“Times, they are a-changin’…”


Bob Dylan certainly got that right… This last Christmas holiday, my husband and I spent quite a lot of time watching YouTube on our Smart telly, and some of what we watched was footage of the world in the 1890’s, early 1900’s, and the years up to 1958. It was a fascinating glimpse into a world which has vanished forever, except in those snippets which have been immortalized in family photographs (on which no-one ever wrote names) or on jerky black and white film (any sound has been added post-production and probably was not of the exact event(s) being shown). But still, it was captivating.

Then I saw a post on Facebook which essentially congratulated people born in the thirties, forties and fifties for having been able to play outside rather than sitting indoors on a computer, tablet, or PlayStation.  And I wondered, is this down to concerns about safety, or is it because today’s children simply prefer to play in a virtual world rather than the real one? And is the world really any more dangerous than it was when people of my generation were growing up?

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, when personal computers simply didn’t exist. I was excited to get my first transistor radio!  I remember having to perch on the edge of the bath on a Sunday evening to listen to the Top 40 on Radio One, because you couldn’t always get a signal. Mine had a little arial you could extend and move about, but it didn’t always help.ITT TRANSISTOR RADIO 1970S

But prior to that,  my friends and I would play – quite happily, for the most part – in our back gardens. When we got a little bit older, we would ask permission to go to Rowhill Copse  (now a nature reserve). To us, it was the biggest & best playground you could wish for, and we spent many happy days acting out adventures. It often featured in my dreams well into adulthood! To today’s parents the idea of letting your pre-teen child go off into a nearby wood with others of a similar age might seem horrendously dangerous – we had to cross at least one main road to get there, and there were all manner of opportunities to injure ourselves, probably the biggest being a pond deep in the woods.  But of course we didn’t worry about that, and I remember being grounded on at least one occasion for going there without first telling my mother where my sister and I were going.  As we got older, days spent ‘up the copse’ or in the garden became few and far between, and we swapped outdoor delights for our bedrooms, where we would read books, play vinyl records and moon over ‘Elvis Monthly’ magazines.  Nowadays we’d be surfing online, listening to music on YouTube and Googling ‘Elvis Presley images’. (which I just did to get the picture below)

vintage record player.jpg   elvis monthly

My son will be twenty-five this year. He spent quite a lot of his childhood playing outside with friends, but (just as with my parents) it was very rare indeed that we didn’t know where he was or who he was with. We lived, for most of his childhood, in a cul-de-sac, and his playmates mostly lived in the same road.  But as he got older, he too opted to play indoors more often – and when we got our first home computer (in 2001, and it cost in the region of £1,000 for not very much processing power at all, really) that was – mostly –  the end of outdoor play!  Even now his preferred free time activity is an online game.  He recently bought himself a ‘daylight’ lamp… I wonder why?!

playstation1.jpg    colin-mcrae-rally-usa.jpg

So do today’s children ever ‘play out’ like we did? I’m of an age now where most of my friends also have grown-up children, and since we’ve not yet been blessed with grandchildren, I am a bit out of touch…

Will the children of today make tutting sounds when their attempts to get their own children outside for some fresh air fail miserably, or will they see nothing unusual in it? Perhaps they will be trying to convince the younger generation that laptops and tablets are a safer/healthier option that virtual reality games!  My parents used to stand at the gate and call our names – and later up the stairs – when it was time for dinner or tea or bed.  Now we have a hand bell that we ring, because nothing else penetrates the headphones our son wears clamped to his head most of the time… I sometimes worry that things might grow in the warm, dark interior between his ears and the ‘cans’ -but perhaps that is preferable to worrying about him being attacked in a nightclub…

Do you have pre-teen children? Do they play outdoors, or do they prefer computer games? How do you feel about that?  I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

Elaine

 

 

INSPIRATION – MINE YOUR CHILDHOOD MEMORIES


we had one just like this in our kitchen at home. When the pull-down shelf came off, the cabinet was moved into the dining room & used to store crockery. My father fixed the shelf to the kitchen wall and it became 'the flap'. On the bottom left you can see a blue caddy very similar to the yellow one our kitten got into...
we had one just like this in our kitchen at home. When the pull-down shelf came off, the cabinet was moved into the dining room & used to store crockery. My father fixed the shelf to the kitchen wall and it became ‘the flap’. On the bottom left you can see a blue caddy very similar to the yellow one our kitten got into…

Today I was sorting the recycling ready for the bin men to collect tomorrow. As I tore apart and flattened a box which had contained tea bags (Yorkshire Gold, if anyone is interested) I was suddenly reminded of the smell of the tea caddy my mother used to keep ‘on the flap’ (an enamel-topped shelf that my father put up in the kitchen) – the caddy was the size of a small biscuit tin, part of a set of three – Tea, Coffee and Sugar. I recall our second cat (I don’t remember the first, a cat called Lucky who wasn’t – I seem to remember that he got run over, quite an achievement in the late fifties/early sixties when there weren’t nearly as many cars on the road as there are now) just about fitting in one of them not long after we first got her. (Quite what we were doing with the caddie, and why Kitty came to be in it, I have no idea) This prompted me to search online for images of kitchen furniture from the 50’s and 60’s, which in turn gave me an idea for a story about… but that would be telling. You’ll have to read my next short story collection to find out (see if you can guess which one it was).  It also reminded me of the smell of the PG Tips cards, which came in a variety of topics and which you could save up and put into an album …

PG Tips 'Famous People' we had this one, too
PG Tips ‘Famous People’
we had this one, too
PG Tips - Trees of Britain - we had this one
PG Tips – Trees of Britain – we had this one

I also remember the smell of coal smoke as I walked home from school on a winter afternoon, the smell of paraffin from the portable heater we used in the hallway (and the curtain that went across the  front door to keep out the draft – because winters were definitely colder when I was a child!) and the peppery smell of the coal shed. I’m sure there is a story in each of those memories, should I decide to explore them!

A few months ago, I penned a post about the sights and sounds of my childhood, prompted by the arrival of a modern day ‘Rag & Bone’ man in our street. Inspiration can strike a writer at any time, spark a hundred ideas – a sight, a sound, a memory evoked by a smell…   What sights, sounds or smells have inspired you to write a story?