By Tim Porteus

IS IT A bogey, a bogie, or a boogie; or maybe just a bug.

I’ll be honest, I have very little idea of what I’m doing; but in this time of lockdown, one of the tasks assigned to me by my children has been to make a go-cart.

Well, my kids weren’t initially sure what a go-cart was. Their first request had been to buy a large toy car they’d seen in some YouTube video, filmed by a wealthy family.

You can picture the discussion after that. But that’s when the alternative idea came to me.

“Well we could make a bogey cart,” I said.

Laughter at that expression followed of course, but I was sure I had the name right.

It was from my childhood, so I Googled it and showed them what I meant, and they immediately agreed.

Then I thought “what have I done?” as I had no idea how to make one!

I do have vague recollections of making semi-lethal bogey carts when I was wee; using wheels from discarded prams and boxes or planks of wood. I still have a scar on my right knee from a bogey crash.

If I could do it in my childhood, surely I could build one now I reasoned. I’m not very skilled at these things, but maybe that’s because I haven’t tried.

Besides, I had the expectations of my children to meet, and so I took on the challenge.

It seemed to be a good lockdown activity. The first problem was the lack of materials. I recall a fish box was the best to use, and sturdy pram wheels; but, during the lockdown especially, these items are not so easy to acquire.

A friend kindly gave me a pallet, and I searched YouTube for advice. My heart began to sink.

The videos were all made by people with workshops, tools and carpentry skills I lack. Their fancy-looking perfectly made carts just raised my children’s hopes.

“Yea dad, one like that.”

I could feel my manhood was at stake.

My daughter looked at me sympathetically and said: “I know you’re busy with other things as well dad”.

So she gave me a generous five days to construct it.

I managed to scavenge some wheels from a toy pram, helped again by a friend, and stood looking at the raw materials, trying to make a design in my imagination.

I knew what a bogey cart was supposed to look like, but how to make something with the materials I had seemed a huge challenge.

I set to work. I sawed and hammered, and made a good impression of looking like I knew what I was doing.

But design challenges, in particular how to fit the wheels I had, which were on a frame, meant that the concept needed refined, and reduced in size.

My daughter watched as I stood looking confused then determined then confused again.

“I overheard her asking her mum, ‘do you think dad knows what he is doing?’”

So I enlisted my children’s help, sawing and hammering together. At least this way we could all share in the glory, or shame, of the final product!

At the time of writing I still have three days left to complete the task. In two days I have managed to make what I have euphemistically called “a prototype”; a completely new concept in home-made go carts.

It looks unsafe just now, but I must emphasise it is unfinished; but the basic idea is there. I just hope BMW don’t steal the concept!

The kids have named it the “bug”, because it’s so small, and, well, looks like a bug!

“It’s a new kind of cart, a bug-cart!” proclaimed my boy.

I have three days to find a way to make this bug “fly” safely.

The lockdown is taking its toll on many families but the extra time it is giving some of us with family is one of the benefits. Finding creative activities to do during this time isn’t always easy.

My kids have become hooked on screen activities which normally we’d restrict. But these are not normal times, and I think parents need to give ourselves some slack and not worry too much. But there is a sense that this time has grounded many of us in simple meaning.

Many of us are sharing skills, like baking, cooking, making things, learning activities, which before we often had little time to do together. But also rediscovering lost skills, or learning new ones by necessity, and making do with what we have; like starting off making a bogie cart and ending with a “bug”.

The truth is, of course, it’s the quality of the time spent together as much as the quality of the final product that is important. Well, that will certainly be my story when the final version is unveiled!

It’s such a time of contradictory emotions; I long for the end of the lockdown and the separation from other loved ones, and the loss and anxiety it means.

But having this time to fill with meaning also feels like a huge privilege; a kind of bittersweet liberation of my time.

I have guilt about this, and like others, I’m trying to help out to compensate.

But let us never forget that this time, and our safety, is made possible by the essential workers who are hard at work, keeping society going at such a dangerous time, and saving lives.

Their skills and contributions have so often been taken for granted and unacknowledged.

It has brought into sharp focus the false notion that low pay equates with “low skilled” work.

The reality is that many who are low paid are, in fact, highly skilled and, as we are discovering, the most essential workers.

I hope one of the legacies of this time will be a real recognition of the vital skills of many low paid workers, by valuing their work, both with status and proper pay.

Let’s build statues to essential workers, instead of politicians and generals, and express gratitude for their contribution.

And commit to being part of the change afterwards that will make this happen.

Such were my thoughts as I assembled the “bug” – my makeshift haphazard invention of our lockdown time. I hope I will complete it by the deadline.

In my area of East Lothian there is a community Facebook page where we can share our stories from this historic period.

The “bug” will be part of my contribution.

We will all have our different lockdown legacies and stories to remember and record for posterity. What is yours?

Already safety rules for the bug are being set by my children. Number one rule: dad must never sit on it, but he can pull it.

The term rod for my own back comes to mind.