pop charts were dominated with men in their 40s singing about Love and Marriage or stabbing women to death who happened to laugh at you and had the unfortunate name Delilah. It was different times.
We had yet to see children’s TV show that didn’t have really old people in upper class English voices stroking shiny dogs or they were riding about on ponies, both completely alien to an inner city Glasgow kid. Our accent wasn’t on the telly (much the same way as today am afraid) the comedians back then were all mainly English men in suits and short hair like bank clerks telling jokes about women and how things annoyed them, not many female comics were on, they mostly sang songs (much the same as today actually).
The main difference was as Glasgow kids we were inherently attracted to danger. Well I was, I liked nothing more than to hang off the back of a milk lorry from the milk bottle factory in my street. Those long low flat back growling old trucks were just begging for kids to jump and hang onto for a free ride down to the main road, where we hopped off before they turned.
Sometimes they would stall or bump and we would fall off and get a ‘wee injury’ nothing that some licking and rubbing with dirty mouths and filthy sleeves couldn’t fix.
We had a swathe of empty derelict tenements on my street and we used to go in there and strip out the cables and sell them to the local scrap metal for money. It was a dangerous practice as the derelict houses were crumbling and the floors often gave way. One day I went in with my pals up to the third landing, they always stood on the perimeter of a room (safest bit) and edge along the walls till we got to the side of the fireplace were the wiring was exposed. I pulled fiercely on a thick wire, got a violent electric shock, was thrown into the middle of the floor which promptly gave way and I fell into the house below. It was like a Laurel and Hardy sketch from Hollywood. I lay in the cloud of dust and realised I was in old Mr Barclay’s flat, stood up, laughed and shouted up “Old Mr Barclay has left some shoes in his house” and all my pals came down to join me. I don’t recall suffering an injury or catching a disease from the rancid rat piss or bugs that lived on the floor of the empty 1860’s building. I was a Glasgow kid and survived another day.
We stroked strange angry dogs, trapped violent wasps in jars, flattened penny’s under fast trains, swam in a rat infested chemical waste streams, swung across dangerous open gully’s on rope swings, set fire to abandoned cars, crept into drunken men’s houses to collect valuable empty bottles to exchange for cash, slid down sharp snowy hills on tea trays, and avoided the creepy parky’s who had a dirty bothy and a penchant for showing his cock in swing parks. We survived.
I don’t have asthma, never had a back pain, don’t have skin allergies, am not lactose intolerant, rarely get a flu and I think it’s all down to drinking in the dirty burn near my house.
We and I include me in this have raised our kids in an atmosphere of fear and cleanliness, they will never know the delight of hanging off the back of a fast moving lorry.....and maybe thats for the best!
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