The school holidays are here with those long, lazy days when the sun always shines and adventures are just waiting to happen. I always spent the summer with my grandparents, who, as far as I was concerned, lived in a palace, where blancmange and chips were always on the menu, if not the same plate, and my imagination was given free rein to make the world what I wanted it to be.
To the background noise of a push mower being worked across the lawn by my granddad and the odd distant jet which in those days was so unusual everyone stopped to have a look and wonder what exotic destination the rich people inside were headed for, we got on with the serious business of playing and invention.
When we weren’t playing, there were comics to be read, and the Beano and Dandy Summer Specials were the prizes everyone wanted, I longed to be Billy Whizz, moving faster than a speeding bullet, though was more like Roger the Dodger, I can’t help it, I’m naughty. I even joined the club run by my favourite comic, the Bimbo. In those days no-one sniggered.
They were lovely innocent times, when everyone was good and there were no wars, at least none that I was aware of. The black and white world shown on the television was distant and aloof, apart from Watch with Mother, the daily children’s programme, and Jackanory, where books were read out loud by someone almost famous and no-one fussed that there were no pictures because we could close our eyes and see the action in our imaginations. And I’m pretty certain it never rained, not during the day anyhow, I assumed it was a night-time activity, or the reservoirs were filled by magic.
So what happened to the world between then and now? Why are people lobbing missiles at each other over a huge wall? Why are planes, much more common now, being shot out of the sky? Why are the lives of children playing football on a Gaza beach and colouring in their books to keep them occupied on a long flight being brought to an abrupt end? Our full-colour massive-screen TVs chatter with 24-hour news and we can’t escape reports of evil. If I wasn’t afraid of the ghost of my grandma appearing with a bar of soap to wash my mouth out for swearing I’d open the window and shout our ‘WHAT THE FUCK?!’ Instead, I’m sad and angry at what the world has become. Can I have my childhood back please?