Like many individuals, I learned many useful lessons during my fledgling years. For instance, acquiring the knowledge that possessing a double-jointed ring finger is unlikely to lead you on a meaningful career path. Another being the need to be discerning when choosing a projectile to use when skimming stones.
The latter learned on a mid-1970’s August afternoon in Saltwell Park, Gateshead, during a visit there with my brother Ian. A stop off on the way home from the grocers
As the bright solar rays warmed our bodies, while standing beside the parks lake, we decided we should negate our boredom by skimming stones across it’s rippling sun kissed water. Our aim not driven by mischief, moreover the fact we weren’t in possession of a football, ruling out our normal park pastime of a game of footy.
Despite being relatives novices at the ‘sport’ of stone skimming, our kid and I knew for the best results the projectile needed to be flat – A shape that allowed it to skip along the water’s surface, as opposed to a rounder missile which ordinarily sank as soon as it engaged with the wet stuff.
Scouring our immediate surroundings on the lakeside, finding a stone with the necessary aerodynamics proved a difficult task. So much so that at the time Ian invented the adage ‘There’s never a flat stone around when you need one’.
Unfortunately for my younger sibling, like his other adage of the time ‘Buses are crap’ it never really took off. Instead ending up consigned to the adage graveyard in the sky, a dark place situated between a Threshers and TV presenter Richard Madeley’s sincerity.
Undeterred at the paucity, of suitable flat stones Ian and me continued to look around our immediate locale for alternative projectiles. These were also of a premium.
We did though manage to locate a duck feather, an empty can of Skol lager, a discarded page from the Newcastle Evening Chronicle and a rabbits foot. None of which we deemed would make suitable skimming missiles…… Especially the rabbit’s foot which was still attached to a rabbit hidden behind a lakeside shrub.
Never one to give up on any scheme (regardless of how hair-brained) my brother put his hand into the carrier bag of shopping we’d just collected for our mum and pulled out a box of eggs.
“What about using these, Gary?” he queried.
“I doubt eggs will skim, Cheesy! (his nickname)” I replied disparagingly to my sibling.
“Well they’ll skim better that a duck feather and the front page of the Chronicle, Gaz” Ian argued.
“An anvil would skim more impressively than a duck feather and the front page of the Evening Chronicle, but it still wouldn’t be any good at skipping along the surface.” I retorted, now regretting I’d earlier brought up the subject of filling in time by skimming stones.
“We haven’t got an anvil, Gary.” our kid observantly pointed out.
“I know, it was a deliberately stupid example.” I countered.
“Even if we had an anvil, Gaz, we’d not be able to lift it to throw it into the lake to see if it skimmed.” my brother continued.
“Look, Cheesy. I know there isn’t an anvil, I was trying to make a point of how stupid it would be to attempt to skim eggs.” I attempted to clarify.
“You’re a right boring get, Gaz!” my brother felt moved to proffer. And not without justification – The inquisitiveness leading to childhood mischief usually usurped by my penchant for not taking risks.
“The egg shells will crack as soon as they come into contact with the water, Ian.” I proffered, attempting to back my strategy of not skimming oeufs.
“They might not…… They might be hard-boiled.” Ian argued, seemingly determined to throw an egg into Saltwell Park lake.
“There not hard-boiled, we’ve just bought them from the grocer’s shop…… They aren’t hard boiled before he sells them!” I pointed out despairingly.
“He might!” Cheesy further argued.
“Ok, well go ahead and do it. Just don’t come running to me if you kill someone!” I inexplicably responded.
“Right, watch this then, Gaz!!” my stubborn sibling exclaimed, before hurling one of the half dozen eggs lakewards.
Sadly, we never got to find out if eggs will actually skim across the lake as my brother’s idiosyncratic projectile didn’t touch the water. Instead, it inadvertently hit a duck – The bird in question looking displeased at its glossy green and black down feathers now bearing yolk, white and eggshell from Ian’s poorly guided projectile.
Concerned we’d get a rollocking from the park keeper, Ian and me ‘legged it’ onto Saltwell Road, heading south towards home.
Breathless from our escape and the long run, we arrived in our family kitchen sweating profusely. After handing mum her bag of food we walked into the living room, our tiredness leading to us both slumping inelegantly onto the settee.
Our relaxation didn’t last long, though, as soon we scarpered out of the front door after hearing a shout from the kitchen:-
” HEY, YOU TWO. GET IN HERE NOW!……. WHY IS THERE ONLY FIVE EGGS, NOT THE SIX I ASKED FOR?!”
As we both ‘legged it’ along Dorchester Gardens, I turned to my brother and asked “Where we running to, Cheesy?”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m running back to Saltwell Park. A rollocking from the park keeper will be nothing compared to the one we’d get off mum!”