Useful (?) Things I Learned as a Kid

Ancient male wisdom from 1970s England


It’s more difficult than you’d suppose to mix potassium nitrate and sugar in the right proportions for an explosion. Twisted toilet paper is not a good fuse system.

Social studies

Bullies don’t back off when you stand up to them. They thump the crap out of you. They choose smaller and weaker victims for a reason, and when you’re a kid, there’s always a bigger kid.

If a smaller boy is a bully, he’s probably a psychopath. (Lookin’ at you, Dave. Scary little guy. That high-pitched giggle when a fight kicked off …)


Laws of physics, dude. You ain’t gonna beat Jeff. He’s six feet tall and has fists like half-bricks. He likes using them on kids two years younger and half his size. The best defence is pretending to be a harmless, babbling fool. Easy when you’re scared shitless.

Groundbait (cereal-based berley), mixed with water to a clay-like consistency, will stick to windows when launched with a slingshot on the correct trajectory. This produces a satisfying THUNK and consternation among the householders. The experiment is best conducted after dark. Secure your escape route first.

Apples are surprisingly hard and heavy projectiles. They really hurt when your “friend” throws them at your head.


If you hang around the offy (liquor store), sooner or later a kindly older bloke will take your money and buy you that six-pack of Tuborg lager. He will never dob you in, and he may give you correct change.

International studies

The annual school exchange trip to Germany is a good opportunity to cause a minor diplomatic incident. When leaving a beer festival in a hill-top castle, a bike with no rear brake is the preferred mode of transport.


The contents of Jim’s parents’ cocktail cabinet will cause a thumping headache, vertigo and disorientation. Even if you pour a tiny, “undetectable” quantity from each bottle.


A tip for primary schoolers here. Your parents won’t notice if you cut out the nude photos from their porn stash and stick them in a scrapbook.

Moving on to secondary school. If you ornament your geography textbook with doodles worthy of a medieval manuscript, the teacher will make you buy the damn book. Philistine.


If a burly bloke in his 40s with arms like a gorilla yells “Oi, come ’ere you little bastards!” — fucking RUN. Do not listen to your mate Terry, who wants to stay behind and “find out what he wants”.

Gender studies

It’s best to moon around suffering unrequited love for the most popular girl in your year at school. Remain oblivious to any girls who might like you. Ideally, she is also Jeff’s girlfriend.

Avoid like the plague any girls from the year below, who might consider you attractively mature and worldly. (Baffling as that may seem.) Nobody wants to be called a “cradle snatcher” and the opinion of your peers is more important than romance, happiness and life itself.

More sports (for advanced students)

Cold and damp on the river bank? Fish not biting? Flick maggots at your mate. Hours of fun.


You’re the only teenager in the world with acne and a sweat problem. This makes you uniquely unattractive. You’re cursed, dude, let’s face it.

And finally …

The point of making mistakes in life is to learn. Unfortunately, the lessons you learn will be obsolete and no bloody use.

The views and opinions expressed in this article may be those of the author. No warranties are given regarding death, injury and social embarrassment. Persons and events may or may not be fictitious, who knows?

Who wouldn’t take advice from this guy?

Thanks for reading!

Featured photo ‘Flat comes complete with stadium views’ by Ben Allan on Unsplash; I grew up in a tower block not dissimilar to these ones (although I think the photo is from the 2000s).

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