Paul Stainton: The simple pleasures of childhood

I was ten years old during the summer of 1976, a snotty, blonde haired, David Gower wannabe, with freckles and a penchant for Anglo bubbly.

Sunday, 21st August 2016, 2:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:35 pm
Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host -

For the whole of that six-week summer holiday I only went inside when I needed food or somewhere to lay my weary head; it may be forty years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

The parched, straw coloured grass and the long, steaming hot days, when it seemed to stay light forever and the games of cricket that continued until it was pitch black, or when one of you got hit on the head (whichever came soonest).

Blue skies and sunshine appeared to greet every waking day in that particular school holiday; there was no need to open the curtains in the morning, you just knew it was going to be another great day.

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As kids you didn’t worry about stand pipes in the street or hosepipe bans, so what if the crops were dying in the fields in 1976 or that Big Ben had seized up; as long as you had your sandwiches, some squash and your bat and ball, every day was a glorious one, when you were ten and the sun was in the sky.

The only distraction was a television, but then only on a Saturday morning, for the Phantom flan flinger and Noel Edmonds’ knitted tank tops.

It was difficult to choose between the two shows and I would often sit next to the telly, pressing the big buttons and channel hopping, in order to catch the best bits of Tiswas or some big pop star on Swap Shop.

Where was Keith Chegwin going to be this week, who was in the Tiswas cage and would Spit the dog behave?

Forward wind forty years and my daughter and everyone else’s kids have to be surgically removed from their devices, before you can push them, kicking and screaming, into the fresh air.

Of course they have a lot more demands on their time these days and who is to say how we would have behaved had we access to the gadgets and gizmos of today.

But I can’t help thinking that whilst they spend the majority of their waking hours in this virtual online world they are missing out on the simple pleasures in the real world, simple pleasures that cost nothing, yet teach you so much about life.

Today’s children spend half the time we did playing outside and in Peterborough that is a crime, with so many award winning parks and fantastic open spaces for them to choose from.

We learnt so much as kids from just being outdoors and creating adventures with just the raw materials at hand - climbing trees, building a den, playing pooh sticks or hunting for butterflies and bugs – often the best fun came out of being bored and just finding something to 

I have resorted (with the help of other like-minded parents) to organising “fun” days outside with her friends and confiscating all devices; cries of “I’m bored,” were met with, “Here’s a stick, now get outside and use your imagination.”

It’s amazing how many things a stick can be; a wand, a broom, a pen or even a magic javelin! What’s also amazing is how quickly they remember to be children again.