Childhood recollections: the winter of 1981-82

I recently asked the editor of Village News if I could maybe tell a tale of life in the village long before us kids had the gadgets and technology that are so common place in most households these days.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a forty-one year old man (going on 18, I like to think) who can’t live without his IPod, but still yearns for his carefree childhood. I grew up in Wilstone and still have fond memories of the times that we made our own amusement to see us through, what can only be described as a period of self learning. As winter is now upon us I want to share with you the following story.

The year is 1981-82 and us kids have all traipsed through the snow to assemble at the phone box to await the school coach to get us either to the Primary at Long Marston or the Secondary at Tring. As children we were told that if the coach was not there at nine then go home – it will not be coming. So we took that to mean that if we were not able to see the coach that it had not turned up. Having posted a trusty scout to keep a watchful eye on any signs of our unwanted transport we proceeded to back our way down the lane. By two minutes to nine we were off and running for a day of unabridged fun.

With snow at knee height, we kids were in our element. First stop was the canal. I doubt if that stretch of water has frozen over as thick as it did that year, as the winters are not what they were. That day about twenty or so of us had high tailed it from the collection point and on our travels came across a battered old kitchen table. How it became an ice hockey set I still don’t recall, yet the legs became sticks, the molded features became goals and any piece of timber left were used as pucks.

We then split into teams and played against one another all morning, gliding across the ice in our shoes, laughing and hollering without a care in the world. We only ever scrambled for the bank when someone had strayed too close to the edges near the reeds and the sound of ice cracking was loud enough to scare us for a few minutes before we battled on.

When I look back at that time, I still see those smiling faces and how we made the best of what our surroundings offered us. In truth we were all lucky to walk away from what could have been a disaster waiting to happen. For younger readers: don’t play on the canal – we were lucky.

Like any thing at that age we soon became bored of ice skating with chunks of wood and made our way to the steep banks of the reservoir, where a plastic sack obtained from Glasser’s became a toboggan of speed. It also became a toboggan of: “I wish this bag was thicker, my butt and groin are killing me”. If you have read this and doubted that it actually happened, then I ask you to consider a time when the village was a world away from the everyday horror stories we see and read about in our daily lives. My tale may seem hard to believe, yet it is one of many I could regale of a place where friendships were formed and still grow. I will never again have the mind of a child on a cold winter’s day, but if it snows tomorrow I will bloody well do my best to push back the years.

by Damian Boyce

This article is an extract from previous issue of the Village News. Any mention to events in the article have probably long since passed and are for information only.

Village News February 2010

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