In Dave’s back garden we had dug a room ten feet deep and about fifteen feet across. It had furniture, a fireplace complete with a working chimney, electricity wired in for lighting and also to power the TV. It was covered with beams of wood which supported old doors, ply boards, and any other sizeable pieces of wood we could get our hands on. This was then covered over with soil and turf which had been stolen from various locations across town. A hatch was built into this makeshift roof with a ladder acquired from a building site for access. From a few feet away it looked like a nice lawn. Looking back now and having worked in the building trade I could see how dangerous this was. The roof and the sides could have collapsed at anytime and trapped whoever was in there. There was no support to the walls to stop them caving in and the beams holding the roof up weren’t fixed securely. There were only two pillars randomly placed holding up the roof, and to be honest, I don’t think they really did a lot. All the kids from our neighbourhood and beyond came round to play at my cousin’s on a regular basis. Dave, Tony, and Cora actually had another seven sisters and two brothers who were either older and so had moved out, or weren’t interested in hanging out with us or too young to be involved in our shenanigans.
Another feature was a zoo. We’d built enclosures with bricks, pebbles, bits of plastic and wood. Pretty much anything we found which we felt could of been used in the construction was brought back to the garden. The plastic animals were placed in and around the zoo and there were thousands of them, and I mean thousands. There were some real animals of course. Dave had a couple of ducks and there was also a huge pond which we continuously stocked with our catches from our regular fishing expeditions. My Aunt and Uncle had an obsession with Pugs too and there were about four or five always wandering around being nosy. At one side at the very bottom of the garden was an aviary full of canaries, budgerigars, finches, quails and pheasants, some of them golden pheasants. These were given to Dave by my Granddad who also kept birds. The golden pheasants were beautiful birds. Their plumage was magnificent and brightly coloured and reminded me of a samurai’s armour.
In another part of the garden nearer the house were two bases complete with thousands of different figures, weapons, vehicles and aeroplanes. We would have battles for days on end during the summer holidays.
A few of us gathered back round here after they’d all been home and had stings pulled out and cream applied on the affected areas.
My mate Wazza appeared riding his mum’s bike with a shopping basket attached to the front and a rack on the back. Dave was now climbing out of his window onto the shed roof to come back out. His mum and dad would be watching Bruce Lee films and would only pop into the kitchen now and again for a cuppa.
Wazza’s mom’s bike had two flat tyres but that didn’t stop him tearing around on the buckled rims. Dave whipped out his penknife and sharpened some bits of wood he’d found by the shed into stakes. He drove them in the ground with a lump hammer, then dragged some rolls of barbed wire from the bottom of the garden and threw them over the stakes. An old window pane was next and he smashed the glass over the stakes. Some breeze blocks were arranged three high and a piece of ply board was placed on them making a ramp. We took it in turns to ride the ladies bike a fast as we could up the ramp and jumped into the obstacle over and over again. How nobody got seriously hurt I’ll never know.
Dave had control of his dad’s shed and had drills and all manner of tools in there. He was always making things and doing experiments on or with things and sometimes even our friends.
He was forever cutting people’s body parts and extracting blood so he could look at it under his microscope.
Looking back now Dave was a bit of a sicko. He’d probably be locked up if he’d been growing up now instead of back in the eighties. A lad called Jimmy from two doors down was another regular even though he got picked on. Dave made him simulate sex with an empty cardboard box the once just for a laugh. Dave had threatened to beat him with a chimney sweeping pole if he didn’t. So there was Jimmy going at this box like a sewing machine while we all rolled around on the floor laughing at him. Needless to say he still got the beating and ended up hoisted up a tree by a rope. The rope was tied round his stomach, through his legs and around his crotch. Every time someone pulled the rope it would get tighter and nearly pop his balls. No one let him down for hours that day despite his crying and screaming. Funny thing was he’d always come back the next day for more.
As I mentioned before my aunt and uncle were obsessed with Bruce Lee, we all were back then. We used to make our own movies in the back garden which would always end with Dave and Cora beating the shit out of each other while we egged them on. Cora was ferocious especially after we’d wound her up a bit. They would fight like cat and dog and Cora would give as good as she got. I think she broke Dave’s nose once and would always draw blood. Below the tree where Jimmy was crucified was another hole we’d dug. It was lined with an old mattress and we would take it in turns to sit up there while someone else pretended to shoot us down. We would fall out of the tree onto the mattress and be scored out of ten how good or bad it was. The loser of any silly game we played always had to do a forfeit. Jimmy lost and so had to run the length of the street naked. When he returned Dave had poured lighter fluid on his shorts and t-shirt an set them alight. They burned for a while then a hole appeared in them both before they burnt out. Jimmy disappeared to get some clothes. I’ve know idea what he told his parents about where they were or what happened to them.
We were all mad about bikes and were always finding them discarded in skips or left out for the scrap man. We’d bring them round to Dave’s workshop and cut them up and weld the pieces back together to make hybrid bikes.
Dave was in his shed doing just this. We could see the flash of the welder and smell the rods burning as we messed around in the garden. The smoke drifted out of the door which was ajar, them more and more came pouring out. The door burst open and Dave ran out with a worried look on his sweating face.
“Call the fire brigade!” he yelled. “The bloody shed’s on fire!”
Cora ran in and told my Aunty who rang the fire service. My uncle grabbed the garden hose and was trying to douse the flames but it was already ablaze. Next door’s shed was adjoined to theirs, and that too was up in flames. We all backed off to a safe distance and as news had travelled already the whole street was out in force.
By the time the firemen got there the sheds were all but destroyed. Everyone present again got a lecture about the perils of fire and quite rightly so. It didn’t stop us though. A few weeks later we accidentally set a cornfield ablaze while burning things with a magnifying glass.
Dave again got another beating off his dad and this time he had to stay in and his dad made him sit on the floor in the living room so he could keep an eye on him. His dad didn’t let him move. We watched a horror film called The Evil Dead and then I left for home as I was craving beans on toast and a nice hot bath.