Sunday, 10 August 2008

Confessions Of a Juvenile Knife Fiend

We have it on no less an authority than The People newspaper that, 40 years ago, the streets of violent Britain were thronged with knife-wielding thugs. Well, I must say that's not quite how I remember it. I carried a knife myself whenever I had the opportunity - I'd been rather fond of the things from early boyhood, but certainly not for purposes of fighting or even self-defence. The fun was in throwing them at trees etc, and doing odd bits of informal whittling, useful cutting jobs, that kind of thing - though teachers, annoyingly, would always confiscate them if they got the chance. In those days, I believe, a sheath knife was part of a Boy Scout's uniform; nowadays, if the government had its way, it would probably land a young person in clink.
Knife ownership most certainly doesn't equate with knife crime, even now. In France, to judge by the prevalence of knife shops, ownership must be near universal, but their knife crime rates are no higher than ours. The present wave of knife crime in Britain (along with gun crime) is a real problem - rather than the 'moral panic' some like to label it - - and it's a problem in a way it never was in the 60s. It's a symptom of a form of social collapse which, happily, was barely under way four decades ago, but which now seems unstoppable.


  1. Ah yes we remember it well Nige, there was some violence, mainly the good old fashioned fisticuffs variety but nothing like as described. My knife was part of the set that included a woggle and misc badges, remember the bit for removing stones from horses hooves?
    We were part of the audience at an absolutely classic stooshie one night in 1964 at closing time outside of The Prospect Of Whitby. Fur and feather were flying off the two protagonists when two men pushed their way through the crowd and said "we are police officers, stop what you're doing, now!
    Said protagonists ceased belting each other and turned on plod. A rollicking good punch up ensued, all good clean stuff. Incidentally the docks were still working in those days.
    The People should go back to the drawing board, their article is a load of rubbish, it most certainly was not happen like that.

  2. I am waiting for my 14 year old son to get nailed for his love of weaponry. He has the Boy Scout knife (he is a B.S.), two Swiss Army knives, and every firearm we will let him have (an airsoft rifle and two pistols). If he is deprived of his weaponry, he will find ways to create fire and explosions. He was first to figure out that thing with the Mentos and the Diet Coke. He loves fireworks. Give him roman candles and he's in heaven.

    My hope is that he makes it to adulthood with all his fingers.

  3. Susan, quite a dangerous place, your country. The last time Malty junior came back from a trip to Greensboro he was wearing a Woolrich CIA officers field jacket, must be something in the water.

  4. There's a love of combat, Malty. Do you have any idea how popular the movie "300" was among teenage boys? I mean, I appreciated the ripped abs of all the Spartans, but my son and my nephew went wild over the weaponry and the battle skills.

    When I took them to the art museum, the boys disappeared into the armory. Choice between Whistler and a crossbow? No choice.

    Some of it may be video games, but I dunno. My brothers were warlike, too, thirty years ago, and they didn't have video games.

    And in a tip of the hat to Johnny, I have to say there are many good things about games like "World of Warcraft" where the boys work in teams and help each other. Though now the son's obsession is with something called "Halo." The living room is his arena and he is happy to take on and defeat all comers.

    Your son's jacket sounds cool. How did he get it?

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