My Dirty Secret

You know what I think is missing from life these days?




When I was little, mud played a much more major role in life than it does now. And I think that’s sad.

I was a sporty little boy. Not particularly able, but I loved it.

I remember playing both football and rugby (and occasionally both) when I was a nipper… and getting completely caked in mud when I did.

So caked that, by the time I got home after the game, my legs were completely encrusted in dried out mud. When I bent my knees the hard mud would crack and I’d pick bits off and flick them.

That was until, as I grew older, pulling off the dried mud also meant I was effectively plucking my legs… an eye-watering experience that hastened the ending of that particular pastime.

And then it was bath-time.

Don’t forget this was in an era when showers were very much a novelty, and when we all slept in beds covered with sheets and blankets. Duvets hadn’t made much headway at that time, except with the early adopters… and, even for those people, they weren’t called duvets but “continental quilts”.

I’d half fill the bath, get in… and then leave the taps running for as long as, and as hot as, I dared.

There weren’t many mixer taps in those days either… you were sophisticated if you had bath taps of any shape other than that sort of cross with a ball shape at the end of each limb…

The bath served to loosen the baked on mud from my legs but, apart from that, it was a pretty pointless exercise really. The mud made the water filthy (which hardly left me clean). And left the mother of all tide-marks when I pulled the plug!

And it wasn’t just like that for little boys like me.

Frequently on Grandstand on a Saturday afternoon, in late Autumn and Winter especially, you’d see rugby matches where mud played a major role… where sometimes it was nigh on impossible to tell one team from the other because their heavy cotton rugby shirts (those were the days!) were universally brown with soaked-in mud.

And football took place on quagmires like the famous Baseball Ground – home of Derby County.

These days, even a relatively lowly team such as my beloved Wycombe Wanderers plays on a carpet-like surface in comparison. And when you watch most premier league games the grass looks as perfect as it was for the first game of the season.

But that’s not what makes me a bit sad.

It’s the fact that today’s young ‘uns, like our little boy William, seem to invariably play football on astroturf rather than grass.

Yes it’s a ‘better’ surface, the ball runs truer and you can play on it in all weathers.

But how’s he going to get all nostalgic about that in years to come?

Bring back the mud!

Too many “improvements”… bring back some of life’s rough edges, I say…

For example, let’s talk milk…

… blue tits attacking the foil tops of your milk bottles

… having to shake the milk to mix the cream (if the birds had left any) with the rest of the milk

… getting a mini bottle of milk at 11am at primary school… nicely warmed to room temperature (ewww)

Do you agree? What other of life’s improvements have stolen the nostalgia?

Please Spread The Word!
  • Uglybugly says:

    We used to have to use the hosepipe to rinse off! No getting in the house til we were (sort of) clean haha!

    • Nancy Townsend says:

      I remember working on a farm (part-time from the age of 12) and having to clean up in the garage before I was allowed in the house. I can’t remember if I used a hose though.

  • Liz James says:

    Brought back so many memories, thank you.

  • Jay Bloggs says:

    I miss a lot of things about the past, mostly how things were said or what things were called; here are a few examples.

    “Going to the pictures”
    “Sitting on the settee”
    “Is so and so coming out to play?”
    “Let’s make a den”

    I looked forward to the milk at school, they stopped it just as I was leaving that school to go to “big school”

  • Carol Horten says:

    Walking home after the cinema eating chips out of newspaper, no polystyrene boxes!

  • hazel says:

    Loving your blog posts, bringing back memories of days gone by.

  • Helen Grogan says:

    I still get milk that has to be shaken – organic non-homogenised milk where you can skim the cream off the top on your cereal. I can remember in winter when the milk was frozen so the foil top was pushed off by the cream expanding.

    Mud!! mud pies were the thing – my mum used to stand us in the bathtub and pour a jug of water over us before running the bath – pre shower days of course. (and we were lucky to have a bathroom – no tin bath in front of the fire for us!)

  • Hoshi says:

    Learning to ride your bike while wearing wellies.

    Getting a selection box at Christmas that was worthwhile – Marathon, Spangles and tootie frooties!

  • Carole says:

    Mud is still about, just speak to any Cub or Scout or Leader for that matter, we still embrace the mud!

  • Steve says:

    Now that brought back happy memories as growing up as a kid in the 1950’s. We never had a bathroom back then, a tin bath in front of the fire, mum and dad had their bath first, then the water was added for us kids.

