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End this health and safety madness so we can have some good old-fashioned fun

Phil mourns the good old dangerous days before health and safety stopped our fun

Phil mourns the good old dangerous days before health and safety stopped our fun

I burned my thumb this evening. There's a big blister on the end of it and it hurts like hell - and as it's the thumb that I usually use to hit the space bar, I'm having to modify my typing technique and this article is taking about twice as long as usual. But I don't care. The pain, in an odd sort of way, gives me an inner peace.

It's bonfire night and my sons and I are cordite-scented and replete, after an hour or two of breathless hilarity in the company of some ill-advised and frankly dangerous incendiary devices. I bought the biggest box I could find, and I let my newly teenaged offspring let most of them off. It was a fiasco.

Two fireworks fell over and sprayed us with high-velocity, high-temperature, multicoloured missiles; a red one practically parted my eldest son's hair.

My middle son stuck a big rocket in the ground instead of in the plastic tube and the resulting ground-level explosion temporarily blinded us and singed more than one eyebrow. My youngest fell over laughing and banged his head.

I was no better. I smashed one thumb with a hammer knocking a Catherine wheel into a tree, then burned the other when I lost patience with it because it wouldn't light, took a cigarette lighter to it, and was taken by surprise when it lit rather faster than I expected.

Our Australian neighbours watched in incredulity as we stumbled about, giggling and blowing things up. Their sons are older but had never seen real 'firecrackers' before. Fireworks are banned in Australia, unless they are tied to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and it's the Olympics.

And why is that? You guessed it. Health And Safety.

Wholesomely risky

Bonfire night isn't what it used to be. You can't get bangers any more; they were involved in some of the most memorable and hilarious events of my youth. And I miss those jumping jack things that used to fly everywhere and have us dancing up and down with our flared trousers on fire. But on the whole you can still have a wholesomely risky and exciting evening once a year.

Tomorrow we'll be back in the pursed-lipped killjoy world of the Health and Safety Executive - the miserable bastards who leach all the fun and danger out of childhood, who ban Christmas decorations from hanging low enough to cause an injury, who ban marbles from playgrounds in case they put your eye out and who cut down trees in case the conkers fall on your head.

These self-same shrivelled-souled sods have just banned polystyrene floats from our local swimming baths because they might cause injury. They've caused none so far, to my knowledge, but they have often been makeshift rafts to which my sons have clung, while I've pretended to be a sea monster coming up underneath and throwing them into the water. My boys will tell you that's one of their earliest and happiest memories. But it won't be for the children of Sunderland from now on.

This country makes me depressed. Who'd be a kid these days? I had great fun as a lad, and somehow managed to survive it, and I want my sons to have the same.

So tomorrow I'm off to buy them each a penknife and a copy of The Dangerous Book For Boys for Christmas. And frankly if they want to sneak a swig out of my can of beer when they think I'm not looking, I'll make sure I look the other way.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

Phil Peverley:

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