Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Wednesday out and about. The joy of walking. Problems for students of modern foreign languages.

Another soggy Wednesday! My Wednesday bike ride to Uppermill was a bit drizzly but if anything the wind was more of a problem. Compared with some of the wind we have had recently it was really nothing but when you have filled your panniers with fruit and veg and bread and such so that bike is already heavy, suddenly finding you are riding into the wind is a bit of a downer. 

Coming back along the rather muddy Donkey Line I chatted with a couple of little girls out for a stroll with the mother of at least one of them and a baby in a buggy. The little girls may have been twins or maybe just friends: two small girls, probably about four years old, hand in hand. I asked were they having a nice walk. Yes, they told me and then they asked me if I was having a nice bike ride. So small and already schooled in social niceties!

Somebody called Kate Humble was writing about walking in the Guardian this morning. She’s an enthusiast and believes that as we have spent so much time in various levels of lockdown with going out for a walk being one of the few ways of actually seeing friends and family many people will have realised how good it is and continue walking when things get back to “normal”. Like us, she is fortunate enough to live in a place where country walks are easily available. The situation might be different for people who live in the centre of our towns and cities. We shall see. 

As I write about our having country walks available, I think back to my father-in-law who always said that where we love is not strictly speaking “countryside” but moorland. “Countryside” to him meant rolling hills and grassy swathes - the South Downs. To me it means somewhere open and reasonably free, where you have access to nature. 

Ms Humble had stuff to say about boredom as well. She spent much of her childhood playing outdoors, climbing trees and the like. If you grew up in the 70s, she says (she is 52), “there was nothing else to do, and we didn’t really watch telly anyway. There was no such thing as anyone worrying about whether you were bored, or if you were bored, it was fine – boredom can be a really creative thing. I feel grateful for growing up then, not having screens and definitely not having social media. That you had to make your own fun, and a lot of that meant being outside.”

Our children grew up without television - well, they had their early childhood without television - and didn’t seem to suffer for lack of things to do. They played a lot of imaginative games; even in the car on long journeys, from time to time you would hear one or other of them say, “In the game .... blah, blah, blah.” And when I hear reports now about the problems of occupying children at home I wonder if parents have come to rely too much on having a busy schedule of activities organised for their children, resulting in children who don’t know what to do with themselves when the carrousel of activities grinds to a halt. 

But maybe I’m just turning into a grumpy grandma! And I know that imaginative play continues. I just need to go for a walk with our four and a half year old granddaughter to have proof of that. She involves me in her games where the chatter can go on for best part of an hour on some of our longer walks. 

When I was in sixth form, working away at A Levels, I selected the universities I was applying to according to which ones offered me the greatest chances of spending time abroad. And so I ended up with a course that sent me off to a Spanish university for a summer term and then to France as a foreign language assistante  for the following academic year. This was all before the UK joined the Common Market (later the EU) and before Erasmus existed but here were already reciprocal agreements which made such things possible. Now I read that the UK’s withdrawal from Erasmus is causing problems for students on foreign language degree courses.  

Not only that, but the very future of modern foreign language degree courses such as the one I followed is at risk because of the way any replacement for Erasmus is developing. Not to mention the difficulties of going to live and work in the EU.

There seems to have been a lot of shortsightedness in this Brexit business! But that’s where we are!

Life goes on, stay safe and well, everyone!

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