The pampered youth of today have it easy – laptops, iPods, £120 trainers, computer games consoles, the list goes on. When to give your child a mobile phone seems to be a dilemma many parents of young children have; of course they can call you in an emergency but will probably rack up huge bills calling their friends to discuss football or High School Musical before swapping it for a skateboard. The technology available to kids these days means that they see the world from a different perspective than I did as a nipper. For example we never knew any of our teacher’s names; the kids these days can look them up on Facebook and look at pictures of them taken the previous weekend when they were out with their friends, drunk and with a traffic cone on their heads. Then we wonder why the youth of today have no respect for their elders.
When I think back to my childhood I remember long hot summers, climbing trees, walking up a cobbled street with a basket containing a loaf of bread – wait a minute; that was the Hovis advert! I cannot really say we had it tough but being the child of single parent meant treats were scarce. People think I am joking when I say I never had a bike until I was 14. The bike I finally received was a refurbished boneshaker that my friend Johnnie West found in his shed. He painted the frame sky blue and the mudguards red. It had metal lever brakes and no gears. After presenting me with it on my birthday we rode to where all the cool kids rode their bikes and did wheelies and other stunts. Oh how they laughed and pointed at my rubbish bike. I threw the bike down and never rode it again. As far as my friendship with Johnnie was concerned I was tempted to tell him where to stick his stupid bike. Even in my immature mind I could it was a nice gesture, but why couldn’t he have carved me a Chopper out of wood or something.
The Chopper bike is enough to make men of a certain age go dewy eyed. It was a bike that had a huge seat big enough for giving your friends lifts, so clearly it was a perfect bike for my friends to have so they could take me with them. But let me tell you; did peddling up some of those hills look like hard work or what - as I sat there on the back eating a Curly Wurly. For safety reasons Raleigh, the manufacturers put a label on the seat saying something like “This bike is not designed to carry passengers” which has the same effect on children as a big red button saying “Do not press this button”.
It is hard to imagine what my life would have been like had the computer been invented when I was a teenage boy. So what did we have as an alternative to the computer? Freeman’s catalogue, which as I remember it, was a thick, glossy book of dreams that was sent bi-annually as I remember it and I would await the arrival of the latest book with as much anticipation as a teenager waiting for the next Harry Potter book. The catalogue allowed me to sneak a look at the women’s underwear page, browse the toy section and look longingly at the bicycle page where I would admire the shiny bits and long flowing lines of the Raleigh 10-speed racing bikes.
Another device we had to do without was portable music players like the iPod, but we improvised and made do; for example if you turned up our record player enough you could you could just about hear it in the garden.
So going without did not really have any bad effect on me, or maybe it did; when I was 19 I got my first credit card which had £450 credit limit and promptly went out and bought a £449.99 hi-fi. Oh that and the fact that I cannot watch the Tour de France without getting a bit aroused!