Today’s youth is completely different from the youth of my generation. They never seem to want to go out and explore, get up to mischief, play knock and run or put coke bottles in their bike tyres to make it sound like a broken motorbike. Instead they prefer the comfort of their bedroom, communicating with friends over console chat systems and mobile phones.
When I was a lad I’d wake up in the morning and have some breakfast, get dressed, then go to knock on my friend’s door. We’d spend all day in the woods building bases, climbing trees and lighting fires, only returning home when we were hungry, or if we hit the “before its dark” curfew imposed on us by our parents.
I’m not sure if the kids are entirely to blame in this situation though. I think a lot of the blame lyes with the paranoia of parents who watch the news, and the perceived safety concerns around kids these days. That and technology for making it easier than ever to keep in touch with friends without clapping eyes on them for weeks or months.
One of the most memorable bases built by me and my friends was an old, disused, brick mine ventilation shaft. It had been filled in but the concrete ended about six feet below the brick level, with only about one foot protruding from the ground around it. The shaft was roughly 8 feet square inside, with the brick work taking up another foot all the way around.
As soon as we found the shaft we knew exactly what to do with it; build an underground base of course! We used logs and old four by two timbers to cover the top of the shaft, followed by scraps af particle board, plywood and any other sheet material we could lay our hands on. We then threw over a huge plastic sheet, then proceeded to bury the roof over the course of a week with shovels and an old wheel barrow with rust holes all over it.
The door was a simple affair. It was an old “stack and store” box filled with dirt and slid into a hole left in the roof just big enough for the box to slide in, with the lip of the box resting on the edges to prevent it from falling through. Once closed, kicking a little dirt over the lip of the box made our new underground base pretty much invisible unless you knew it was there.
Inside we spent our pocket-money on silver spray paint and battery operated lights from Your More Store. I’m sure at eleven we chose silver because it was cool, but it actually reflected the light from the cheap six volt incandescent lights and made the place seem lighter.
Someday I may take my kids to the site of this base, which is back to being a hole in the ground with a bunch of collapsed timbers slowly rotting back into the earth. Hopefully it might spur them on to go exploring the way I used to when I was their age. Every child should experience an underground base or a treehouse, along with the sheer joy of building it in the first place and the bruises from falling out the tree.