Ingrid’s big adventure!
One of my best childhood memories of escape and adventure is being allowed to stay at my parents caravan at the age of 14 years old with my friends. Yes, no adults present! Mam and Dad agreed the four of us could be trusted and stay by ourselves for five days in the school holidays. Wow, how exciting! Me and my friend Lesley headed up first with my parents for the weekend and looked forward to Mam and Dad leaving and going to meet our two school friends from the train station – they had been allowed to travel independently on the train from Newcastle to Berwick, which was a major step forward!
The night before our friends were due to arrive, Lesley and I headed to the entertainment complex, pretending to be 18 years old so we could play bingo in the ballroom! We thought we were the bees knees, but could never have anticipated what would happen next – I won the big game of the night, I shouted house and absolutely wet myself as my numbers and older sisters membership card which we had used to get in were checked. It wasn’t just a few quid neither from memory around £30 and that was in 1986!!!
That night we could not sleep, we were excited, high as kites and having a major panic as we had to go and collect the winnings the next morning!! Ample make up, crazy 1980’s hairstyle, heels to die for ensured our 14 years of life were masked and we continued to look at least 18!!
Well we managed it, collected our cash and went on a shopping spree before meeting our friends. I do remember using the site payphone (as no mobiles in those days) to ring my Mam and tell her we’d won the bingo but think I managed to forget the exact amount during the call!!)
So, a group of mad giggly teenage girls in a caravan during the school holidays were free, having to fend for ourselves and basically just have fun. We laughed, we joked, we explored the local area, we felt like real grown ups and at times had to really pretend to be grown up – how else could you get another game of bingo at the club house and manage to get into the night club on the site!
Of course there are a few adventures which aren’t appropriate to share, but what I can confirm is how we learned to cook and fend for ourselves without burning the caravan down. We entertained ourselves, we went to the beach, we went swimming, we managed money – having a food budget for the week – we argued but managed to resolve our differences and we had an absolute ball. We even managed to clean the caravan properly (which I reckon is pretty impressive for being 14!!) before my brother came up to pick us up and take us all home for a proper nights’ sleep and return to the real world. And to this day some 30 years later, we still laugh and joke about our exploits and trip to Berwick!
Also what I hadn’t realised at the time was all of my friends had told their parents that my Mam and Dad were actually staying with us for the whole week and had no idea the four of us were there home alone (well most of the time!)
It did us no harm at all, was character building and taught us the skills of life! And now of course having children of my own, I need to ask myself, Would I let my son or daughter do the same?!
A memory from the diary of Ingrid Wilkinson (some extracts removed!)
Ingrid Wilkinson is Nature play Volunteer Coordinator at Play England. To mark the launch of the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) research on independent mobility, Play England staff will be sharing their personal stories and thoughts on the subject throughout the week on this blog, we hope you enjoy them.