Are you disappointed in the youth of today? Most people seem to be if what I read in the newspapers is accurate. They're loudmouthed, inconsiderate, poorly educated and seem to spend most of their evenings getting drunk and stabbing each other in the back at any town centre in England.
Well, some of them are....and it's our fault. We didn't teach them the two most important things in life. Appearance and responsibility.
Look, when I was young and I was going out for the evening I'd try to present myself nicely. Brush my hair, shirt and tie, nice jacket. Even for just wandering down to the pub on my own.
If you're out on a 'first date' with some lady then of course it'd depend on what you had planned. If it was the cinema with perhaps a late supper then shirt and tie with a nice sports jacket would be alright (don't forget to polish your shoes). If it was dinner and an evening sitting in a quiet upmarket lounge somewhere so that you can chat and get to know each other then of course it's a three piece suit with your best gold cufflinks. You'd be expected to be able to choose a nice wine with the meal and be a witty conversationalist.
What do you get now? When I see people going out in the evening they look like they've got dressed in the dark, nothing matches. And they don't even seem to notice. I doubt if they've even got a pair of shoes they can polish. All they wear on their feet are 'trainers'.
If you have pride in your appearance then you're careful of your behaviour too.
The second point is balancing freedom with responsibility. All teenagers want freedom, of course they do. They're not children any more and they want to explore the big, wide adult world out there. They'll try to push the limits.
When my mate Paul and I were about fifteen or so sneaking a quiet smoke was our silent rebellion. Now, that doesn't sound so bad does it? But, for some reason which I can't quite remember the quiet smoke had to be at about three o'clock in the morning underneath the bandstand in the town park.
I'd sneak out of my parents house and walk the two miles or so up to Pauls place and wake him up by tossing little stones at his bedroom window. Sometimes he'd do the same to me. Then we'd wander off to wake up another mate of ours, Macca McClain and the three of us'd creep off to the park. After getting inside, which was no mean feat in itself considering the nine foot high metal railings with spikes on the top that we'd have to climb over we'd find our way to the bandstand.
Then, for no sane reason, as we were hundreds of metres from the nearest house outside the park we'd crawl though a little hole and sit underneath the bandstand to have our ciggys. Afterwards we'd all go home again and (hopefully) creep back to our beds undetected.
Do you really think that none of our parents ever checked our bedrooms and found us missing? I think they did but, as long as we didn't come home with Mr Plod the policeman they just let us get on with it. They trusted our sense of responsibility.
Just as an aside, Macca McClain. We'd all still be about fifteen and one Sunday afternoon Paul and I went off to see him. He was in the back garden fiddling with his motorbike. He couldn't get the engine to bits so he'd popped it into the conveniently hot oven to expand the parts. Macca's mum came home to find a 175cc engine in the oven and the Sunday roast in the dog. When Paul and I left (ran off) she was chasing Macca around the garden with a stick.
Anyway, Paul and I made it to sixteen and for some reason got it into our heads that we'd like to have a weeks holiday in the countryside somewhere. Shropshire sounded good. I knew a bloke who had an aquaintance who's friend had the 'phone number of someone who might have a caravan to rent for a week. We rang the caravan bloke and arranged it......then we told our parents. They just shrugged and said "Alright.".
Paul and I planned it carefully...we thought.
We both had suitcases. So: Nice clothes for the evening (in case we got lucky), lots of film for the cameras as we planned on recording everything. As much ammunition as we could afford, planned on a bit of shooting when we got down there too. Paul noticed on the map that there was a pothole in the middle of a field so we took a couple of torches as well. Potholing would be something new.
We gave a lot of thought to what we'd eat. A Company called Vesta had just brought out something they called 'Beef Curry'. So, we took about thirty packets of Vesta Beef Curry with us. For those of you who've never tried it Vesta Beef Curry is a packet of rice and a separate packet of brown dust with lumps in it which purported to be dried beef. There were also dried sultanas in there which looked like shrivelled eyeballs so we'd just flick them out of the window.
Pauls dad had a motorcar and once we'd given him the petrol money he drove us down there. He left us at the end of a muddy track leading to what looked like an empty field with a cheery:
"I'll be back in a week........ Try to be here.". Then he drove off.
Well, the caravan was real. It was in one corner of the field. At the opposite end of the field there was a standpipe that'd cough up muddy water. Off to one side was a wooden shed about five feet square with a toilet bowl in it that seemed to lead to a bottomless pit. When you used it there was never any sound of anything hitting solid ground.
So, for a week we lived in a thin aluminium box with no heating (freezing cold nights) and gas lights. We ate beef curry for lunch and beef curry for dinner, breakfast was leftover beef curry on a sandwich. I've never eaten beef curry since. The standpipe was a long way away and geese used to chase us when we went out so we didn't bother washing the two pans and plates we had, just scraped yesterdays lumpy beef curry off them and piled the fresh stuff on.
At two in the morning, ten miles away from the caravan and in the middle of God knows where we saw a bat. Paul says he saw a meteorite too. Nobody told us the entrance to the pothole was three feet wide and eighteen inches high. Or that you had to lie on your back in a stream to get inside. That was cold and the highest cavern we found was about four feet high.....and two feet wide.
Paul got hayfever and I knocked my kneecap sideways falling over a tree root. On Saturday morning I brought buckets of water from the standpipe while Paul held off the geese by shooting at the ground in front of them with a .22 rifle. We sluiced the caravan out and made the beds.
At lunchtime Pauls' dad picked us up. Halfway home he asked how it'd been.
"Great." we said "Can't wait to come back.".
We didn't bother to tell him about the run in we'd had with some local yokels or the two canadian girls we'd met in 'The Stormy Petrel' pub. There are some things parents are better off not knowing.