Describe Your Childhood In One Word.

Great Britain


A new international study has warned that British children are now among the least active in the world. Research comparing the activity levels of children in 38 countries put England, Wales and Scotland behind Ireland, Slovenia and the United Arab Emirates. Scottish children are the worst. Also, ‘Generation Stress’ millennials are now suffering from ‘old person’ ailments from lower back pain to ulcers.

The requirements of being ‘on’ all the time are apparently to blame, and the rise of video games must play a part, as they drain away imagination rather than inspire it.

As a child I played in the street with friends and got bashed about a lot. Our games were not sport-based but complicated scenarios from historical battles to crime stories. After, we would write them up in the newspaper we were creating. We were not unusual children. Endless stuff to make – ships, planes, houses, steam engines – walks and museums,  toys to build from scratch – all helped fire our imaginations. I don’t remember a time when we weren’t trying to invent something over-elaborate and vaguely dangerous. We were very much kids doing kid things, until about 12 or 13. we were explicitly instructed not to try adult things, which came later. If I had to describe my childhood in a word, it would be ‘inventive‘. The habit of constantly having to think up solutions to problems real or imagined translates directly into writing.

Filling notebooks, drawing comics, packing one’s mind with influences, mulching them, and then regurgitating the mulch into some kind of story you’ve made your own has always felt like the natural thing to do. It’s less to about physical activity than brain-training. I eventually became a copywriter to train my mind more toward thinking up solutions but the roots were there when I was young.

I have a friend who wants to switch to writing novels, yet shows no inclination to ever write anything down, and I cannot believe he’s considering leaving his job to follow this new career. Maybe he’ll succeed, but I doubt it. One thing seems clear; in the process of brain-training maybe I over-qualified myself.  The current crime fiction lists have some truly lousy books in them with prose that seems copied from TV shows.

I’ve mentioned AD Miller and Keith Ridgway in the past for virtually reinventing genres with simple, brilliant ideas. But who wants anything new anymore? In times of crisis we crave comfort food, old-fashioned books and movies we’ve seen a hundred times.

I think how you describe your childhood says a lot about you as an adult. While you’re thinking about that, here’s something very inventive. I never care for their music, but all

11 comments on “Describe Your Childhood In One Word.”

  1. Ruth says:

    The word that sprang to mind to describe my childhood before I’d read your post was cosy. Oh dear – what does that say about me as an adult!

    But in the same way as you and your inventive friends, I was left to get on with it as a child – playing out, exploring , starting elaborate clubs, making up games – and was fairly oblivious of the grown-up world around me. I think it was cosy in a sort of Enid Blyton Secret Seven sort of way.

  2. Charles says:

    Don’t knock video games until you’ve actually played them. Sure, I think games like Call of Duty where the aim of the game is apparently to shoot your friend’s head off are no good to society, but not all games are like that. An explorative game like The Legend of Zelda is all about problem-solving and thinking about the objects in your world differently. There’s a bunch of sword-swinging too, but I’d say that’s a minor part of the game. Games like Super Mario or Mario Kart are harmless. But just like anything else, whether that’s hockey, television, or sweets, people should do these things in moderation.

  3. Brian Evans says:

    My childhood was remarkably like admin’s.

    “Adventurous” is the word I would choose.

  4. John Griffin says:

    Whole days spent out with one’s mates or on one’s own, dirt biking, building pram-wheel gokarts and dens, underground or up trees, fishing for tiddlers, often travelling miles before coming home when parents finished work. My sixth formers think we made it up, but in their world there’s always been mobile phones and computers. Some of them are frankly, fat. The girls are largely only interested in make-up and celebrity TV.

  5. admin says:

    I love video games, Charles, especially the problem-solving ones. I meant more that playing in isolation or with others online is a pretty lousy substitute for the kinds of childhoods I see in other parts of Europe, where children interact with each other.

  6. Vivienne says:

    Reading. But I ran to school in the morning – about a mile- then back home for lunch, then back to school for the afternoon and then, coming home, either along by the stream, trying to cross without getting wet feet or through the woods, or off to the bombed out or derelict farmhouse. These days I do despair that in schoool holidays the parks are empty (except I get to eat all the blackberries).

  7. Helen Martin says:

    Reading. But before we moved to the countryside we had an empty lot next to our house. Empty lots were the greatest invention in the world because they weren’t empty at all. Ours had alders and huckleberry bushes (the red kind not the bluish ones) and we built a hut in there from the alder shoots. “Up on the Peninsula” we had a creek going through our property and the bridge could stand in for almost anything, including Juliet’s balcony. There were fish in the pool and the summer coolness almost made up for having to carry buckets of water up the icy log steps when the ground froze and we had no water. I “wrote” stories as I walked up the hill to the bus and that habit has stayed with me. When I’m bored and haven’t a book I write some more in my head. Currently it’s a group of women trying to start an innovative private school. (There are a number of educational controversies going on just now.)

  8. Charles says:

    Admin, you’re right about that. We had Game Boys when we were kids, and we mostly played them on road trips, in the van going to places, and on the school bus. Of course, we played them a lot at home too, but I was the kind of kid where I would have had my nose buried in a book if I wasn’t doing anything else, or exploring the forest trails alone on my bike. I used to spend the whole day just biking around. I preferred solititude, I guess. Never did much with kids my age.

  9. Adam says:

    I’d go with ‘curious’ – loved exploring and finding out about all kinds of things, from Celtic history to black holes. Don’t totally dispair in the kids today, as I don’t think things have really changed that much. My 11 yr old daughter (and everyone she knows) are really into an app called “musicly”. You mime a video along to a pop song, and get likes from friends. So far, so horrible. It was only when she showed me a few she’d done that I could see how much creativity she’d put into the editing, storyboarding and collaboration with friends to get the end result. On the health side, you’d be really surprised to see how many kids take part in the Saturday parkrun’s – well over a hundred each week at my local one.

  10. John Howard says:


  11. Alan says:


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