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Falling off of the Witches Hat
You'll crack your head open

19/01/11
If there are two things that I remember most from school play times, it is the feeling of a football hitting your leg on a cold day, and the pain of falling over on concrete and the hand/knee grazing that is associated. The bitter feeling of sting-filled pain that races around the palm of your hand and knee is something that lives in your memory neatly filed next to stinging nettles (rubbish Triffids) and ankle twists.

Last night while running, I tripped on a paving slab and fell in much the same way as I would have done 25 years ago. The cold night air instantly got to work and made the grazes on my palm, forearm and knee sting, then my knee began to bleed. For a moment I didnt know what to do. After all, it had been at least 20 years since this had happened to me. The man in me came to the surface and brushed the bits of gravel out of my palm and knee, it was then that I noticed the blood coming from my knee and I began an internal regression of emotions. It wasn't a gush of blood you understand, more of a mild outpour that began to quickly settle into a small quarry around my knee cap. This was the kind of wound that when I was 6 I would have been called a "brave soldier" - the kind of wound you got from falling off a Witches Hat or a Roundabout. The kind of wound children today would never, ever get.

To a child today, a Witches Hat or a Roundabout do not exist. In fact, compared to the playgrounds of today (all wood, rubber and woodchips), they seem like medieval instruments of torture. Perhaps they were, after all, you couldn't go on a roundabout without falling off at high speeds, removing at least two layers of skin and landing in a pool of messy blood and chewed up trainers. It was as if, rather than having fun on revolving metal play things, you were being tortured into confessing that you followed Satan and all of his little pointy wizards by Spaniards with prongs, picks and pokers.

It does seem rather insane now that we would go to a playground and jump off of moving objects onto cold, hard, unforgiving cement, but that is the way we liked it. Having recently returned to my hometown and had a look round the old sights, I can confirm that my old school is no longer the metal clad daredevil's playground anymore. Where once stood a five foot climbing frame, there is now a wooden rhino that is barely two feet tall and surrounded by woodchips. Where once stood the Witches hat, is now a small wooden foot bridge with a wood-chip moat and where once stood a see-saw, there is now just a pit of soil and wood chips with a tiny horse on a spring. Is this living? Is this preparing our little ones for life?

One thing that is for certain, this is obviously what is to blame for the population boom, kids are no longer being being killed in playground related accidents. Is this a good thing? Probably, yes. However, more research will need to be done. I can imagine that China is still chock-a-blok with death trap playgrounds, I bet you can't move for them, they have to keep their population down anyway they can after all.

I suppose that the modern playground set up could once and for all irradiate the phenomenon of "cracking your head open" which was so prevalent and a terrifying possibility when I was growing up, like some sort of Kyser Soze waiting to smash you with a baseball bat when you least expected it. I think we all knew someone who fell victim to this silent stalker. To this day, I don't actually know what it was or what happened, but I do remember the blood, such a lot of blood. One minute someone would be hanging from a climbing frame, the next they would be holding thier head, crying as the blood flowed like wine. Terrfying stuff.

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Nature at work.
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