Ha! Do you think that's going to put us off?
Playgrounds are dangerous places. I should know, having lost teeth playing silly buggers on the slide at Twyford Rec. The whole place was a death trap. These days, it's all safe play, loads of wood chipping and rubber matting to fall into, and not a single sharp edge or masses of exposed mechanics to rip off innocent fingers. And if you were going to fall off the twenty foot monstrosity of a climbing frame of tubular steel and exposed bolts, you would land on concrete or tarmac and like it.
Hideous accidents were legion at our park. In fact, there was an ambulance bay by the main gate and a permanent supply of bags of frozen peas to keep severed fingers fresh. The swings were made out of the hardest substances known to man, and could decapitate anyone foolhardy enough to walk past. The concrete tunnels housed wild creatures and broken glass, while the Witches Hat, well, you know what to expect from a piece of torture equipment called the Witches Hat. The whole thing was surrounded by a hawthorn hedge. If the swings didn't get you, the thorns would rip you to shreds.
Parents didn't give a monkey's either. If you didn't come home from the park, they knew to drive to Casualty where they'd pick you up after having your bits sewn back on. The human body can take a lot of punishment. You could do yourself a lot of damage yet still walk away, often with crucial parts in a shopping bag. My father - the doctor - once showed us how bendy it was, on a rather unnerving visit to his lab. It toughened you up.
Today's toughening up exercise will be brought to you by Stupid Scary and his friends. We'd done plenty of stupid stuff before, usually ending with pain, explosions, or pain and explosions. Today, having seen some crapfest on television, we were The World's Greatest Stuntmen, and we were going to do The World's Greatest Stunts. At the park. On our bikes. And a skateboard. If we survived without getting the frottage-obsessed parkie out of his garden, all the better.
We were doomed.
We started off with the easy stuff. We set up a small ramp with a bit of wood which had once hidden rather important and life-threatening rotating machinery on some of the more fiendish equipment. Something dead dropped out, looking like lurid mashed potatoes and smelling like a cross between fetid dingo's kidneys and a flatulent halibut, but that was par for the course, and after prodding it with sticks, we soon lost interest. We jumped over on the skateboard. We jumped over one of the bikes. Then we jumped over Russell, taking great care not to cause him any physical harm. Well, as little as we could get away with, because we secretly wanted to know what his insides looked like.
Naturally, it wasn't enough. We wanted speed, we wanted thrills. We wanted stolen cigarettes and hardcore pornography. But at the age of thirteen fag smoke swirling like bukkake over our heads while we studied a copy of "Oooh, Sticky" magazine was hardly forthcoming. So we settled for mindbending death-defying skills instead, that involved jumping over hawthorn hedges on your mum's Raleigh Shopper.
Try as we might, there was just no way we could get up enough speed for the jump. John, while we chanted our favourite TV advert by way of encouragement ("Nuts, oh hazlenuts, OOH! Cadbury's take 'em and kick you in the bollocks!"), had already chickened out at the last moment and come within an ace of severe mutilation. Speed. We needed speed. And there was only one way we were going to get it.
It was my idea, I am forced to admit. Simple. Carry your bike to the top of the slide - a thirty foot high behemoth of cast iron and a sheer drop that rivalled Beachy Head as one of the country's most notorious blackspots for gravity-induced death.
I lugged the bike to the very top, and in fear of my life, mounted up. I was scared shitless, I don't mind saying, the only thing I could see below being cold, hard tarmac. Following parental advice, I was wearing fresh underwear "just in case you have an accident", but alas, my pants were on inside out and lightly soiled. I chickened out. I let the bike go, and it careered down the slide on its own, and and caught Russell squarely up the arse with one of the handlebars.
As Russell writhed in agony on the tarmac, it was time for a "Carry On" interlude at his expense... "Rectum? Well it didn't do 'em any good!" - "No time for love, Dr Jones, can't you see this boy has a tattered sphincter?" - "If you stretch it I can get both hands in."
I followed it down at a more sedate pace to the jeers of my mates. Fate! Why do you mock me at every turn?
"Out the way you great poof" said Matty, "I'll show you how it's done."
He grabbed his bright green skateboard and hoofed it to the top of the slide, while we readied the ramp for his do-or-die stunt attempt.
He was as scared as I was, but was determined not to wimp out. With a whimper, he jumped onto the board, and shot off down the slide like Eddie the Eagle's less talented and rather more mental brother.
With a thwooosh! he shot off the end of the slide and landed, with Tony Hawk-like agility, on the board and careered his way towards the ramp and certain glory.
"Go for it Matty!", "Ride that board!" we yelled after him as his moment of triumph approached. Only cruel, cruel fate could let him down now. Or forgetting the crucial detail that the ramp was made of wood an inch thick, obviously.
Matty hit the ramp.
The skateboard stopped.
Matty didn't. He flew.
It was majestic. It was beautiful. It was sweary.
He nearly made it.
The hedge claimed him. Wood, leaves, branches, thorns, thorns, thorns swallowed him up.
The were screams of pain. There was blood. There was a fear-wracked teen in his death-throes, clutching his groin which had come into contact with something solid. There was only one thing for it.
Half an hour later, a blood-drench wraith dressed in rags appeared at my front door on all fours.
"You... you... you.... GIT!"
"Err... you alright mate?"
"Me fookin' skateboard's bust!"
He held up his skateboard. A piece of green plastic and a couple of wheels.
"And me bollocks are killing me"
"Take a look at them, will ya?"
"Oh no, I don't do other fellas' testicles. I'm not a bumgay, y'know. Lie to your dad. Say it was bigger kids."
The catch-all excuse of 'bigger kids did it'. He told his dad. Dad didn't believe him. Blame me, why don'tcha?
*cough* We hit the crest of a tidal wave of gravy *cough*