It’s not my first memory, but it’s the earliest story I was told about my childhood. I lived upstairs in the maisonette in the picture below. My bedroom was top left on the top floor. My father was a machinist in a woollen factory, my mother was a nurse and my sister was 18 months younger than me. The house had two floors. 3 bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, with a kitchen and living room downstairs. They were brand new council houses built probably around 1960. The core of the building was concrete steps up to landings. From our front door, you went left, down 6 steps to the right, then down 13 steps onto the first landing, then same again to get the ground floor. By 3 yrs old I had blonde hair, a cute grumpy face and a tricycle. The devil has put temptation in front of me throughout my life and on this particular day he left the front door open. I promptly cycled out on my trike along the landing, then, managed to cycle down the first 6 steps, before having an epic fail on the next 13. They found me crying at the bottom of the stairs with not a mark on me. Mum was mortified but I’d survived. I was still here, breathing. But, why had I thought this was a good idea. Well, it would be 2 years before we could explain Dave’s stupidity.
By four and a half years old I was walking across some whin laden fields to St Teresa’s primary school. Again, brand new, it was a big square thing , with a football pitch and large tarmac playground. I don’t remember my first day or my second or even my third. I don’t even remember the school phoning my mum……
‘Hello Mrs Linden. It’s Mrs Mitchell from St Teresa’s. I just wondered if everything was ok at home?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, David keeps falling asleep in class. We wondered if there were any problems at home?’
‘No, he’s fine. He sleeps for ever, can hardly get him up!’
After a bit of further investigation it turned out the reason I was falling asleep in class was simply because I COULDN’T SEE FURTHER THAN MY ARM. Everything beyond a metre was fuzzy. Not only could I not see the blackboard, it also explained my attempt to break the world record for the number of stairs gone down by a partially blind 3 yr old on a tricycle…….
I’m not sure why my parents didn’t notice something was afoot when I was sitting 2 feet from the telly 😂 but it did explain why I could read and write before I went to school 😂
I do remember the teachers. Mrs Mitchell, the lovely Mrs Tipping and the dragon Mrs Trodden. You did not want to get on the wrong side of Mrs Trodden. She was the first teacher ever to give me the strap. One of only three times I was leathered in my school life. I can’t remember why she did it but she took great pleasure in whacking me on the hand. I never forgot that.
A few hundred yards away from the flat at Osborne drive was ‘The Valley’. A football pitch sat in between two small hills. My friend who lived downstairs was a natural golfer, and invited me to play. We had made little greens to form a nine hole course across ‘The Valley’ and we set off with two 9 irons to have a go. Now, I have subsequently learnt that the two sports I am atrocious at are darts and golf. Don’t ask me why but 26 is my best score at darts and I cannot do anything but top the ball from the fairway. I take so many shots at golf I’m like Donald Trump at a Miss World competition!
We started off our little golf tourney, and reached the top of the second hill. I set myself up, psyched myself, then launched a shot which vamooshed off the ground like a rocket. I’d actually hit the ball. Not just hit the ball, I’d hit it perfectly. It soared into the sky like an eagle (eagle….get it 🙂 ) It was so good it went beyond the hole, beyond the field, onto the road in the distance and……..hit a car. 😳😮
I’d hit a car with a golf ball…………. the car stopped…….. at this point we should have run away…..but….being nice wee boys we stupidly walked across to the stricken car……….
Now, if you’d given me a list of people who I didn’t want to appear out of the car it would have included one of the teachers from my school. If you then created a shortlist of teachers from my school who I least wanted to appear from the car as I’d struck it with a freak golf shot it would have been……..
‘DAVID LINDEN!. OF ALL THE PEOPLE I LEAST EXPECTED TO SEE IT IS YOU!!!!!’
Yes. Of all the cars in the 40,000 population I’d struck Mrs Trodden’s. I was mortified.
‘I’m sorry Mrs Trodden’
‘AND SO YOU SHOULD BE!!!’
I got the hint she wasn’t best pleased.
In the end she decided her car had escaped any major damage, so we were allowed to slunk off without a damage claim which would have taken a bit of explaining to my parents. I never played golf again. 😀
These days when I drive past open spaces and parks you hardly ever see kids playing. When we were kids the whole street was out there. There were no smartphones, iPads, Xbox’s and PS5’s. No Netflix, no instagram, no Whatsapp. We had to create our own entertainment. Football used to be my main skill. If there were 20 of us we’d head to the Valley and play a proper match. if there was only 4 we’d head to the washing green in front of the flats and play folleyball which was basically volleyball but you couldn’t use your hands. We’d also play kerby which involved either throwing or kicking a football across the road to the other kerb with the aim of hitting the kerb edge and the ball arriving back in your hands.
