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Backwords: Springtime

Mike Shaw recalls the thrills of hurry cart racing.

For lots more of Mikeís memories please click on Backwords in the menu on this page.

The great awakening is upon us. Spring is here.

All the age-old signs are evident as the human race begins to shake off its winter slumbers.

Tennyson had a delicate way of putting it when he wrote about a young manís fancy lightly turning to thoughts of love.

Nowadays the sap rises more reluctantly in my not-so-young frame.

But itís reassuringly refreshing to see the spring friskiness of my youth reincarnated in todayís younger generation.

Things do seem to have changed, however, among those lads and lasses too young to be preoccupied with the attractions of the opposite sex.

Itís true they still play a genuinely innocent game of hide-and-seek in which the hiders are not all girls and the seekers all boys.

And only the other day I actually spotted a cricket bat in the hands of a lithe youngster leading his mates onto a makeshift arena.

But where is all the other juvenile paraphernalia that used to surface in the springtime of our yesteryears?

The only iron hoops of the kind we used to bowl along the pavements seem to be suspended as motionless reminders of the past in our museums.

Just occasionally I catch a rare glimpse of a wooden top being whipped with controlled ferocity so that the various coloured rings chalked on its flat head create a whirling piece of art.

But coming across an old-fashioned hurry cart these days is about as unusual as finding a 1938 edition of the Beano.

The hurry cart was to youngsters of my era what the motorised go-kart is to the lads of today.

The go-karts might have an engine. But in a downhill race on some of the mountainous descents in Colne Valley Iíd back a hurry cart every time.

Another big plus factor for the hurry cart was that it didnít cost much to put together. Two pairs of pram wheels, some bits of old wood--often from an orange box or a packing case and a length of string to steer it with made it a cheap type of vehicle.

The real tearaways didnít even bother with a brake. But I always played it safe and had a little lump of wood fixed near one of the back wheels. Not that it brought you shuddering to a sudden halt. But at least it did prevent one or two potential disasters.

A makeshift brake was really a must when racing against some of the older lads in our neighbourhood. Especially the bullyboy with a fast cart and a streak of malice who fancied himself as a Nelson Piquet of the Thirties.

Manyís the time Iíve been forced into the wall or, even worse, had to bale out to avoid a horrific collision, as the reckless driver played his own version of dodgems in West Slaithwaite Road.

When we werenít burning up our tyres on the roads, we could often be found burning off old grass in the fields.

Tatching, as we called it, still goes on. But I hope todayís youngsters might learn from a cautionary tale from my childhood.

Lighting a few clumps of bone-dry grass seemed harmless at the time. But the blaze spread like wildfire and in no time at all what seemed like miles of moorland went up in flames.

I and my fellow culprits fled helpless from the scene. But hours later I could still see from my bedroom window a huge pall of smoke hanging over the burning moors.

I climbed between the sheets in a state of fright that lingered for days as I waited for the policemanís knock on the door that thankfully never came.

But tatching was a spring pastime I gave up then for good.


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