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When I were a lad...

Oh that phrase and all of its proxies... how loud it sounded back when I was young. There'd scarce be a week went by without someone with a significant head start on my years, telling me how lucky I was to be born in those, the glory years.

TV? they had to cope with Radio... Bikes? There was one in the village and it belonged to the Police Constable... Holidays? Seven days a year spent twenty miles away on the Baltic North Sea coast... oh to be alive now... what my Gran-dad, Nan, Uncle Jim, The local shopkeeper, the School Chaplain, the dinner ladies and that mad old lady with the cats... Oh what they would give for a world of Lego, Subbuteo, Nintendo, colour tv and BMXs....

Well, I have to give them the last one... I loved my BMX almost as much as I loved my sister (sometimes more.)

It was bright blue and had white Skyways. (cool rims for anyone under or over 40). I'd customised it by making my grumpy dad get his ratchet set out and bolt two great pegs to the rear axle. I'd gotten them because I was planning on becoming a world famous stunt rider and touring the world doing endos and barrel jumps over flaming pits of lava... but really it just meant I could give my best mate Scott backies.

We had the Nintendo and the Lego and the colour TV in the room too, but my BMX offered something none of the others did... It offered freedom and not just any kind of freedom. My BMX promised me and my best mates the freedom to own the Summer and own it we did...

I'm not a Brian Adams fan, but I understand his love of The Summer of 69. The best days of my life came a little later around 1982/3. There were no guitars, bands or making out on Mama's porch, but there was something greater. Over that summer Scott and I and my trusty BMX steed, built tree houses that would shame Channel 4's Grand Design. We constructed flying fox zip wires that Kiwi thrill seekers would happily have shelled out $50 a pop to ride. We found secret bases, buried treasures, we ran away from home and lasted almost until dark, we stole apples from the walled manor garden and made clean getaways heavily loaded with illicit fruit, but most of all we got outside. To my BMX, miles were minutes and no challenge seemed too great or too far. We swam in the wild valley pools, picnicked by the fifty tonne boulder and we counted bats under the arches of the distant viaduct.  

So now when my kids ask me for iPads, smart phones and laptops I find myself answering with the familiar refrain... “Oh, when I were a lad...”
Of course when they ask me for a bike I'm done for... I only hope they want BMX's (or a dirt bike... I'd have loved a dirt bike!)

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