I spent this morning in the fog and damp at Mepal Motocross track, thinking about just how crazy i'd have to be to allow my son onto a small bike when he's five. This after seeing 20 5 year olds (yes, really) rip around a track at full speed and cut each other up like crazy, exhausts firing. Some of them were girls, too. Son remains transfixed by all things motocross, and this morning has merely added to his obsession. I was transfixed by the parents of the kiddy motocrossers more than anything else. How on earth must the mums feel as they strap their kids into their leathers and helmets and then send them off in the sand? Presumably they feel ok about it, if the yells of encouragement were anything to go by, although there were fewer mums than dads watching.
But it set me thinking about risk and children and how things have changed. Remember, in the 80's, Junior Kickstart was a national obsession and it was seen as a healthy pastime to send your kid off on his motorbike and let rip over obstacles. Now of course, health and safety and fear of kid injury have put paid to this kind of programme, and we have instead the nonsense of kids trying to get on X factor. Personally, i'm thinking the kids who aimed to leap over cars on their bikes in Kickstart were better off. I used to disappear off for whole days on my totally unreliable pony, once returning to the yard unconscious slumped on it's neck, after a rear had knocked me out on a tree branch. To the horses' credit, he did bring me back without tipping me off, but only after roaming for hours. The roaming around and freedom from adult involvement, and also the element of risk (Shall I attempt to leap the fence? Shall I ever be able to stop the sod from bolting toward the new bypass? Will I die if he tries to cross it? ) enlivened my days and encouraged me to dare to do things that i'd never have done under supervision. Sometimes the encouragement of adults isn't helpful. I've watched my kids get up from falls when they think they are not observed without a peep that , if watched, they will often weep copiously at. Maybe the chance to damage ourselves through risk taking is what helps us form parts of our character.
Of course, this is all so much hot air when you see your kid plummet from a motorbike, i'm sure. One small rider fell today, and got the biggest cheers as he plonked himself back on a finished the laps regardless, 2 behind everyone else. The sort of strength of character I'm not sure I have. Maybe being 5 helps. I was reassured by the ambulances at the ready, but not enough to ever encourage son to do it.
It's also too darn expensive. There were some serious spenders in evidence. It seemed to me to be the socio-economic lower levels version of formula 1, it's very very expensive but people make do to do it. It's defiantly working class too, there are no plummy accents in evidence and no healthy food outlets, it's successfully resisted any middle class incursions. People watch from the backs of their quad bikes and the girls reapply make up continually in case they catch the eyes of any young male riders. Accents are strong, cars are big and swearing colours the air. There are no dogs smaller than mastiff and none less scary looking. Dress code is relaxed. "Fen Massif" for young men, with the obligatory can of Red Bull and fag, and for young ladies the hair is never less than blonde and the foundation generous. Men are big with relaxed stomachs and mums stay out of the way in the trailers. There is one burger van and it's a quid for a cup of tea. In short, it's not televisual. This will never get onto tv again, at least not the terrestrial channels, because the only working class people that are allowed to show their faces are on soap operas, laughed at in X-Factor style shows, or sniggered at in Channel 4 sitcoms, "Shameless style". Poor people are allowed to be good at football, as long asthey're grateful and pick up a WAG, thus supplying the tabloids with fodder, but that's the only sport (aside from maybe snooker? If that is a sport? ) that they'll get seen doing. The other local sports round here, shooting, trapping, and driving your souped up car into the forty-foot drain, will of course, also never get on tv. It's a shame, because the sight of these lads and young men (and ladies) ripping round the track was exhilarating, very skilful, and brave. The young girl pictured here, flew round, and then proceeded to strip her bike. It might have been abit dangerous, but I think a 7 year old girl who can strip down a motorbike, is a girl i'd like to meet.
fen glossary: forty foot drain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forty_Foot_Drain