Friday, 21 November 2008

Nostalgia Ain't What it Used to Be

Never stopped 'faffin' about this week but getting there I feel. Our move to our present address in July is, I hope our last without the aid of a pine box. Still unpacking and frequently stopping as items that have never seen the light of day for years come to light; more later. Time wasting maybe but far more interesting than digesting dull depressing daily diatribes, both written and spoken concerning the world's ominous traumas, over which I have often little real interest and certainly no control.
I remember few worries as a child. Instead life was a ball, so to speak, one long pleasure from dawn to dusk. Talking of balls, I had a bloody great leather football, purloined I believe by a streetwise relation from the town football team. ( The balls at the Baseball Ground often landed in the streets behind the ground; they were not always returned.) It meant I was thus ensured of a game on the local field, often with the older boys, no mean feat for a left footed, mediocre midget. Mind you, I don't remember getting too many kicks. What was it the British used to say, "It's the taking part that counts." What a load of old rubbish!
In winter it really seemed to snow for months on end, and we seemed to go sledging nightly. Often returning home wet through from finishing in the brook, crying with pain and the inevitable chilblains. The next night repeating the process, again and again and again.
Long hot summer days spent up the fields, digging for pignuts, chewing vinegar leaves, fishing for bullyheads and learning to smoke. Our first attempts dried walnut leaved smoked in a pipe made from a straw and an acorn cup. We progressed on to the pith of elderberry bushes, one hell of a smoke; occasional flames would literally scorch your tonsils. And finally the ultimate smoke, dog ends collected from the streets and smoked in pipes purloined from home or bought at local jumble sales. Today's kids, eat your heart out. Come to think of it, how did most of us reach adulthood reasonably intact.
On of my favourite lessons as a teacher involved Rupert Brooke's poem 'The Great Lover'. I used to read it to pupils and then we'd encourage each other to list, initially the greatest joys in their often humdrum lives and then hopefully to transfer their memories into a more poetic form. Many of the kids I taught had limited experiences and some lived soulless existences. But I never ceased to be amazed at the enthusiasm for life they showed when pushed. I am even moved when I think about it even after all these years.

An extract from The Great Lover by Rupert Brooke

These I have loved:

White plates and cups, clean-gleaming, Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, faery dust; Wet roofs, beneath the lamp-light; the strong crust Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food; Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood; And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers; And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours, Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon; Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is Shining and free; blue-massing clouds; the keen Unpassioned beauty of a great machine; The benison of hot water; furs to touch; The good smell of old clothes; and other such -- The comfortable smell of friendly fingers, Hair's fragrance, and the musty reek that lingers About dead leaves and last year's ferns. . . .

We may not have the skill and sensitivity of the great man himself but we all have our memories from childhood. I have never forgotten the best, most sought after delicacy in the world, namely condensed milk sandwiches. And who could forget Little Miss Muffet Junkets; where on earth did they go. But enough of my choices, what are your favourite childhood memories?


Mad Asthmatic said...

favourite childhood memories:
Sunday nights sitting by the open fire letting my hair dry in the heat coming from the roaring flames.
Christmas morning and the excitement of seeing the mince pies and sherry gone.
holidays by the sea, building sand castles and swimming in the sea
so many memories, so much fun, but i am glad I am grown up now.

Grumpy Old Ken said...


It's interesting you have good childhood memories yet you are glad you are grown up. I wonder like the rest of us at times.