As a kid, growing up in my Balham flat, I had central heating; Hot Wheels and 35 glove puppets. It begs the question: why on Earth did I play in puddles the moment it rained?
We had no running rivers with bridges over them (I’d have built one, but wasn’t terribly adept with Meccano), so there were no opportunities for playing Pooh Sticks.
But, when it rained, we had puddles and would reenact Pearl Harbour.
Because I wasn’t well-versed in laundry matters, I would get very dirty – and wet. Having built dams using stones; half bricks; mates’ satchels, we imagined we were fighting Admiral Tojo until I had to go in for my tea.
Thrilled with the fact I’d subverted the Japanese Navy, and knowing I wasn’t about to have Sushi for tea (this was Balham in the ‘60s), I would re-enter my flat.
The moment my mother saw my clothes, she went berserk. I immediately apologised. To which I heard the all-too-frequent refrain: “You’re always bleedin’ sorry, Michael”. Being called “Michael” meant trouble; I was no longer “my little Mickey Mouse”.
It was a quiet teatime that evening; we watched I love Lucy in total silence while eating our smoked haddock.
As I explained to Sooty and Sweep, two of my glove puppets, who were on each hand – how was I to know mud was difficult to get out of a brand new school shirt? Was I sponsored by Dreft? Sooty never did answer.