All you need to play Bedlam is a large park, two teams of up to 100 kids and a holding pen.
All you need to play Bedlam is a large park, two teams of up to 100 kids and a holding pen. owenimaging

Bedlam in playgrounds has toned down

Folks, in this modern age where touch football is considered 'hard core', I was astonished to see a group of kids playing Bedlam the other day.

I think it's called Jail Break now, but it's the same, ultra-violent game I survived as a lad.

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, it's basically open warfare without weapons, ball or umpires. All you need is a large park, two teams of up to 100 kids and a holding pen; usually a sandpit.

Basically, Team 1 has to avoid being caught by members of Team 2 and dragged to the holding pen which is usually guarded by several large, slow-moving kids who like to dabble in random torture.

The prisoners can only be set free if one of their buddies breaks through the human wall and places a body part into the pen and yells "Bedlam!” Any prisoners who aren't unconscious, or nursing broken limbs, are free to scarper off again.

If nobody breaks through and everyone is caught, then the teams swap sides. It's so basic any 10-year-old sadist can quickly pick it up.

I played Bedlam at three different schools and lost count of the buttons torn off my shirts. I once battered my way through six monstrous thugs to free my mates. As I lay there in my undies, gasping, battered and bleeding, the school bully gave my ribs a light kicking to salute my heroic effort.

Still, Bedlam was safer than the time some clown suggested we play brandy with a cricket ball. The school's sick room looked like a scene from an episode of MASH.

So, I settled down to watch the kids play Jail Break and was mildly surprised to see the modern game had been gentrified. Instead of crash tackling the prisoners, they merely grabbed them and yelled, "1-2-3, you're caught!”

That wouldn't have pulled up Wildcat Wilson in my day, but at least I didn't have to call an ambulance.

The world may have gone slightly madder, but it's certainly not Bedlam out there.


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