The following is an amended version of an email I received recently. The original made me think of how much the experience of childhood has changed in 60 years.
I of course know that farm safety is vitally important and tragic accidents do occur but I worry that our lives today are over-regulated and this is preventing kids from growing up into fit, healthy confident adults, capable of thinking for themselves.
'Sixty years ago many farmers' wives worked at home right up to the time of giving birth. The concept of taking three months' maternity leave to care for a newborn baby was unheard of. Giving birth and being born into this world were not treated as some form of illness but rather as a perfectly normal and natural occurrence.
Throughout our infancy and as young children we played with pots and pans and wellies on the kitchen floor and got licked by dogs and never caught lethal diseases. Within the home, there were no childproof lids on medicine bottles, no locks on doors or cabinets. Later on, when we rode our bikes, we had no high-viz jackets or protective helmets or knee pads, yet still we survived. Hitching a ride on a horse-drawn bogey was a real summer treat. Best of all was leading and riding horses 20 times larger than we were and helping turn big and often wild cattle into gateways. We drank water from the pump or whatever stream was handy and shared drinks with friends, from the one bottle.
Amazingly, no one actually died from any of this.
The table and counter in the kitchen were not constantly washed and sprayed with disinfectant. If we dropped something delicious on the floor, we picked it up and ate it. That is if we could beat the dogs to it.
We ate bread thickly spread with real butter and jam and were fed beef, lamb and bacon, all heavily marbled with delicious fat. We ate cheese and drank full-fat unpasteurised milk.
Why were we not overweight? Because every spare minute we had free, when we weren't helping on the farm, we ran and played outside.
We would leave the house in the morning and when not in school, play all day, as long as we were back at mealtimes and in time for bed. During school holidays, apart from chores like cutting thistles and haymaking, no one knew where we were for most of the day. Surprisingly, we were fine. We were smacked when we misbehaved both at home and at school but somehow we survived the psychological trauma of it all.
We would spend weeks building go-carts out of old prams and any scrap we could find and then push them down a hill, only to remember we forgot brakes. But we learnt how to solve that problem also.
We did not have PlayStations. There were no video games, no TV, no video movies or DVDs, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms. On wet days and at night we read books and increased our word power while letting our minds and imaginations provide the entertainment.
We built treehouses, fell off branches, got bruises and cuts and occasionally we even broke bones and teeth. But our parents never sued anyone. Nor did we need counselling. We simply learnt by experience to be more careful next time.
We played in dirty sheds, ate mud pies but then this just gave us natural immunity from many illnesses. We made bows and arrows and catapults and shot them at each other. We caught fish and snared rabbits and brought them home for the pot and, amazingly, didn't catch any diseases. We played games with old tennis balls and sticks that could put your eye out, but somehow didn't.
As children we had freedom, fun, success, failure and responsibility and we learned how to deal with them all and develop common sense.
Apart from the scary shadow of the church hanging over us, we had the luck to grow up in a time before the politicians, solicitors, barristers, bureaucrats and busybodies regulated so much of our lives.
I read recently that school desks and school uniforms are to be made larger to cater for the rise in the number of obese children.
Perhaps if they ran, cycled, played games and had adventures like children 60 years ago they might be a lot better off.