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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 06-28-2007, 01:32 PM Thread Starter
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In Praise of Skinned Knees and Grubby Faces

By Conn Iggulden
Sunday, June 24, 2007; B01

LONDON When I was 10, I founded an international organization known as the Black Cat Club. My friend Richard was the only other member. My younger brother, Hal, had "provisional status," which meant that he had to try out for full membership every other week. We told him we would consider his application if he jumped off the garage roof -- about eight feet from the ground. He had a moment of doubt as he looked over the edge, but we said it wouldn't hurt if he shouted the words "Fly like an eagle!" When he jumped, his knees came up so fast that he knocked himself out. I think the lesson he learned that day was not to trust his brother, which is a pretty valuable one for a growing lad.

I wrote "The Dangerous Book for Boys" as a handbook for boys with scenes like that from my childhood in mind. I wasn't trying to please anyone else. I was just trying to free boys to be themselves again, the way we were when my brother and I were growing up.

Back in the 1970s, our father was a schoolmaster and part of his job was caning boys. He was prepared to do this on the job, but the only time he ever brought his work home was when I stole money from him and somewhat naively put it in my moneybox. Perhaps because that punishment was a unique event, I've never stolen anything from anyone since that day.

Looking back, I realize now that my father was an incredibly patient man. He loved wood, and whenever a school threw out an oak table or mahogany benches, he would rescue them and bring them home. One day, my brother and I took all that wood and nailed it to the tree in the front garden. It was perhaps the ugliest treehouse ever built, and my father was not impressed. In fact, I think he was close to tears for a moment.

He was born in 1923. He has seen a different world -- one before television, before mobile phones and before the Internet. He flew in Bomber Command during World War II, and when he tells stories, they're always grim, but funny at the same time. He lost half a finger in one bad crash, and at various times in our childhood, he told us that he'd worked in a sausage factory and pushed the meat too far into the grinder, resulting in the best sales the factory had known; that a German sniper had recognized him flying overhead and thought, "That's Mr. Iggulden, I'll just fire a warning shot"; or that he was the new Bionic Man, but the British government could afford to replace him only a bit at a time.

His generation understood the cars they drove, could hang wallpaper and fix just about anything. In his 80s, he is still an immensely practical man, but at the same time, he still quotes poems he learned as a boy, demonstrating that a man can love a good line as much as a good dovetail joint.

Of course, my mother was important to our childhood. An Irish Catholic, she gave us a faith that endures today, as well as an appreciation for literature that made me want to be a writer from a young age. She kept chickens in a garden no more than 30 feet square in a suburb of London, and the neighbors complained about the cockerels waking them up.

When she gave birth to me, the nurse walked down a line of babies saying, "This one will be a policeman and this one will be a footballer." When the nurse came to me, she said "Ah, but this one has the face of a poet."

My father, though, made me the man I am. He was playing bridge on the night I was born. When he saw me the following morning, he said, "I hope he never has to kill anyone."

We had books in the house with titles such as "The Wonder Book of Wonders" or "Chemical Amusements and Experiments," showing their age with instructions directing you to buy "a shilling paper of Potassium Permanganate." I read them all, and I'm lucky to have all my fingers. We made bows and arrows every summer, cutting them green and hunting in the local woods. We managed to trap a raven, though I think it must have been ill. I had an idea about training it to attack so that I would be the terror of the local park. Sadly, we found it cold and stiff one morning in the chicken run.

More at: In Praise of Skinned Knees and Grubby Faces - washingtonpost.com

The biggest problems we are facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all and that’s what I intend to reverse.

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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 06-28-2007, 02:55 PM
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Getting a little off subject here, but not really, I would like to elaborate on a general statement made above; his generation understood the cars they drove.

This is something I find to be totally true. For perfect instance I was talking to the editor/writer of a large automobile publication regarding classic cars. It stunned me to learn that this man, with the power to influence literally millions of car purchases, was not someone who knew enough about cars to think for himself. Showing him the original high gloss lacquer paint on a near 40 year old car elicited nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders and a so what grin. Old folks knew to keep their cars out of the sunlight, knew to keep them in tight garages, knew what they needed and when, and knew the car was a large investment and should be cared about. This all fell with one shrug on deaf ears to this young man in a position of influence.
Now when I cruise the classifieds for well kept classic cars, inevitably it is the big old detroit iron that comes to the forefront when you are picky and want brand new regardless of car's age. Not because of the inherent quality per say of the American made cars, but because the old owners knew how to take care of them and even more importantly, valued them far more than the take and take society (spoiled) we have around us today.
My dad instilled my car collecting/restoring genes I have today and he always took exceptional care of his Cadillacs, Lexus, Infiniti, and Mercedes. He is no longer at a point to drive anymore and is taking it far better than I fear I will at that time in my life. He has Alzheimers and at some point soon may not recognize those he held so dearly.
We are losing a generation that did not take things for granted.
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 06-28-2007, 03:02 PM
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You stories remind me of my Granpa - yes, they don't come like 'em any more!
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 06-28-2007, 03:06 PM
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practical, yes, that's a big thing missing these days. lack of care, in general, too.

in political asylum
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