I am not suggesting that a high proportion of children are not well fed, well clothed, and their every wish fulfilled. Indeed, it is this very fact that everything is done for them, the world is their oyster, that perhaps is one of the problems that teenagers are facing today. I believe there is such a chasm between the haves and have-nots, with advertising filling the imagination of the have-nots, it now raises jealousies, discontent, and in consequence aggression.
I write, from my own experience. My mother, my brother and I, through family circumstances, dropped from a house with six servants and a secure income, to destitution overnight. It was the extended family that held us together. The perception of one’s situation by a child, expands with age and experience, from the point where his plight doesn’t impinge, up to a point where he is not only totally aware of the disparity in his circumstances, critical, he might even resent it. In my day, the 30s, we had a number of simple pleasures, sweet shops and toy shops in particular, brightened our day. In our case there were dozens of sweet shops to choose from, with rows and rows of bottles, with highly coloured sweets at rock bottom prices. There were shops on the high Street devoted totally to selling toys, from the cheap little imports of windups from Germany, to huge dolls houses, dolls prams, sets of railway trains motor cars a child could sit in and pedal. .You didn’t need to have pocket money, it would have been nice, but it was often enough to just breathe on the window and wish, knowing there was little hope, but there was always a chance that one of the minor items might be yours at some time in the future. Today sweet shops tend to be franchises of a particular brand, and the source of sweets, instead of a vast quantity in glass bottles to choose from, a series of packets dangling uninterestingly among the day-to-day commestibles. As far as I can see the only toy shop is a catalogue, just pictures, not objects to excite the imagination and determine a savings campaign for the future.
Am I wrong in thinking there is a sterility about the life of young children today? .We were little horrors who played in the street, but horse-drawn traffic was unlikely to put us in hospital. We had open spaces with small woods on them, where cowboys could chase indians, cops could chase robbers, except in the evenings after dark, when the woods were taken over by what my Gran referred to as ‘Ladies’ mark you, ‘of ill repute.’. We played cricket, (have kids today day even heard of French cricket?), football, rounders and a number of weird games made up on the spot. Where are these children today? A lot are seated in front of the television or the computer screen. The lucky ones play games organised by their schools or perhaps are members of gymnasia. We cycled, but that today is virtually impossible, and we went to the cinema on Saturday mornings for a pittance.
I really do believe that circumstances, alleged progress, and the vast amount of traffic we now generate, are to blame, and because a lot of parents feel, possibly subconsciously, that their kids are not having the fun they had, they salve this by being lenient, and generous. The other side of the coin is the case of the single parent family, struggling to bring up one or two children on an infinitesimal income, too young to have enough experience, and too tired and too bewildered to do a proper job.
I am out of jail! An optician examined my eyes, and discovered that I had cataracts in both eyes, but one much more than the other. He decided that the condition of my eyes, was inadequate to allow me to drive, in accordance with the requirements of the Road Code. In consequence, as he had written it, this immediately negated my insurance. For six weeks I have been unable to drive at all, and for anyone who has experienced this, particularly if they haven’t others they can call upon, it becomes a choice between taking taxis, or not going. In time one feels that one is jail-bound, such is the dependence we build on the use of the car. Because I could see very clearly over long distances, like 2 miles, I got a second opinion, and I write this, not out of annoyance with the optician, who I’m assuming was being cautious on my account, but to tell those who are driving what a fabulous skill it is, and how desperately frustrating it is, in this era of zero public transport not to be able to. I can’t understand why in the 50s I could run a whole family without a car, and never really noticed the loss. We went on trips, I went to work and we were well supplied with transport of one sort or another. Now there is none. I wonder if this is a contributory factor to the reason that young people, going nowhere, are just hanging about on street corners in a lot of our cities. When I was about 10 years of age, I was given sixpence for an all-day ticket on the trams, a lunch, and sent off to discover London. Times were different.