The Basins

by

The following is an article by the late great Keith Waterhouse in the Daily Mirror of Thursday 13th September 1984. The original newspaper lovingly preserved and cherished over the years by Roy Gibbins and merely retyped here for legibility. Well done Roy. At the conclusion is a reminder of our own adventures in the basins.

 

KEITH WATERHOUSE

Those old basin blues

There used to be a little periodical, a monthly ragbag of jokes and cartoons with the extraordinary title of a Basinful of Fun.

 

            I was reminded of it by a letter from Mrs Annie Fenn of Leeds this week, conveying the mournful intelligence that, they have filled in the basins.

            The basins were a series of shallow quarries in the middle of an enchanted forest – well more a little wood, really – which was the training-ground for my boyhood apprenticeship as cowboy, outlaw, smuggler, ape-man, castaway, detective, engine driver and such like career opportunities.

            Where A Basinful of Fun comes into it is that it never occurred to me that there was anything unusual about such a title. The basins were such enormous fun that it seemed altogether natural and proper that someone should want to name a joke book about them.

            How these four or five craters came into being I had and have no idea, though theories were legion. One was that they were old mine workings, another that they had been caused by a stray bomb from a Zeppelin in World War One, another that they concealed hidden gold looted from a treasure ship that had foundered on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

            By far the most plausible or anyway the most popular, explanation was that they had been formed by rockets landing from Jupiter.

***

            Sometimes when the August sun filtered through the trees, we would catch the glint of metal in one of these basins and would dig feverishly for the concealed spacecraft. In this way we unearthed many rare objects such as old sardine tins, and once, what was either a time worn Abyssinian coin or a tap washer.

            The basins were all things to all boys. To the bike riders they were the speedway track or the Wall of Death. To the owners of chariots in the form of a plank on four pram wheels, they were the Roman Coliseum. To the underprivileged, deprived of any form of transport accept an imaginary bucking bronco they were the foothills of Arizona.

            My own special delight, as a wounded colonel in command of the First Leeds Mounted Aerial Marine Infantry, was to find the basins occupied by kids from the local Catholic school. If our council school platoon were present and correct in sufficient numbers, we would fight the Battle of Mons.

                                                 ***   

            (No doubt my correspondent, Mrs Fenn, being of the younger generation, took part in the D-Day landings on the basins where she would have been allowed to be a nurse.)

            In winter the basins filled up with water when they became the Atlantic or the Mississippi River. In high summer when the clay surrounding the basins became baked hard and stippled with little cracks, they were the    Sahara Desert on the moon.

There was never any single moment when any of us saw them for what they were – a few small depressions in the middle of a wood.

            Back to Mrs Finn and her letter: ‘My friend and I (both in our thirties with assortment of kids) make our annual pilgrimage every July to where we – and you – were brought up. Always we hear the call of the basins. We swoop down into them making the ancient animal noises known only by our tribe, watched by the younger generation who stand in wonder. Once this ancient ritual is accomplished we are refreshed and invigorated enough to face another year. 

          Anyway imagine our surprise this year when we turned the corner where the basins should be in sight and saw a ploughed field there instead. I thought I had better write and inform you of their passing

            Indeed, yes. It is depressing news, but it had to be broken, otherwise I should have had an even nastier shock. For by coincidence I was up in Leeds myself this week where someone wanted to take my photograph in some of the old haunts, and I as near as dammit headed for the basins. Heart attack material that could have been, to find crops growing where Mars, the Grand Canyon and Lake Geneva used to be.

            I did, however, drive past a deserted adventure playground. It didn’t look anything like the foothills of Arizonato to  me.   

And finally, just a reminder, by Eric Allen, of how we used come across the basins, which I suppose were in Halton, on our walks or bike rides, from East End Park on our ‘Route 66’ to Temple Newsam

            The Basins   

                                                                                            The Basins  

 By Eric Allen

Who remembers ‘The Basins?  The Basins were to be found on the Red Road edge of Temple Newsam. They were to be reached along Black Road and through Austin’s farm and were a site of great adventure for young ‘dare devil’ bicycle riders.  The basins had originally been mine workings and their spoil heaps. Some had paths going around the sides making them like the fair ground ‘wall of death’ The largest basin had a path going down one side into the bottom and up the other side, this was the best run for the young ‘dare devil’. Unfortunately on many occasions the rider did not have enough speed to carry them up the other side, which ended up with a quick dismount and a hard push to get the boy and bike up the other side before it toppled back on him.

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