The things I really liked though were summer nights where the whole scheme would appear to play kick the can or hide and seek. The can was set in the middle of an area of grass. Imagine 30+ kids splitting into teams and using the whole scheme to hide with one team doing the seeking and the others defending the can. It would last all night until darkness sent us all back home.
I remember one night where my friend Bobby and I decided to ‘rump’ someones garden peas. We sneaked into his garden and started picking pea pods from his garden. Suddenly the kitchen light went on and we were caught. I made a break for it and jumped the fence but Bobby got caught in some netting and down he went. His ear was still sore 2 days later. 😀😀 We didn’t do that again!!
I was lazy and used Google Streetview to get a picture of Osborne Drive and Crescent’s play park as it is these days. The old one used to be farther into the field than the one shown in the picture. We used to congregate there and probably talk childish nonsense about nothing in particular. There were no Xbox’s or World Wide Web back then. I remember one day hanging about there with some of the ‘gang’ when a girl called Sheila Bell, picked up an empty glass lemonade bottle and threw it in our general direction. We laughed and scattered. Only thing was, I chose to dive onto the slide and run up it, only to slip. The bottle looped over and over in the air promptly hitting me square on the back of my head. All the kids laughed and laughed up until one of them spotted the blood running down the back of my head. Then someone screamed. I’d hardly felt a thing, but a quick touch of my scalp, confirmed I’d taken a direct hit. If I’d stood still it would have missed me by 10 feet!! But no, stoopid d rearranged himself into the perfect point in space and time to coordinate magnificently with said glass bottle. Genius. 🙄
Luckily, with Mum being a nurse I was soon on my way to A&E where 5 stitches soon stopped my brain cell from escaping.
As you can see from the google maps picture below Osborne Drive and Crescent formed a natural circle which we used to race round on our bikes. We used to get a lot more snow back then so we’d do speedway races round and round like the motorbike speedway racing on telly. One day we were doing heats and 4 of us set of hurtling round and round. As we slid into the bend just outside our flats someone slipped taking the other 3 riders out. The only thing wrong was there was a lorry parked right on the bend. I closed my eyes as the lorry became much larger and closer than I wanted it to. When I opened my eyes, all four of us were intact and lying in a heap………..underneath the bloody lorry.
On days when the weather was really bad I used to play Subbuteo. I had over 100 teams!! I would sett up the goals behind the sofa and start playing. I didn’t even play the game properly. I’d pick the players up and have them tackling each other, dribbling and shooting (you were supposed to flick them to the ball with your fingers!!). I’d start commentary on the games knowing every player for every club in every position. As the game got more exciting (yes excitement was easy to be had in those days) my commentary got louder and louder to the point where my Dad would shout…
‘Keep it down!!’
I’d go back to whispering
Unfortunately I used to leave the players out sometimes and Dad would stand on them. I’d find Dennis Law broken in two resulting me having to glue Dennis back together. The only thing with glues back then was they tended to melt plastic. Did you know Dennis Law was only 4ft 5 inches tall 😂😂
In June we’d mark out a full size tennis court during Wimbledon and play for hours on end. Once Wimbledon was finished, that was it. No one played tennis for a whole year! We’d also get the cricket bats out and have a bash at that as well.
Football was the main thing though. Every day, morning, noon and night we’d play and play and play. If there were 16+ of us we headed to the Vally to play a full 90 minutes. If there were only 10, we’d lay don jumpers and play 5 a side near the flats. If 4 or less we’d either play kerby or keepie up. I used to be able to do 500+ at keepie up which I was well pleased with until I read one time a 10yr old girl from Oban could do over 6000!
Things have certainly changed since those days. You hardly see kids without a smartphone glued to their hands ( luckily glue is much less harsh these days 😂) I think this cartoon sums it up 🙂
If you’ve got photographs from your youth or stories I’d love to hear from you. Next time we are back in Australia visiting Taronga zoo. have a good week everyone. Stay safe.
‘Sundays and Childhood’ was brought to you by David Linden aka @qosfc1919 on Twitter ©️Dodo Productions 2020.
Some of the B&W photographs were kindly provided by @YourWullie