Saturday, July 19, 2008


In my safe childhood I was allowed to play outside, by myself, unsupervised, all day; hours and hours spent catching frogs, climbing monkey-puzzle trees, killing water rats and boiling dead bees.

Life in Carnwadric was quiet but interesting; right across the road from us was an old internment camp that used to house Italian prisoners of war. In it there was a big empty house on the hill, a forest, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, rose bushes and tall daisies, wild onions and, according to my little brother, dead Germans! There was also a row of little brick buildings that we called ‘The Zig-zags’, we thought they were probably dog kennels. We played house in them; they were just the right size for us. We’d sweep them out, and using spare bricks we found lying around, build furniture; little armchairs and sofas, with a table. Suburban Glasgow rocked; I had mystery and adventure inside and outside – the inner provided by Enid Blyton with The Secret Seven, and The Famous Five. I was so envious of the lives dealt out to these characters and always frustrated that I couldn’t re-create them in my own; my mother wouldn’t have a shed built at the bottom of our garden, nor would she buy enough ginger beer to serve to me and my friends; lemonade had to be good enough for us.

I went to stay with a friend in Stirling for a week and returned with the knowledge of how to build a den; so my friends and I began to dig a hole in the back garden, stacking up the clods of earth – they would be the walls, then we would lay a piece of corrugated iron across the top for the roof.

‘GET THAT CONTRAPTION OUT OF HERE!’ old-bag-upstairs shouted.

She always spoilt our fun, or complained whenever we did the slightest little thing. The den was finished and we were just about to have our first meeting of The Secret Four when she screamed. My father rapped on the window for us to come in. So, that was the end of that. Being seven in 1961 was very difficult; adults were the enemy and something to avoid at all costs – or play tricks on to get revenge. We leaned milk bottles full of water against her door, knocked and ran back into our house, back to the jigsaw in the big bedroom table. On Saturdays my father watched horse racing on the TV, with the sound up; he always took our side when Mrs Ratbag came complaining, but he told us off for annoying an old woman, even though she was a pest.

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