Friday, 4 May 2012

Youth must adventure

The kind of engine that pulled us to Edinburgh (a Deltic)
- ugly things, but they made a great noise
I heard on the radio the other day that one of the reasons that young people aren't getting as much exercise these days is because their over-protective parents don't want them to go out. It's too risky. This is very silly - young people have to have adventures.

When I was fifteen, with two friends, I spent a week away from my parents on the railways. We all liked railways and we decided we were going to get the most you could out of a one week railrover, a ticket that allowed you to go anywhere on the railway network. Our timetable was superb. We even managed to include two of the great trains, the Flying Scotsman (the named train, not the engine) and the Cornish Riviera Express.

From leaving a grey Manchester on that week we travelled to London (several times), Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Glasgow, Cardiff, Birmingham, Salisbury and Penzance (amongst others). I admit we didn't do a lot of sightseeing. In the entire week we only left the rail network twice - one night at Salisbury Youth Hostel and one night at Lands End Youth Hostel (we had to get a bus to this from Penzance, which was the only bit of our timetabling that let us down). Apart from this we slept on trains, except for one horrible night spent until 5am on Cardiff Station, a truly terrible experience.

Okay it wasn't anything special - but it was an adventure. You really see a country from the railway, more so than from the road, and we might not have got off the system much - but we really took the place in. There was even the need for a little crafy deception. Back then the YHA didn't let you stay in their hostels if you weren't walking. We had to pretend we were hikers, then sneak off to the station, which felt very wicked.

Perhaps not very exotic. And yet our parents had let three 15-year-olds out on the loose for a whole week. We had been in plenty of evil big cities. They had no idea what we were doing about eating and sleeping - we organized everything ourselves. We didn't have mobile phones, so they had to make do with a couple of calls from phone boxes. They were no doubt totally stressed - but they let us do it. We had an adventure.

Was there risk? A little bit. But it was so worth it. Risk means that things will go wrong occasionally - that's life. It involves risk. Every time you do anything original or creative you take a risk. If you let young people have adventures they will sometimes get hurt, sometimes even get killed. But very, very rarely in the UK. We are so lucky that adventures here are relatively safe. And we ought to be letting our young people have them, however painful it is for us parents.

Picture from Wikipedia

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