  • Patricia says:

    I love this blog! Watching rugby trying to break the young men playing was not really a comfortable was to spend your time either, but I loved it! Even when I stood with my daughter in the pram (not “buggy”!) on the touch line. It took me years to learn about forward passes and “handbags at dawn”. Thank you for the memories 🙌🏻👏🏻

  • Shirley ann says:

    The warm milk yuck. 😫

  • Andrew Gosling says:

    Ah, the wretched milk. I hated it. If you didn’t finish it you had to stand it on blackboard chalk ledge and you weren’t allowed home until it had all gone. The chalk dust really improved the flavour! I’m surprised my parents did not report me to the police as a missing person! On another blog (about buses) a gent told exactly the same story. Turns out we went to the same school!

  • JGK says:

    I loved the mud…it’s fantastic playing football or rugby in the rain. Sadly over here (USA) we have to postpone matches if the grass field is waterlogged WT@$?! As they worry about damaging the field 😢. Slide tackles are so much more gratifying when it’s wet.

    I loved the pic of a muddy Billy Bremner And the rugby pic was even better.

    • Mycroft says:

      Reminds me of a quote from years ago:

      “You can tell the football season’s started – Billy Bremner’s been seen sharpening his studs”.

  • Jackie says:

    When I was little I loved making mud pies with my play tea set. I would find a spot in the garden get a jug of water one of Grandmas wooden spoons and make mud. I would take two plates, two saucers and pile the mud between them and sandwich the plates etc together. They came out brilliant even with the little imprint of flowers from the tea set. Loved every minute until I was caught. as I would be at the very bottom of the garden hidden by the shed, the best and the muddiest place and I would be covered in it.

    Milk at school I think should be re introduced for maintaining kids healthy teeth and bones etc. as well as the orange juice. Some kids today don’t have any or not enough in their diet. I missed it very much when moving schools especially as we were allowed a few biscuits from home as well. It was a very welcome brake.

  • Carol says:

    Ah yes, little mini bottles of milk. And hot mashed potato with salad, and one day I even had an extra from the dinner ladies (are there still dinner ladies in schools?): a green caterpillar walking across the lettuce and heading for the mashed potato. Strange how you just can’t forget some things.

  • Glynis says:

    I take my great grand daughter playing in streams and mud she loves it as did her mum at the same age. We grans are keeping mud in the children’s lives.

  • Vanessa says:

    My favourites were Mud Pies! Would sit for hours in the mud in the garden making them (and also eating them apparently!).

  • Lovelyruthie says:

    You know they still do milk at school…but only for Reception class.

    • Michael says:

      Aha… but does it come in little bottles… and it is nice and tepid? Ours used to come in a crate (which we used to sneak out of class and use as a wicket when playing cricket in the playground!)

    • Alison M says:

      Daughter still gets milk – has done since Primary 1 and now in Primary 5 (Scotland). It’s not free (costs £11 or so a term if the parent wants to pay for it and not compulsory).

  • Alison says:

    Thank you Great memories . I remember playing mud pies with my sister in the garden and the Sundella pop man coming in his van he used to give refunds on empty bottles.

  • Ricki says:

    I remember the school milk and liked it at room temperature. Licked off the cream first and then drank the rest.
    Mud, yes and grit in the wounds when you fell off your bike.

  • Rosalind says:

    I have an allotment so I have plenty of mud [especially with all the rain we’ve been having] I can recommend it!

  • m williams says:

    What about the milk at school when it was left outside in the crate in the winter and it froze…it would be above the bottle top with the silver foil top just sitting on the peak..then next to the radiator to thaw it out

  • Donna says:

    Mud pies 😂…I loved making mud pies.
    I lived by a football ground so asking people if I could “look after” their cars for 2p and then going to play in the local park, with a metal climbing frame and a metal round about. Always making sure I was back 10 minutes before the end of the match to collect my money.
    Then early evening taking your earnings with the empty pop bottles, off my Nan, to the local outdoor and spending it all on the penny box….BLISS!!

  • Paul says:

    When I used to play in goal for the school team I used to cake my hands in mud so it went tacky and that allowed my a better grip on the old leather “Casey” that we used

  • Pat says:

    Or in winter, when the milk was left outside and froze so that the milk pushed off the foil top……..happy days!

  • Jo McQ says:

    I always hated the little milk bottles in winter as the water had frozen and the cream was that much more creamy – I wasn’t too happy about that, nor when my class was the last to get to them and got the well-pecked and pooped-on foil tops!!!!
    Being female, I didn’t get muddy very much – apart from when I went for a walk with my friends in my…..ballet shoes. My mum eventually found them when we moved house about a year later and you can imagine her reaction, even though I had given up ballet before I even destroyed them! My sister ate soil when she was little, but I hated it. Funny that I now love gardening!

