Things you don’t see kids doing anymore #453: Building, then racing go-karts down Gladstone’s hills. This is proof that today’s children are much, much smarter than I ever was.
The Build: First I’d scrounge all the necessary stuff, usually an old pram, a length of 4×4 hardwood, some rope, and an old chair, then start building something resembling a vehicle. At this point, the first of many injuries would occur as I sawed, nailed, pop riveted and welded all the bits together using Dad’s tools.
Now my kart may have handled like a stalled aircraft carrier, and if you sat on it too heavily it would disintegrate, but gee it looked good with the flames painted down the sides, and a pirate flag sticky-taped to a long pole.
I’d be so keen to test drive my creation that I rush off to the nearest hill, leaving Dad’s tools lying on the lawn, and the lids off his paint tins.
The Hills: Gladstone has some astonishingly steep hills, so I regularly experienced the sort of G-forces encountered by astronauts. Once, on a run down the cliff face that is Berrigan Court, I swear I crashed through the sound barrier; just before ploughing through several letter boxes, a fence, three garden beds and a surprised Alsatian.
The Spills: My kart wasn’t very reliable, and important bits often fell off at crucial times. Veering out of control, I’d scream a short, but heartfelt, prayer, “Oh God No!” then apply the brakes by slamming Dads’ new thongs into the bitumen, instantly burning two large holes in them, and leaving a trail of smoking rubber, skin and kart parts for half a mile downhill.
Trips to hospital were common. Frequently it would be to visit other karting victims; my passengers, or mates who had borrowed my kart. But we learned many valuable lessons, eg: Never, ever, ‘occy strap’ your seat to the frame, and an ice cream bucket tied to your head with brown string is completely useless as a safety device.
No wonder I don’t let my children do this stuff. As a result, my thongs don’t have big holes in them, my shed isn’t full of opened paint tins, and our house, dogs and neighbours, are safe from flying spanners and sockets when I mow the lawn. Still, I reckon kids are missing out on something nowadays; mostly gravel rash and broken bones I suppose.