As part of National Novel Writing Month, (#NaNoWriMo) I've set myself the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel (1700 words a day), consisting of short stories about my memories of primary school. Just so that you know, all names of people have been changed unless they are publically known. Each story is based on my own memory, so may not be an exact representation of events, especially since I am writing this over 40 years after things happened! But I hope you will enjoy each story all the same, and that perhaps it will spark your own memories of life at primary school.
By far, one of the best things to do was to go to the local park on the next street to ours, and to ride our bikes as fast as we could over the sand dunes and jumps we built ourselves.
The boys all had BMX bikes, but I had a Raleigh racing bike that mum and dad had got me for Christmas after a lot of extra hours and saving of every penny they had, so I had a bit more of a challenge than the boys when it came to my bike not liking all the jumps, but I soon learnt to fix my own chain and to repair the punctures in the tyres, and soon I was helping the boys fix their bikes too. Each trip out, we would increase the stakes, building bigger and better jumps and daring each other to make the jumps.
When we weren't cycling, we would sit on the dusty floor, swapping 'spokey dokeys' a craze at that time for little plastic beads you could put on your bike spokes that made a noise when you cycled, and some would even glow in the dark.
I was invincible and I loved hanging out with the boys. They were less complicated than girls and so much more fun, and they didn't mind what we did all day, if we went for a ride on the common to the river, built pretend robots from bits of metal we found in the car park, looked for slow worms and adders, or tried to get the park swing to go right over the top bar with us still on it - we argued about whether this was an urban myth, or actually a possibility, but none of us had any knowledge of actual science or fact. Older kids had spoken of it, one kid was rumoured to have gone all the way over the bars, and one of the swings was higher up than the others, where the chains had gone over the bar, so to us it must be true and possible.
We even got to be in the newspapers together when the council decided to close down the park so they could build more houses, and we got asked to pull angry faces at the camera in protest, and to hold up placards with writing on about saving our park. Loads of people came to the park, people we hadn't even seen before, kids from the park on the other side of the estate, it was very exciting, and the next day people said that they saw our photo in the newspaper.
At one point we were a bit worried, because we weren't sure if you were allowed to say things that were opposite to important grown ups like Councils or the government and we were worried we might get arrested, but nothing bad happened, except that they still closed down our park anyway. It wasn't an official park anyway, more of a plot of wasteland that we had set up as a bike park. We had loads of ideas for what to do with the place if we'd won it to keep as ours.
When it came to the cycling, I wasn't the fastest by a long shot, but I had stamina and I was always the most daring and brave of our group, which seemed to bring some status in the pack, especially now we had all been on the papers and on the telly with our mini protest.
In some ways being smaller than everyone else actually helped me physically and because people underestimated me, but I was a tough little cookie. We didn't need to compete, we just lived in the moment, no care in the world, whatever life might be like at home, or how much trouble we would get in for being late home, or covered in dirt.
Given how daring my exploits were on my bike, I'm amazed that I only ever came away with three fairly minor injuries in all of that time (though I had a few bumps on bikes as a grown up which didn't heal quite as well as when I was a kid), but all of which seemed to add to my reputation as a daredevil and tomboy.
The first of these occurred whilst BMX biking but without my actually having a BMX bike, but in my head it was the best BMX bike in the world, in the best go fast stripes, and I was a champion cyclist about to cycle through rings of fire. I pedalled as hard and fast as I could, flew up and over a dirt jump, and somehow managed to turn my bike upside down in mid air, bum off the seat, hands attached to handlebars, and handlebars flying over my head, as I came to land right down on the ground on my bum, closely followed by my bike which landed on top of me. I was in so much pain, but I was far to stubborn to allow anyone to see me cry, so as fast as I could, I picked up my bike and cycled off home with exclamations of having to go home for tea, even though I was unable to actually sit on my saddle because my bum really hurt and I knew I had done something bad.
In fact I had broken a tiny bone called the coccyx, the tailbone of your spine, and I couldn't sit down properly for about twenty years after that, I certainly wasn't able to sit and cycle on my saddle for a long time, and even today my bum hurts when I ride a bike. I didn't even know it was broken until I was in hospital twenty or so years later, but sitting down in one position for long periods of time, like watching a film at the cinema, or on a long flight on an airplane, was very uncomfortable from that moment on, especially in the days when I didn't have much fat on my bottom. The doctor said that it had reset itself but at an awkward angle which was why it got uncomfortable to sit on for long periods of time. Luckily being an active child, I wasn't one for sitting down very much.
But the boys thought I'd meant to do that cool circle flip thing in the air, and hadn't even released I'd hurt myself, so my pride remained intact, and all requests for me to do another back flip on the bike, were brushed aside because at the end of the day 'it was nothing, and anyone could do it'. 'I could do it again, but I couldn't be bothered, I'd show them another day'. I was the coolest BMX biker in town!