I remember the very first time I 'twagged off' school (our local term for escaping the institution for the day) and it did me no good at all - I got bit by a horse. I won't bore you with the details but suffice to say that coming home with a badly torn shirt and blood pouring down your shoulder is a bit of a giveaway that you haven't been sat in a maths lesson all afternoon.
But that is probably not the worst thing I remember from those days.
As a small crowd of early teens my friends and I once travelled from the big city (population 275,000) to a village on the outskirts called Sutton for a bit of late night exploration. Things proved pretty uneventful until one of us noticed something a little odd in one of the house gardens. We gathered around the boundary fence trying to make out what it was but it was partly hidden so we did the obvious - we all climbed over the fence to get a better view.
It was dark at the time as we climbed commando style over the fence and I confess I don't remember feeling concerned about this. Curiosity had got the better of us. We gathered around 'the thing' in a bit of disbelief as none of us had the slightest idea what it was. I do remember, however, someone muttering. "Look at the size of that orange!" It wasn't an orange though - it was a pumpkin (as I learned many years later) and it was huge! Someone, I can't remember who, suggested we should take it home. That was obvious too!
It took some time to dislodge it and it was a lot heavier that we'd expected so getting it over the fence proved tricky. We pushed and pulled, some from under the 'big orange' and others from on top of the fence, and we were clearly making a lot of noise as suddenly a door of the house opened, light poured out and a voice shouted out "Oi!"
By this point we had managed to get it on top of the fence but in shock we dropped it and it hit the pavement with one hell of a thump and broke apart. Quite what the immediate consequences of this we didn't know as we all took to out heals and ran off but in the following days 'the great pumpkin raid' even made it into the local press. We laid low and were never questioned about the incident but it did crop up in conversions occasionally amongst those in the know from time to time.
This was me being an obnoxious teenager which, if we are honest, is a stage all of us went through. We did not do this as an act of wanton damage but simply out of an overexerted sense of curiosity yet I confess that I doubt that the person who had spent months maturing that 'big orange' will have agreed. I do wonder, though, what stories he might have had about his own teenager years.
attached photo - from an exhibition at the Sustainability Education Centre in Hobart TAS (August 2017)
Marc Armitage is a consultant, researcher and writer in play, playing and playwork. He has been a profesional Playworker for more than thirty-years and freelance since 1989.
He regularly travels the world speaking to groups of professionals from a broad spectrum of work sectors in the children and young peoples workforce including playworkers, early educators, primary and secondary school teachers, out-of-school people, parks and playground designers, politicians, policy makers and many others.
He also spends a lot of time talking with children. With. That's the key word.
"If you want to see what children can do, you must stop giving them things."
Norman Douglas, Folklorist 1868-1952
Marc will be hosting the first residential in Australia on the History of Play Theory. A multi-disciplinary, deep-time exploration of where our current thinking on play theory has come from.
For more detals of gigs and booking details see the events listings here.
If you can think of others that you feel I should be following please let me know.