I was small, weedy even, as a kid. Not that I was often aware of it. Let’s face it the body we inhabit is rarely the one that others see from the outside. It was only when I found it incredibly hard to keep up with my sister on our bikes, or when I was left yards behind her when running races, that size was ever an issue.
Whilst others might be looking at a rather weedy kid; inside I was the match for any hero on the radio. I really didn’t know the meaning of “Cannot do that” – that kind of thinking was for sissies and wimps. That thinking certainly makes for interesting events and escapades.
I suppose I had better remind you that those were much freer and easier times and that children were pretty much left up to their own devices for the majority of the day. We would appear at fairly regular intervals for such things as lunch and tea, but in general kids obeyed the mantra that it was better not to be seen or heard.
The very best way for that was to be off with friends and well out of the way of mums. Dads lived in some other world entirely. They appeared on the scene in the evenings after doing whatever it was they did to keep out of the way. Life was pretty much organised on those relaxed lines and it worked well – for most of the time anyway.
The spaces surrounding the airfields always had air raid shelters, which basically consisted of big concrete bunkers set half way into the ground and then covered with earth and grass.
The best way to describe them is rather like the earth domes of the eco warriors of today. Except that they were more like the top half of a tunnel rather than a dome. You could swoop down from the tops pretending to be an aircraft or you could just hang out on them watching the other kids playing all round. One of the best games of all was “King of the Castle” and this attracted kids of all ages. The idea was simple, you had to get everyone else off the top of the air raid shelter and then you would be “King”.
After a while the game would get more interesting as alliances were formed amongst the vanquished and they would set about sneaking up on the current King. I am sure that psychologists and educational specialists would all decry such games, but they kept us happy for hours at a time.
Naturally there were some whose sheer size meant that they regularly dominated the games but that didn’t seem to deter the rest of us. One of these was significantly bigger than the rest of us and would only appear from time to time when he was at a loose end. Crusher was guaranteed to be King for as long as he wanted, but sometimes everything didn’t go quite as he wanted.
One of those occasions was when the smaller kids chose to break into two separate groups and attacked him from two separate sides. A huge melee ensued with bodies rolling down the slopes all over the place, but eventually the King too was toppled and fell down the grass to the bottom amidst a pile of other children.
That was my moment and I seized it and rushed up to the top of the shelter and shouted out for all to hear that “I was the King of the Castle!”
This so enraged Crusher that he stormed up the sides and took me and threw me right off the far end right into the concrete well where the entrance to the shelter was.
That ended the game immediately as everyone realised he had gone too far and things had gone wrong. I ended up with one of my fairly regular visits to casualty and soon had a cast on my suspected broken arm.
When asked about how it had happened I simply said I had fallen whilst playing. It didn’t seem worthwhile going into too much detail and so that was the end of the matter. Although I did receive my by now pretty standard lecture about being silly and getting into scrapes, but that was par for the course anyway and I don’t recall any of these making the slightest bit of difference!
A few days later we were back on the shelters playing “King of the Castle” when who should appear but Crusher. Now I am not really vengeful, but the arm had been giving me quite a bit of pain and aggravation and so I thought that it was time for some payback. I had all the advantages in this situation. He was clearly uncomfortable with seeing me with my arm in plaster, but wasn’t willing to show any remorse.
That didn’t stop me from getting my revenge and as it was close to teatime, after I had done what was necessary I headed back home for beans on toast or some such delight!
We had hardly finished our food when there was a thunderous knock at the door and there stood an irate woman with her son beside her. It was Crusher’s mum.
“I want to know what you are going to do about this!” she shouted, dragging her son forward. “Look at his head. I don’t care if you are an officer’s family you can’t do this to us!”
My mother looked forward and in her typical bossy nursing sister’s tone she dismissed the rather large egg shape on the boy’s head, just above his eye.
“Well, that’s a good duck egg there. Excellent, it means that the bruising is all on the outside, so there is no danger of concussion then!”
Crusher’s mum stared open mouthed. The thought of anything as bad as concussion hadn’t even entered her head.
“What are you going to do about it though? That’s what I want to know. Your boy has no right to go round half killing young lads like my boy. It’s wrong he should be punished. I want a word with him – NOW!
My mother said nothing and simply called for me.
“Come here now Michael!”
I knew that things were pretty bad when she used my full name, so I appeared pretty swiftly. With that Ma simply pushed me forward in front of the woman and the Big Thug.
As I stood there, shorter than Crusher by a good head and a half, the other mother gulped quickly and simply turned on her heel, grabbed her son by the ear and marched him off down the garden path with some severe muttering about “Showing her up in front of an officer’s wife”. I am pretty sure that the Big Thug was in for an uncomfortable time and that cheered me up even more.
“I am waiting for an explanation,” began my mother. “How did all that happen, and no stories now!”
“Well, he was the one who broke my arm last week,” I began.
“That doesn’t explain that huge bump on his head. You didn’t hit him with a rock or stick did you?”
I shook my head vigorously. That kind of thing was strictly not allowed.
I looked down for a moment and then just brought up my broken arm. “It was handy, so I hit him with it!”
So, if you are ever concerned about your child being at a disadvantage with a broken arm. Remember that casts make exceedingly good weapons!