Reclaiming an age of innocence
WHEN THEY come to judge the reasons for the complete breakdown of British society in a 2025 show trial, they should call as evidence The Dangerous Book For Boys.
(Yes, I’ve managed to get down from that tree, thank you.)
Not because it has contributed in any way to the disintegration of life as we knew it, but because the very fact that it was published six years into the new Millennium tells us an awful lot about the innocence we have lost.
If you are unfamiliar with this best-selling tome, its premise is simple: a compendium of 100 or so subjects that boys should know about, from “Making A Bow And Arrow” to “Five Knots Every Boy Should Know”. There are useful Latin phrases, historical chapters on the British Empire and The Romans, “A Brief History Of Artillery” and the essential “Hunting And Cooking a Rabbit”.
It is a work of simple brilliance, tapping into the lost youth of 40-something fathers while hopefully tempting obese 10-year-olds away from their computer games and out into the fresh air. I mean, who could resist skimming stones or making secret ink; building a tree house or learning to play poker?
Open it up and William and his gang of Outlaws spring to life. Every pocket contains a conker, a fluff-encrusted Olde English Spangle and a penknife – used, in this instance, for removing stones from horses’ hooves, rather than disembowelling an annoying schoolmate.
It’s even educational, with sections on Grammar (remember that?) and “Five Poems Every Boy Should Know”. There’s a breathless hush in the Close tonight, Ten to make and the match to win, A bumping pitch and a blinding light, An hour to play and the last man in.
Why have we lost the combination of imagination and adventure that sustained many of us through our youth? When did we lose the ability to pass on those social skills to our children? Why are they fat and feckless, while we were lean and lively?
True, times have changed. These days a paedophile lurks in every bush when in our day it was just Barmy John, the willy-waving roundabout rider, who we instinctively knew to stay away from. Try to build a Go-Cart today and you hit an immediate problem – there are no prams from which you might steal the wheels. Everyone’s got one of these ludicrous four-wheel-drive, six-position, leather-seated, £500 baby buggies. With a CD player.
Make your own catapult and an Armed Response Unit will soon have you pinned down behind the swings; experimenting with timers and tripwires will have Special Branch storming up your stairs at six in the morning (even if you don’t have £38,000 in used fivers in the cellar); tanning a skin is likely to upset your lentil-eating sister if it doesn’t involve the local beauty salon. And then there’s the thorny topic of girls.
The Dangerous Book For Boys , clearly recognising the intense difficulty of the subject, is cautious in its advice. Don’t tell them rude jokes, don’t be vulgar (e.g. excessive bottom burps) and make sure your nails are clean. An innocent age indeed, especially when the object of one’s desire has probably got tattoos, multiple piercings and a thong by the age of 11.
WHEN I’M lying in my hospital bed, what would I rather see? An impressive array of hi-tech equipment being used by well-trained professionals, or a 9ft multi-coloured sculpture of a rock climber? It’s not a difficult question, is it?
Yet Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust has decided to fork out an incredible £50,000 on the aforementioned sculpture on the spurious grounds that the artwork will improve the hospital’s environment and assist in the recovery of patients.
If the Trust was awash with cash, like some of our obscenely rich animal charities that struggle to spend the millions bequeathed to them by mad old ladies, perhaps such indulgence could be forgiven. But this particular organisation is an impressive £37million in debt. To blow the cost of 12 kidney operations or the salaries of two nurses on such an indulgence therefore seems a little perverse.
But what do I know. I’m just one of the mugs who funds such stupidity through my ever-increasing taxes.
CAN ANYONE explain to me why Baden Baden is full of footballer’s wives and girlfriends? What possible purpose are they serving out there, other than to disrupt and deflect the attention of our players from more important matters at hand?
These are high-maintenance women, more Lynda Snell than Clarrie Grundy. It can’t be easy learning how to defend a near-post corner (something most of us mastered in junior school) when you’ve got a whining wife perpetually on your mobile droning on about spray tans, hair extensions and Nancy Del Olive Oil’s suspiciously prominent Adam’s apple.
You can bet that Ecuador aren’t suffering from the same distractions. I only hope that Sven’s tactical masterplan of selecting a strike force consisting of a circus freak, a little boy and two near cripples is enough to see us through.
I REDISCOVERED the long-lost joys of oxtail soup the other day. It’s meat, only in a cup. What a fantastic invention. No wonder the sun never sets on the British Empire.
O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone who was accidentally exposed to Tony Woodcock's "German porn star" hairstyle the other night, of anyone who doesn't want Ghana to thump Brazil, or of anyone not genuinely upset because a huge windfarm off the Norwegian coast has minced up this year's entire stock of white eagle chicks. Why can't the tree-hugging bastards just go nuclear like us?