Extreme Sports and Adrenaline Rush Deprivation

EVERYWHERE you look these days there’s a story about Extreme Sports. A young man on breakfast TV this week was talking about taking part in sports like mountain BMX and snowboarding.
He seemed a nice enough lad but the dearly beloved scoffed mercilessly at his earnest interview.
“Extreme Sports? Didn’t these kids ever have a childhood?” he sneered.
Back in the days when it used to snow in the winter down here in Devon, he and his friends used a sheet of galvanised iron as a sleigh. For those of you not brought up in the country, sheets of galvanised iron are corrugated and measure about 6ft by 3ft. They are thin sheets with edges so sharp they could amputate a small boy’s hand if he fell on it at a funny angle ….. or separate Gwyneth Paltrow from her 7-inch heels before Chris Martin had time to shout a warning.
The DB and his friends would roll up the front of the sheet to make it vaguely toboggan-shaped. Four or five of them would pile onto it at the top of the steepest hill in their village and set off, eventually reaching speeds of, if not Lewis Hamilton level, then Jensen Button level.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, when they reached the bottom of the field they all had to duck to get under a barbed wire fence. It makes me go cold just thinking about it!
Then he was on about riding helter-skelter on a bicycle with no brakes, his friend hanging on for dear life behind him as he pedalled as fast as he could down another hill – the only way they could prevent serious injury was to bail out before the bicycle ploughed into a bramble-filled hedge.
My brothers, too, were somewhat on the reckless side. They were forever making go-karts (we called them trolleys) out of old pram wheels and bits of wood. I think I’ve mentioned before how these trolleys were the envy of the neighbourhood with travelling salesmen stopping by to have a go! Pram wheels were great for trolleys – brakes, however, were another thing entirely.
Pram brakes in those days consisted of a pulling a lever to apply a small block to a wheel. You can imagine how effective this was on a trolley going at 40mph down a 1 in 4 hill.
My sister was taken for a ride on one of these things and fell off at the bottom of the hill, impregnating her leg with bits of gravel. Knowing my dad he probably dabbed some neat iodine on it and told her to stop snivelling. Some 30 years later, a stone worked its way out of her thigh – clean as a whistle.
Then there was Extreme Pony-Riding, racing around fields and clearing (or not) home-made jumps and weaving in and out of home-made obstacle courses.
We lived on a farm in pre-health and safety days, so in some respects we took part in Extreme Sports every day, whether it was Extreme Cow-Milking (some of those cows had a kick like a mule); Extreme Farmyard Machinery-Dodging (my father was the world’s worst driver); or Extreme Geese-Handling (I swear, geese are the nastiest creatures on God’s earth. I’d rather meet a rabid dog than a hissing goose, any day).
I’m not denigrating anyone who takes part in conventional Extreme Sports – it’s wonderful that young people are taking controlled risks and going out and having fun. But it has occurred to me that youngsters never got these things out of their system as children. They are shielded from any kind of danger by over-protective parents and schools and communities ruled by health and safety legislation.
Consequently, when they are in their teens and 20s, they are suffering from adrenaline-rush deprivation and have to make up for it by taking part in Extreme Sports.
Oh, I’ve just invented a new syndrome – Adrenaline Rush Deprivation, or ARD. Soon there’ll be pills and counselling for it, learned articles in the British Medical Journal and "sufferers" coming to blows on the Jerry Springer Show.
Remember, you read it here first.


  1. We did all that too! Plus digging up a patch of soil to make a soft landing and jumping off a high wall into it. Sometimes with a fertilizer bag for a parachute.

    No matter how many sprained ankles we got we never copped on neither the digging nor the bag worked.

    Oh, oh, oh ... I forgot jumping rivers. You MUST have went jumping rivers.

  2. Ahh I miss being a child. You can't get away with it when you're 21. I remember going the hill in the park down the road very fast on bikes or skateboards and falling off, getting back on again and starting again. And on all sorts of tea trays and hand-made toboggans in the show. Fun! Neither me or my parents had an urge to sue someone or complain when I fell over and scraped my knee, or fell out of a tree. Good days.

  3. LOL when I think of the things we did when we were young I go cold! There was no such entity as 'Health & Safety' then. :)

  4. Oh goodness, yes! I remember hurtling down a snowy hill on an empty fert sack (fertiliser sack to those who aren't sure)in lieu of any sledge and bouncing painfully off rocky protuberances as I headed south. The bruises were a work of art. It was brilliant. I was in my early twenties...does that count?

  5. in the 1950-60s TVs were sold in large wood cabinets; my bother used to collect the non-working TVs, strip them out, and we would use the cabinets as go-carts down the back lanes. From that period of childhood I have a large scar on my knee and big bro became a TV engineer.

    i suppose we could try to get the kids to use the ikea furniture as trolleys down the back lane today.

  6. Eeeeeek - remember some of the things I did as a child.

    Thank you for your comment on my blog.

  7. Sneezy: I can't remember jumping rivers although we did once get told off by a water bailiff for "fishing" with a rod for which we had pooled our money to buy in Woolworth's. It cost about 10p and we wouldn't have caught doodleysquat if we'd sat there all day.

    Moochy: It's frightening how all this "compensation" culture is escalating. Soon parents will be afraid to allow their kids' friends to pop over. If one of them falls over and breaks an arm, there could be a compensation claim. Sad days.

    Akelamalu: Health and safety have so much to answer for but are the type of people you just can't argue with because, of course, you don't WANT anyone to get hurt. You just need an acceptance that coping with risk and danger are a part of life.

    Mopsa: Early 20s? Ah, a girl after my own heart i.e. one that grows up very, very slowly!

    Grit: TVs as go-karts? Love it! That's what kids should be using them for rather than sitting in front of them for hours at a time!

    Westerwitch: Love your blog!
    For all us girls (and men who struggle to understand us!): Westerwitch has written a brilliant piece about hormones. Take look. In my reply I did a link to a letter that a woman wrote to a certain "wings" product manufacturer.

  8. My Brother was the KING of extreme sports and had the hospital records to prove it! He and I didnt have any video games growing up, nor did we have someone dashing over to wipe our nose as the slightest drip and we never told my Mum, "I am bored!" that meant a thick ear and a broom in our hands. My Brothers favorite extreme sport was Extreme roller-skating which involved complicated ramps outside, or speed skating along our immense hall way, with points awarded for style and flare when being stopped only by the front door. He broke an arm doing that.
    OHHH Tea-tray toboganing!! Yes! Its even better down the stairs as we didnt have much snow in Reading, England. Great posts you guys, and it urges me to write more about all that... take care, Bird.

  9. I can't believe you didn't feature Extreme Ironing :)

    btw, competition and party over at mine to celebrate my blogoversary!