Yup. Feeling a bit nostalgic today and this old advert is about as nostalgic as it gets.

I was thinking about the places I used to go when I was a child. It seemed that I could walk just a few minutes and I’d find some wild place. Sometimes a wood, other times a piece of barren land, or even an old derelict house. One of our favourite haunts was The Dump, an old piece of scrub just outside my old primary school in Haywards Heath. It wasn’t supposed to be a dump, but people left all sorts of rubbish there. I remember finding an old Christmas Tree that had gone brown, and dragging it all the way home, and I just didn’t understand when my Mum told me to take it back. I found some old lawn-edging shears. They looked alright to me, but they were a bit rusty I suppose. And we were always told not to hide in the fridges when we were playing hide and seek, just in case the door slammed and locked, and we would be strapped inside. Of course The Dump is now a housing estate.

IMG_7555There were a lot more derelict houses back then too. I know it’s good to make use of brown field places and rebuild on them, but man we loved finding an old empty building. Again we were told not to go in, but that’s a red rag to a bull to a young boy and his mates. I had two favourites. One was the old fire station just at the edge of Victoria Park, the other a huge abandoned girl’s school called Trevelyan. The fire station was on the main road of the high street, but once you got inside it was quiet, dark, broken, and hugely exciting. Vampires lived there. I was sure of that. We explored each room by torchlight. We never found their coffins, but they were there all right.

The old school was a massive multi-storey building. You had to slide under a couple of barbed wire fences, but then you were in the grounds. It had a grand entrance hall, and in many of the rooms the bookshelves lay broken, spilling books onto the floor, as if they had just fallen just a few days before. Floorboards had gone in many of the rooms and walking across them, with the drop to the room below clearly visible… Man, the crazy things kids do.

There were ghosts there, that’s for sure. These were more real than the Firehouse Vampires (what a great name for a band!!) By the time you climbed the high staircase up the seven floors to the roof you had walked through countless cold-spots, heard the sound of feet on broken glass and, somewhere in the building the creaking of a door. It was very spooky at night. I remember going there once after dark, sliding under the wires, walking up the steps towards the entrance hall, and stepping inside. My friend froze. Bid me to stop. To stay still. Then a voice, booming, “What do you think you’re doing in here AAAAAGGGHHH!! What do you think you’re doing in here AAAAAGGGHHH!!” We ran.

It was a ghost of course.

Did you ever pack a survival kit – water, some crisps, a pen knife, you know, all of the important stuff, and head out into The Wild? We did that a lot. The Wild was often a woods near Franklyn Village. It wasn’t big, but it felt big to us back then, everything did. We talked of how we would survive there. We cut spears to hunt, lit a small fire, and ate our crisps. We told spooky stories. Life was going to be tough, but we would do it. We were ready.

But then it got dark, and we had to get home for tea.

Next time I’d bring a yoghurt.