Swingball, Screwballs and sprinkler bans – the summers of my childhood

July 16, 2015

Having a toddler who’s now old enough to really enjoy summer – and all the associated paddling pool paraphernalia – is bringing back so many memories about my own childhood, growing up in the 1980s and 1990s. Wasn’t the summer brilliant when we were younger?  The six week holiday was second only to Christmas in terms of amazing annual events.

I suppose it is easy to look back at this childhood season with tinted lenses as being an idyllic time when it was all fields (where I grew up it really was – my parents built a house on a plot of land in the middle of, well, fields). I know hindsight is a wonderful thing, and there were undoubtedly bad bits about summer as a child – like rubbish British weather, Margaret Thatcher being Prime Minister and a permanent hosepipe and garden sprinkler ban stopping your dad from washing the car and spoiling all your fun – but all the bits I can remember are mostly magical, of course.

So, with school nearly out, here’s some shameless childhood nostalgia about what summer was like growing up:

  1. Being taken out of school for two weeks of holiday during term time with no fear of fines and no-one batting an eyelid, because that’s what everyone did back then
  2. Going to somewhere ‘abroad’ like Spain or Portugal and it feeling really exotic and far away. Having no idea what was going on at home in those innocent, pre-mobile and Internet times
  3. The massive Euro summer song you heard all holiday and came home singing. Usually with a dance routine (the master of all these being Whigfield’s Saturday Night)
  4. The joy and elation of the last day of school when you could wear non-uniform and take board games in to play with
  5. Summer TV – Wacaday and the Wide Awake Club, and the possibility of having your ‘artwork’ shown on the Broom Cupboard. Christmas specials always being on in the middle of August; seasonal confusion! Why Don’t You? (switch off the TV set, and do something less boring instead)
  6. Always having sunburn or peeling skin. UVA what now?
  7. Fabs, Calippos, Tangle Twisters, Screwballs, Funny Feet.Those really long ice pops that you got from the corner shop from a chest freezer that was so big you nearly fell in. Why was the raspberry flavour always blue?
  8. Spending most of your time playing outside with bikes,  making dens or being obsessed with whatever summer craze was going on at the time, from hopscotch to hula hoops, those balls you balanced and bounced on, to Coca Cola yoyos and Swingball
  9. Jelly shoes, jelly bags, rara skirts and sweatbands. Fluro Bermuda shorts, the hypercolour t shirts that changed colour according to body heat (nice)
  10. Playschemes and the summer library reading ‘challenge’
  11. The excitement of buying your new pencil case to go back to school, and queueing up for ages at Clarks to get your new school shoes
  12. Feeling like the holidays would go on forever and being sad and surprised when they didn’t. I hope they’re just as good for my children…

More shameless nostalgia: all the childhood things our children won’t experience, my love for Just 1 7 magazine and Judy Blume books and the Sundays of our childhood.


  • Carie

    July 16, 2015 at 6:11 am

    Oh I remember so many of those too! Definitely the blue raspberry Giant Mr Freeze I loved those, and the colour changing tshirt, my sister had one and I longed for one of my own. And ah yes, the Saturday night dance, oh that brings back some memories!!
    Growing up on the coast for me it was all about the salt on your skin at the end of the day too, I smell like sea and it takes me back;)

  • Ray

    July 18, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    This post has left me feeling very nostalgic for those days. Isn’t it strange when you realise how your own children will never experience the things which shaped you.
    My favourite thing on to do on a really hot day was using the wooden stick from an ice lolly to push around the melted tar on the pavements.

    1. gillian

      July 19, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      It’s really strange isn’t it?! So many things that were absolutely key to us when we were growing up. I’m pretty sure we used to do that too with the tar! And make things out of ‘clay’ to bake in the sun 🙂

  • Alison Perry

    July 24, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Fun fact: I was on the Wide Awake Club when I was 10.

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