  • Kimkim says:

    My little friend and I used to play in the small strawberry patch. We’d be there all day on the back of the garden, out of sight from the adults.
    We would deliberately cover ourselves in mud just so we could share a bath together at the end of the day.
    We would sing and shout and throw bubbles (Mr Matey) at each other. Completely soaking the bathroom floor.
    They were memories!!!

  • Ian says:

    My mum used to make me stand outside the back door, strip off(especially after trips camping), and then let me in the house to bath(I did smell, after one long trip to Italy no one on the train would sit anywhere near me), and that was when I was eighteen.

  • Terry Baker says:

    I used to make mud pies …great times….and later in life I used to come home covered in mud from playing football..

  • Denise Shoult says:

    Don’t get me started on school milk. Ugh hated it.

  • Karen says:

    My brothers were not content with mud and took it all a step further, or one step too far.
    They would wait for the cows in the field to poop. Get a nice swishy stick (a hazel twig worked the best) then stir the cow poop with said stick. Draw the stick out quickly, then take aim and flick……
    They would come home plastered in “it” stinking to high heaven.
    Mum would make them strip at the door and then march them off to the bathroom.
    Woe betide any person, dog or farmer who got in their line of fire as once flicked there was no stopping it.

  • Andrea says:

    As a girl I didnt get that muddy. Until the day I took my sisters Golden Retreiver ( Moona) our for a walk. She took off running with me at the end of the lead. My little legs couldnt go any faster. I fell, still holding the lead and was dragged through the muddiest puddle in the world ever! Head to toe in mud!!

  • Helen says:

    I remember the little bottles of milk, piercing the foil with a straw. We also had giant (well they seemed Giant) chocolate biscuits with ours.

  • Liz says:

    I used to go and watch Derby play in the olden days, had to keep quiet about it though…. I was living in Nottingham at the time!!

  • Martin McMerkin says:

    Whenever my dad asked what we had for school diner, whatever we had I always replied, “Meat and potatoes, cake and custard”.

  • Sally F says:

    I remember hockey lessons on cold, foggy mornings in the local playing field. These took place whatever the weather! And did it hurt when hit in the shin by a hockey stick!

  • Carole says:

    The “top of the bottle” of milk on my cereal, if my brother didn’t get there first.

  • Leonard Eynon says:

    School cross country run. From the school yard, downhill through the blackest, boggiest field you can imagine. Then circumnavigate the field that was once a council rubbish tip, to then tuck in behind a block of flats to have a sly drag of a woodbine. Finally along the main road for the mud to harden in your daps before returning to the school yard to be counted. Of course this was in the middle of winter, so you were either drenched or froze to the bone. Or both. Ah the good old days lol.

  • Sharon says:

    Instant access to music. The Spotify/iTunes/Amazon Prime streaming wotsit.
    It has spoiled the pleasure of getting the bus into town on a Saturday morning. A crumpled fiver tucked away ready to spend an hour or more, flicking through all the vinyl LPs in alphabetical order before leaving, fiver unspent because you’re waiting for a particular new release but can’t resist going from A-Z anyway.

  • Jane says:

    You wouldn’t be missing mud if you’d experienced it coming over the top of your wellies like I did today when getting horse out of field – & winter is only beginning 😂 My husband used to coach kids football & much to the disgust of the other parents one of the first things they did with the littlies is get them to roll in the mud. Trouble is at 20 they’re still doing it

    Miss from childhood the nice “safety” playground equipment – high metal slides, witches hat etc all on concrete bases

  • Joy says:

    Mum always said if they couldn’t find me when I was little I would either be in the coal shed or in a muddy puddle (would that count as child abuse now?). My (very grown up) daughter plays in a ladies rugby team and comes home covered in mud! Hated the warm milk at school and also the runny custard!

    We love playing in the mud at our school. Children are supplied with ‘puddle suits’ and wellies and have a great time splashing about and making mud pies.

  • Nadia says:

    Central heating means no gorgeous frost patterns inside the windows in winter. I don’t miss the run to the bathroom to get washed and then back to the bedroom to get dressed as quickly as possible but I do miss the patterns.

  • Sally says:

    Definitely the school milk. With the plastic straws. How I loved being milk monitor.

  • Lesley says:

    Curdled school milk, i can still taste it 50+ years later!

  • Jan deighton says:

    I used to make muds pies with my bucket and spade.
    Or eat coal from my grandads bunker.
    So into the tin tub i went in front of the fire with nan scrubbing behind my ears.
    The smell of coal the heat of the log fire with the occasional spit. The outside toilet (although grandad built a lean too)
    Or freezing to death whilst the coal fire took hold in the mornings so you could heat your school uniform.
    Aww Nostalgia at its best !

