Into the sand pile!

‘There was some relationship, surely, between the fact that we lived in The Barracks and the reality that so many residents there in an earlier generation served in the armed forces. Practically every family had an ex-soldier. Clearly the homes were allocated according to this criterion. I fought myself at Arnhem, being one of only a handful who returned alive from it.

Sonny Casey, I told you, was warden prior to the refurbishment. His brother Eric later served abroad: indeed he married a Maltese lady. In his young days Eric – who was a few years older than us, was a real crazy guy!

As I said, we lived around the corner then in Erskine Place when the Barracks were being adapted as civilian housing. What a playground that great expanse became for us!

The workmen constructed a rough set of rails between and around the blocks to make it easier to remove rubble and to carry building materials from block to block. Eric would fill the empty rail carriage with local children and drag and push us round his obstacle course! It would hold up to 5-6 children, the smallest – at the front – about 5-6 years, with 3-4 older (7-9 years old) children behind.

It would never have occurred to any of us that there was any danger in this behaviour! But Eric’s thrill came from releasing his load at the top of a steep incline and watching its progress thereafter!

I remember one day in particular. With my young mate __ ___ I was in front. It was Indiana Jones on that monorail inside the mountain, careering out of control!

The cart struck some obstruction and suddenly we were airborne! My mate and I pitched helplessly forward and into the air. Luckily there was a recently-dropped pile of sand in front and we embedded – head-first – into it.

We hardly had time to give thanks for our soft landing when the three older boys behind arrived in formation and pitched us even deeper into the sand-pile.

I was spitting sand for days!’

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