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If your mother knew...

Byline: By Dan O'Neill South Wales Echo

Well, A-level results in, school holidays almost over, a million Mums mopping their brows and thanking God that soon they will no longer hear their little darlings whining 'I'm bored...there's nuffin' to do.'

The mantra, according to acres of newsprint, is echoing through countless Welsh homes this summer. And that's just the teachers (only kidding).

Bored? There should be no such word in the childhood lexicon. Ask anybody who recalls those pre-Game Boy days. Or even pre-telly days.

So back to a time when the summer was always long and hot, when every street was packed with playing kids, when woods and fields and river banks were the biggest and best adventure playgrounds ever created.

And if you wanted a swim, you didn't bother with the Guildford Crescent baths or the Empire Pool.

Not when the Taff and the old canal were there - for free.

Maybe we can't blame the kids though.

If one of 'em was spotted bare bum in the Taff, he'd be hauled out by the fire brigade and charged with Giving Offence - like the two little girls who were ordered to wipe their hopscotch pitch off the pavement last month because, yes, it Gave Offence.

Yet years ago, no pavement was complete without half-a-dozen hopscotch games going on.

And no lamp post without a rope hanging from the crossbar below the window protecting the gas jet, yes, gas.

What for? For swinging of course, but you needed a real lamp post made of cast iron with a bulge around the middle (for standing on before launching yourself) and every Cardiff street owned one, instead of the charmless concrete columns topped with sodium lights we've got today.

The lamp post doubled as a wicket in the day-long Test matches played throughout the summer, but you could also turn an end of terrace wall into Lords, or the old Arms Park with a chalked set of stumps.

Which is why most Cardiff kids didn't realise there was such a thing as a wicket-keeper until they saw Haydn Davies when Glamorgan won the County Championship in 1948.

Then there was Bomberino.Or Strong 'Orses. Team A crouched one behind the other on the pavement like a single line scrum, their anchor, the one most impervious to pain, standing back to the wall.

Team B charged in turn across the road, vaulting as far up the line as possible, all aiming for the weakest back.

A collapse of kids and the winners yelled 'Bomberino.' If the line held the shout was 'Strong 'Orses.'

And no game was ever stopped because of the risk of broken bones or slipped discs.

Releaster, another cure for boredom. One side slipping off into surrounding streets, the other hunting them, capture made official ONLY after the chant 'one-two-three caught by me.'

Captives were kept in a den, but could be released if a mate burst through the guardians to yell, of course, 'Releaster.' All the captives disappeared. It began all over again. You didn't see many 'obese' kids playing Releaster. Or Kick-the-tin.

Astonishingly, given today's paranoia, small girls would beg neighbours for 'a lend' of their babies.

Then push a pram round Llandaff Fields or Roath Park for hours, sharing jam sandwiches and bottled water.

No, not that bottled water.

Tap water. In bottles. And no-one worried.

Meanwhile, their brothers disappeared straight after breakfast, spent all day playing Tarzan or 'Forin Leejun' in the woods with breaks to scrump apples or try to capture stray horses, returning at dusk.

And again, no-one worried.

Roads were roller skating rinks, 12-a-side hockey tournaments played with walking sticks and a tennis ball.

You begged a set of old pram wheels and a couple of planks - and you had a bogey, a sort of go-kart minus the expense, string steering wheel, pushed by a broom pole.

High tide in the Taff, Penarth Road bridge your diving board. Gobs, or five stones. Blood alleys and bolbers and Bad Eggs and a dozen other street games.

Bored? We never had time . . .
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 26, 2006
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