  • Marina Thorpe says:

    I remember bath time. There was 8 kids in my family, with no bathroom and an outside toilet. Our bath time once a week, was in a metal bath-shaped container standing up on the kitchen table. About 5 of us were old enough to sit in this “bath”, all using the same water. You were the lucky one who sat in it first.

  • Lesley says:

    Great memories, I was milk monitor for a year at school but hated the stuff so never drank it – it was too frozen in winter, we had to leave it by the radiators which was pointless as they were never turned on. We had to wear our coats as it was so cold.
    Anyone remember the compendiums we used to get every Christmas? They always had cardboard chess/draught layouts and a paper dice spinner – you had to push a matchstick through it spin it. Happy days.

  • sam says:

    Getting the money back from the bottles at the off licence

  • Swills says:

    Yes good old school milk…loved it ! and used to drink those that did not like it too 🙂 then there was………’SCHOOL DINNERS’ ! Oh dear…..put me off most green veg for life… and yes still can’t stomach cabbage..sprouts… greens…….

    • OursonAnglaise says:

      I loved school dinners at primary, but then we had proper school dinners made on the premises by the cook… our school there was a ‘small portion’ and ‘big portion’ queue though everyone seemed to get the same. I still miss this minced beef tart our lovely cooks made……no wonder I have a problem with my weight!

  • Deborah Shilleto says:

    Used to fight with my brother and sister for the creamof the milk to put on our cereals. Loved the milk at school and was milk monitor. I also remember the army blankets that we had on our bed that were so itchy, and as we had no central heating in my bedroom the frost was always on the window panes, and your breath was cold, always put the covers over my head and only had my nose poking out. Still happy days.

  • Mycroft says:

    When did school milk change from coming in bottles, to being in the original tetrahedral Tetra Paks?

    But I do know that it was in 1971 that the then Minister of Education, Margaret Thatcher, stopped the provision of milk for junior school pupils, prompting the playground chant of “Thatcher, Thatcher, milk snatcher”. (Apparently she later came to regret her decision.)

  • Jimbo says:

    Christmas films and programs that you could only see at…….wait for it…….Christmas!🎅🎉🎄😆🎄🎉🎅👍

  • Wendy Griffiths says:

    Tracking, kick the can, knock door run and French skipping with knickers elastic. Not a games console in sight just plenty of fresh air

  • Alan Boney says:

    Central heating. From waking to frost on the inside of the windows, wearing socks in bed everynight as well as a vest under your pyjamas. To going out in the garden to fill up the coal scuttle, then cleaning out the grate from last nights fire. Breaking up some wood for kindling then folding up the newspaper to make firelighters. Putting it all together, lighting it then holding newspaper in front of it to ‘draw’ the fire. Then sitting in front of it to slowly add some coal. Finally you have a roaring fire. You yourself are covered from frozen sweat from all the hard labour. You then go and do it all again for the boiler to get some hot water. Then half an hour later you can if you’re lucky go and get undressed in a freezing cold bathroom and have some warm water to wash with.
    After your day at work you come and sit by the fire, as close as you can get without setting yourself slight. If you go the other side of the chair you’ll be freezing again on the lino flooring.
    Oh but I do miss all this!!!
    Thank god!!

  • Jenny says:

    Remote controls. And way t%oo many TV channels and we all watch something different. When there were only 3 channels we all. Watched together in virtual silence because and no one wanted to get up to turn up the volume!

  • Karen says:

    Warm milk for school break bleuuurgh! You were teachers pet if you were asked to come out to the front of the class, grasp the special scissors and then puncture the tops of the foil bottles! A lesser role was to follow behind the ‘scissor holder’ and insert the straws!

  • Julie Rankin says:

    Oh the little bottles of milk at school. I absolutely hated it in the Summer – warm milk, yuk! Winter time was much better, even if it was occasionally a little frozen (my school left it outside until it was needed at about 10:30. Even today, if the milk had been left out of the ‘fridge for a minute, I can’t drink it or have it on my cereals.

  • Julie Rankin says:

    Making your own perfume. Rose petals and water generally. We thought it was great. Not so much when you opened the container after it had been left in the sun for a few days.

    • Michael says:

      You did that too? I thought we were the only ones… We used to end up “perfuming” our patio with it every year… which says a lot about the smell.

      And yet the next year we’d repeat the exact same process!

  • Denise Boyle says:

    Talking about milk remember ‘Watch out
    watch out theres a Humphrey about ‘

  • Horatio Orrison says:

    Ahh! The memories. Thanks to the posters for them all. Many of them made me laugh out loud whilst waiting for a pacemaker to be fitted. Bet folks wonder what I found so amusing. Keep em coming.

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