Every little piece of our life is integral to who we are in the moment. Almost everybody would like to change some things on reflection but that would only weaken character. It feels as though I have crammed as many experiences into a half-life more than most do in a full lifetime. Unfortunately many were bad, but even a bad experience can bestow wisdom, or eradicate naivety. There is always a positive if you can convince your mind to accept it. It's the positives I want to concentrate on, recent events have almost kicked my fragile sanity into Narnia.
For as many negatives there were a comparable number of positives, possibly more, I've never bothered to list them. Nor will I. So what were the positives? Where do I start? My first eleven years were pretty idyllic. I was an altar boy, top of my class, and popular with all but the bullies. It was a five minute walk to wide open countryside and a whole world to be explored. There were woods and meadows, streams and swimming holes, a coal-tip, agricultural pump-houses, wild fruit trees, vegetables, game, everything that was needed to fulfil the boyhood dream of independence.
We would camp for days during the summer, living off the land and harvesting the bounty from the coastline. I wore hand-me-down clothes, had more cuts and bruises than most, but if I had to point to a time in my life when I was truly happy, it was then. When I wrote my first novel which was designed to be a statement against bullying more than anything else, the initial draft had this early part of my life taking up almost half the manuscript.
It had to be edited as it gave little indication of the true nature of the book yet I still had problems pruning it. Perhaps I should have wrote it as two books but they would have been like chalk and cheese. Part of me wanted to deal specifically with the bullying and social aspects but the other part wanted to draw attention to what kids today miss out on. It is difficult to describe the sense of wonder and freedom we felt back then. Sleeping under the stars, telling creepy stories, cooking trout on sticks over a campfire, playing tracking games, seeing nature in all its glory and embracing it. We were probably more capable then than many adults are today.
The memories remain vivid to this day, the scraps and scrapes, triumphs and disasters, experiences we shared with friends we loved as brothers. We achieved or failed together, no stragglers were left behind. On one occasion a friend had his leg in plaster but wanted to go to the woods with us. We pushed him miles across fields in an old pram we nicked from the dump. Sure we often squabbled and fisticuffs were common, even the weakest boy would stand up for himself because he knew bullying wasn't tolerated.
For all our accidents and occasional visits to A&E, it was extremely rare for a boy to cry however hurt he was. I used to laugh if I was hurt bad, it was the way I stopped myself from crying. Even back then they thought I was slightly nuts. We were tough although we didn't even realise it at the time. I noticed it when I went to boarding school. Fight a kid from my village and you knew you were in a fight, these more well-to-do kids were soft. It was like they had never chopped wood or carried coal.
Technology is depriving our kids of a childhood and the consequences will be disastrous if we don't do something to take a step back. Ban technology for pre-teens, let them learn about life and nature first. If they don't grow with that appreciation, they will likely dismiss it as irrelevant when adults, that would not bode well for our planet and human existence.
The negatives in my first eleven years were few and far between but the positives were endless, I feel privileged to have been able to experience such wonderful things.