SLIDING down the staircase handrail was one of the simple joys of living at home when I was a kid.
I laughed when I read the other day that the Albury Art Gallery’s beautiful staircase was being junked because it didn’t meet safety standards.
It’s been there for a century and nobody ever said it was a health and safety hazard.
Most terrace houses where I lived had narrow stairs with highly-polished handrails.
The kids always slid down them.
We called it “sliding down the banister” but actually the banisters are the thin upright pieces supporting the rail.
When I got older, I was given the job of painting the banisters white.
But that was no joyride, I can tell you.
Safety issues didn’t really bother us much as kids.
When I was about four, I contracted pleurisy and pneumonia, and after that my parents insisted I should be “careful” that I didn’t catch something worse.
Ice-cream scared them more than banisters — it worried everyone in my little Welsh town.
That was because about 1947 a local outbreak of typhoid killed a few children and adults.
At first they blamed visiting American sailors who had moored their warship in the bay, but the “carrier” of the typhoid germ, was actually an ice-cream seller.
He was one of those blokes who pedalled an ice-cream cart to the seafront, and it was he who unwittingly spread the disease.
About this time, a Labour government started a free national health service in Britain.
That meant we could see a doctor or dentist free, and everything from medicines to dentures were free.
As a result, people cast away old-fashioned methods of treating certain conditions, such as spitting on warts to get rid of them.
Nevertheless, many superstitions persisted.
In our home, we never crossed knives, or put shoes on a table, or picked up a glove if you dropped one.
We always avoided stepping under ladders because that was unlucky, too.
We didn’t like it if a picture fell off a wall because that indicated an impending death.
And, of course, breaking a mirror gave you seven years bad luck — and I’ve broken a few.
Did we really believe all that?
Well, yes, as often these concepts could be “proved”.
As to the future, there was always some old aunt who could read the tea leaves.
By the way, tea bags hadn’t been invented, or if they had, we never saw them.
Because we had no TV until I was 14, we kids had more diverse interests than today’s children surrounded by electronic gadgets.
My father had lots of books, including a Charles Dickens set.
I’d have to admit I never read a single Dickens until I tackled Oliver Twist about five years ago — and after that I didn’t ask for more.
However, I did read some of dad’s Agatha Christie thrillers and books about travel and adventure.
We had toys, of course, a cat and a goldfish. I remember with affection my little “dog” on wheels that I could push around.
We played a lot of snakes and ladders, ludo and card games such as “strip Jack naked”.
We weren’t allowed to play in my mother’s “parlour”, a “holy of holies” housing for family pictures, the best crockery and my sister’s piano.
I didn’t really like that parlour, especially when my mother solemnly closed the curtains in daytime.
That happened if a funeral cortege was due to pass by and we had known the deceased.
But as far as I know, no one was killed “sliding down the banisters”.