Sunday 27 May 2012

Mad Frogs and English Women

It was Bob Dylan who sang "The Times They Are A Changing" and in a way he was right. The world as we know it, is in constant flux all the time. Peoples attitudes to other their neighbours have changed. When I was a child, I knew the names of all of our neighbours and it was common for the families to congregate in the communal back yard. Freddie our next door neighbour played the accordion (maybe that's why I don't particularly like them) and on a warm summer evening everyone would gather round for a chat which later changed into a sing-song. There was a community spirit, a carry over from the war years?

The odd bottle of home brew beer or illicit spirit would appear (long before Reginald Maudling legalised home brewing) and I enjoyed being able to stay up later than usual. Later, the sleepy kids would be gathered up and sent to bed, the contents of the songs would change and everyone would join in and laugh at ditties like "My Brother Sylvest, has a row of 40 medal on his chest" and other such risqué offerings. What our parents did not realise was that we learned the words to the songs as we fell asleep in our beds.

Contrast that with today and most people would not know the names of their neighbours. It would be a rare occasion that they would meet as a group. Maybe meeting only on special occasions for an organised street party such as the Diamond Jubilee. I saw an article on the news which said that compared to the previous queens jubilee only a tiny proportion of streets would be closed this time due to so few requests being made. it seems "The Times They Are A Changing"

When I was growing up, most families seemed to own either a cat or a dog. I was lucky in that we had both and we also had a budgie. I soon realised that - mess around with the cat and you got a scratch - mess around with the dog and you got a lick. The budgie was always out of bounds and was only allowed out of his cage whenever the cat had been ousted. Owning and caring for a pet has been a lifelong experience and many cats and dogs have passed through our hands. Though a caged bird always seemed cruel. I could never feel comfortable keeping any animal in a cage. We had self taught the lesson about compassion for animals at an early age. 

Today we have two dogs. If we are out and about then many older people will come and say - I have not seen one of those (Wire Haired Fox Terrier) since we had one when I was a kid. Yesterday, when we were out with the dogs. I was waiting with them outside Morrisons in Lincoln. Mags had gone inside to shop. Me and the dogs were being very patient about being abandoned. A few oldies came and had a word about the dogs. Abbey has a thing about what we refer to as "little people" any children who are around she just stares at. She is fascinated by them. However, anyone older than 10 she can take or leave. 

As we walking away from the supermarket, we chanced to meet a mother with a child in a pram. When we were passing each other and about ten feet apart. Abbey who was on her lead all the time, stopped and stared in her usual way at the child. The mother recoiled in horror. Her face contorted and seemingly about to shout and scream. We just walked on by, taking no notice. Leaving the mother to comforted her unconcerned child. Thereby teaching the child that animals are to be frightened of, forever. To be honest, I would be more frightened of the mother. So another well balanced child will enter the world with a parent induced phobia. I think I know who never had a pet as a child!

Contrast this with when we were moored up at the Pywipe Inn, the dogs were on their long leads and tethered to a stake. Some children with their parents came to have a look at them. Abbey was in her element, being petted by all those "Little People." Poppy was soon off the leash and running around with a small group of kids, until they got bored of the game. They went on to do other things and Poppy went back on the lead. A few parents gathered round to tell us they used to have one of those sorts of dogs when they were a kid. Quite a few of the parents said they had a dog at home. It came as no surprise.

But the changes don't stop there. As an adult you can't just engage a child in conversation. Parents warn of the dangers of strangers, but I was brought up as a child in an atmosphere where everyone was mucking in together. Its a difficult change for us oldies to accept and you have to bite your tongue. Our parents were never paranoid to the point of issuing such dire warnings. So our values were set, in a childhood that was free of cares and fears. 

Nowadays the group of people who are of most risk to children are the children's own parents. How do you warn children about that. Maybe all the dire warnings given about adults, teach our children that that is the normal behaviour pattern for when they in their turn become adults.

I feel so lucky to have lived through my lifetime. I have seen many changes for the worse. But I always tried to be a progressive parent who gave a well balanced view and taught where possible only about the good experiences in life. I enjoyed my children's childhood. There were Fairies and there was a Father Christmas and a cuddle was a natural part of life. People were to be respected and not feared and granddad and grandma were the font of all knowledge.

When I was growing up, the snow always seemed to be much deeper. Tennis was played with wooden bats over an empty washing line and skipping and juggling balls was the domain of girls. Each day seemed to be warm and sunny. Outside was the only place to be, last one in the yard was the goalie and you could find a frog under any tussock of grass. yes, "The Times They Are A Changing."



  1. Never had a whole Mars Bar until I was Nine

    First we survived being born to mothers that smoked and drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos. They took aspirin and ate blue cheese, raw egg products, ate loads of bacon and other processed meat and tuna from cans, they weren't tested for diabetes or cervical cancer. Then after that trauma our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead based paints.

    There were no childproof lids on the medicine bottles, door or cabinets and when we rode our bike we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention the risks we took hitch hiking. As kids we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. We drank water from the garden hose or out of water troughs and not bottled. Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops or McDonalds, KFC, Subway or Nandos. Even though all the shops closed at 06.00pm and didn't open on the weekends , somehow we didn't starve to death.
    We shared one soft drink with four friends , all drinking out of the bottle, NO ONE actually died from this.

    We would collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner shop and buy Toffees, Gob Stoppers, Bubble Gum, and bangers to blow up frogs. We ate cupcakes, white bread with real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because “we were always outside playing”

    We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we returned home before the street lights came on. No one was able to reach us all day, (no mobile phone for the kids then) and we were OK. We spent hours building our own go-carts out of old prams and then ride down hills only to find out we had forgotten the brakes. We built tree-houses and dens and played in river beds with our Dinky toys, We did not have Play Stations, Nintendo Wii, or X-boxes, no video games at all, and no 999 channels on Sky, no video/DVD films, no mobile phones, no personal computers or internet or internet chat rooms. We Had Friends and went outside and found them.

    We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there was no Lawsuits regarding these accidents.
    Only girls had pierced ears, We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt.
    You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time
    We were given air-guns and catapults for our 10th birthday, we rode bikes or walked to our friend's house and knocked at the door or shouted for them.
    Mum didn't have to work to help dad make the ends meet, we played football and not everybody made the team, those that didn't learned to live with it, getting into the team was based on merit.
    Our teacher used to hit us with straps, canes, blackboard rubbers and gym shoes and the bully always ruled the playground at school. The idea of a parent bailing us out out if we broke the law was unheard of, they actually sided with the law and battered you when you got home. Our parents didn't invent stupid names for their kids like Kiora, Blade and Ridge or Vinilla. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility and we learned how to deal with it all
    We had the luck to grow up as kids before lawyers and government regulated our lives


  2. BWP.

    That is so true. I even recognise myself in there. Where did it all go wrong - the do gooders I am afraid have a lot to answer for!



Please put your name to your comment. Comments without a name may automatically be treated as spam and might not be included.

If you do not wish your comment to be published say so in your comment. If you have a tip or sensitive information you’d prefer to share anonymously, you may do so. I will delete the comment after reading.