However, it was decided I had to have a tooth removed, a prospect I did not relish, and my mother took me to the dentist's practice in the middle of Armley, a town which has stuck in my mind for three things: it's wonderful public library, the place where Armley Feast was held, and the dentist.
This may have been the early days of the NHS but the dental surgery was more like a frontline medical centre from the Crimean War. There were few niceties and the dentist appeared to be on piece work. I was given gas, and that distinctive smell of rubber has stayed with me ever since. When I came round I was without a tooth, without my mother and had a mouth full of blood.
I had been taken into a side room that contained a bath into which a cold tap ran continually and around which sat or crouched several children, like refugees from civil war. All had had teeth pulled and the water in the bath was red with their blood. We each had a tin mug and were required to rinse and spit, rinse and spit until the bleeding slowed or until we were drained and died.
It was a such a scene of horror that I would not have been surprised if one or two lifeless bodies had been discovered at the end of each day. The experience was appalling. No wonder Hammer Horror films in later years failed to frighten me. I had been face to face with hell in a dental surgery in Armley.
My other medical experience as a child occurred when I was about nine years old. I was running in the playground of the Holy Family school when it felt like I had been shot in the eye. Two boys had been playing conkers and one had scored such a tremendous hit that it had knocked the other from its string and into my eye. I screamed. At first, the teachers did not realise the severity of the injury. Finally, a junior teacher was assigned to take me to a local doctor's surgery. I was in agony and sat in a waiting room blubbing. As soon as the doctor saw me, he sent for an ambulance and I was taken to Leeds General Infirmary.
My parents were informed, although I don't know how. No one had a telephone in those days, but I remember them being at the hospital that evening. My eye throbbed and was covered by padding. It was only later that I was told what almost happened.
A specialist wanted to operate immediately and remove the eye but they didn't have a bed. So I was sent home for the night. By the time I returned the next day, the damage was judged not to be as severe as first thought. I kept my eye but had months off school.
Thank goodness there had been no bed available.
The practice in those days was to put in a glass eye and I had a friend with one of those. He looked permanently pissed, even at nine.
This year I had a cataract operation on that same eye. The consultant said it had probably been caused by the accident with the conker.
Occasionally, someone, somewhere will try to ban playing conkers because it's dangerous and the Daily Mail will run a health and safety mockery story. Mine is one of the few voices that supports such a ban. In fact, never mind a ban, let's burn down every horse chestnut tree and solve the problem once and for all.
Or perhaps, in today's litigatious society, I can claim compensation instead?