I can still remember that sense of increasing speed as the billy cart sped down the hill followed by a horde of whooping kids.
The wind blew through my hair and I felt excited but scared too. We hadn’t really thought about how it was going to stop – but stop it did as I flew through the air to land in a handy bush just short of the river.
I crawled out covered with bruises and scratches but it was still worth it. I still love speed, even though I drive a tiny hail-dented Suzuki grandma car.
The neighbourhood kids would gather on the weekend with the makings of a billy cart. An old pram chassis for the wheels, a bit of a timber crate. Some ropes and a few nails. All tied together with an old tricycle steering wheel to make it look more like a car.
We would daub it with a bit of paint, put in an old cushion and take it out on the street for its maiden voyage.
In those days the streets had far less traffic as most families didn’t have cars. It was a sloping street leading down to a grass and tree-verged river at the bottom.
We were great at inventing tweaks and improvements. From adding bicycle wheels at the back and even a form of braking – which I still don’t quite understand as it seemed miraculous at the time.
Old bicycle lights were hung on the front so we could use them in the twilight. And the bruises became badges of honour. I still have a scar on my left forefinger where I came into close contact with a concrete fence. Mum wasn’t happy about that one.
We would take turns to have a ride, yelling with glee and followed by the other kids waiting for their own turn.
I’m not sure how we didn’t get more broken limbs, but one poor boy did break his leg when he crashed into a tree at the bottom.
His mum was pretty cranky as he was in plaster the rest of the summer and he followed us around looking mournful as he manoeuvred himself around on his crutches.
I look at my grandchildren, and other children, closeted away from danger, I am saddened as I realise we do need to care for them and keep them safe – but something has been lost from the sense of adventure, of being a bit reckless and adventurous.
The world was not really that innocent then, but we thought it was, so we lived accordingly.
I wonder if those times of innocence will ever come again.