There was no set time to be back and no limits to how far I could wander. I'd climb trees, make dens, knock on doors, filch fruit and, above all, play war games and Cowboys and Indians. Films from America dictated our days and guns were the most vital toys.
I had a few bows and arrows made for me, but my prize possession was a plastic machine-gun which even made the noise of shooting. Given this, I should've ended up in the SAS, though it was very common for boys to be honourable British soldiers killing off the nasty Jerries or Nazis.
Films and the weight of recent history moved our fantasies and not all the hide 'n' seek or skimming stones or fishing with pieces of string could detract from our bellicose pastimes.
When my family moved to England and I began to read the 'Jennings and Derbyshire' books set in an English Public School, these took over and I should've gone on to become a master at Eton! Even the huge impact of The Beatles and our singalongs brandishing racket-guitars couldn't deflect from this.
Yet of all the games I played in those days it was football which grew and grew to dominate my life.
It began on the streets of Penparcau and the park down the road; I borrowed my brother's old boots with nailed-in studs which cut into my soles so they bled. I loved tackling bigger boys and their annoyance when I beat them and scored.
Rugby was virtually unknown there in west Wales, where you'd have expected it to be king. Only on a few occasions did we fling this odd torpedo to each other and it never became a game.
I was let loose and my parents never discouraged me from pursuing any interest in things military ( strange, as my mother had been prominent in Aber CND!) and showed no interest in my footie fanaticism.
Many years later I managed to press-gang both my mother and father to matches( on separate occasions, as they were divorced by then) and both ended up as extremely tedious 0-0 draws, as if their presences had jinxed the games.
Coincidentally, the height of my own playing career was reached at the same point as my son many years after. I played for Cambridge City Schoolboys at 10 and 11 just as my son did for Merthyr and both of us on the left-wing........even though I am a right-footer.
My passion for footie has been handed down to him. The only thing my parents gave me was perhaps my mother's great admiration for poetry, especially Dylan Thomas, who died the year I was born. None of my father's many crazes had any effect on me simply because they were for him alone ; he never tried to enthuse me in painting, yoga, sailing, horse-riding, judo, photography, motorbiking, gliding etc etc. Some I might have taken to, though I never got to meet the horse he kept in our garden at Barry!
My dreams of becoming a professional footballer rapidly disppeared at Secondary School, as I began to realise that all the other boys were getting taller , tougher and hairier! My squeaky-voiced refusal to grow meant I was soon replaced as captain, though I did enjoy playing for a local factory team when I was 15, where many of the players were slower and balding! I relished the battle with pitches which turned into quagmires and recall one corner-flag which was downhill and couldn't be seen from the centre circle!
Why did my endless enthusiasm for footie continue and develop, yet all those other games cease to matter?
Perhaps it was just to do with finding a talent. If I'd joined a Shooting Club, my early love for guns could've found an outlet. More significantly, I believe it was the imaginary worlds we created which appealed to me.
My brother was obsessed with aeroplanes and especially RAF ones and soon joined the ATC, where he thrived on its sense of order. He became a nascent engineer, making endless model planes and flying them. He went on to become an engineer in the RAF! My father loved planes and had always wanted to join the RAF in the 2nd World War ( he couldn't because of his involvement in agriculture) :he no doubt encouraged my brother.
Those fantasy worlds of war and Public Schools later translated into football fields, where I saw myself as one of my heroes. After the World Cup of 1966 ( I still lived in England), Alan Ball was the all-action midfielder I wanted to emulate. I remember telling this to the top goal-scorer in our school team who simply dismissed 'Bally' with - 'Yeah, he runs around everywhere, doing nothing!' I think the remark was aimed at me.
As a teenager I created my own sport called 'Balloonball', initially an indoor variety and later transposed to our garden in Cambridgshire. It involved a lot of being tackled by trees and playing one-twos with the garage door. But I invented leagues and players and Bees were one of the top teams!
I wrote about 'Balloonball' once for a school story and received much praise. I think the teacher thought I was making it up!
A ONE-BOY TEAM
This is the place I want to be
(to others it's just a park, a field),
but when I'm here
the crowds cheer :
I'm who I want to be,
Chops or Jay or Bellamy.
This is the place my head's a crowd
(to others only the birds sing loud),
but when I'm here
the fans are chanting :
I'm speeding down the wing,
I'm Whittingham, I'm Burkey.
This is the place where I'm scoring
(to others it's green and boring),
but when I'm here
it becomes a massive stadium:
every leaf is an eye watching
and I am a one-boy team.