those lazy, hazy days of summer

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I’m not looking for sympathy here as this probably applies to many of us but, as Autumn prepares to be formally welcomed, for the second year on the trot I’ve not been on holiday. Now, okay, and before some wag points out that every day for me should be classed as a holiday, let me clarify and say I’ve not been away on holiday! However, the continuing Covid-enforced time on my hands has allowed me to don the ol’ rosy-tinteds and cast my mind back to the sepia coloured memories of childhood summers.

To those of us who grew-up In the 60s and 70s days, horizons were far broader than those of today, where virtually any destination can be yours within a matter of hours. No one went abroad except to fight a war was the commonly-held belief. Actual holidays, if they took place, were invariably thrifty and frugal affairs but the school holidays (and I remember them being increased from a mere four weeks to an unimaginable five) were periods of unbridled frivolity and freedom. Before the advent of video games and budget airlines ‘free-range’ children roamed far and wide, spending entire days unsupervised and unobserved.

The simple fact was that parents in those days did not plan summer around the entertainment or development of their offspring and being neither heard nor seen remained paramount. Benign neglect was the order of the day and, rather than our elders and betters arranging endless activities and experiences, it was down to the kids to entertain themselves. With no iPhones to hand it was down to us to fill our own time, and I’m sure I not only speak for myself when I say there was n’er a boring moment. And with bath-night always being days, if not weeks away, our unkempt, grubby, knee-skinned gang of hand-me-downs treated the neighbourhood as a whole universe and getting out into a wood, across the farmers’ fields and down to a giggling spring was a veritable lifeline from the back alleys of Coronation Street. Playing, running, chasing, shouting, discovering, reading and imagining was the name of the game. Mind, I still carry the scar of a .22 pellet being fired into my leg at point blank range. 

Every stand-up comic appears to tell a tall tale of their own nostalgically grim unseat-belted, travel-sick-flecked car journey in the family Hillman Imp while their parents chain-smoked in the front arguing over pre-sat-navved directions, but for those of us who were there, this wild, eccentric, poor-yet-rich time remains unashamedly brilliant fun. Having said that, God I hope I get away next year!

PS And the real beauty of those long, digitally unconnected summers was that when you did all eventually go back to school, everyone truly had changed. Those Shippam’s meat paste sandwiches and swigs of dandelion & burdock had had their desired effect and you were bigger, stronger and more confident and enthusiastic than before. Some had learned to play guitar or speak in a foreign tongue, perhaps with a broken voice, whilst others had developed a furry top-lip or even had the beginning of bosoms…