Thursday, 22 April 2021

Freedom. Language. And hygiene.

One of my younger friends on Facebook posted on Facebook recently that she had let her old child, 12 years old I think, go out on her own for the first time. She, the mother, was feeling very nervous. She posted again later that he daughter had texted her: she was sitting in the park sketching and all was well. Of course, the 12 year old had her own mobile. 


Then, in the last few days, I have been coming across reports about how modern children are not allowed out unsupervised. This from an article in the Guardian:-

“Primary-age children in Britain are losing the freedom to play independently and typically are not are allowed to play outside on their own until two years older than their parents’ generation were, according to research.

While their parents were allowed to play outside unsupervised by the age of nine on average, today’s children are 11 by the time they reach the same milestone, according to the study, which says not enough adventurous play could affect children’s long-term physical and mental health.

One expert said the findings showed that British children had been subject to “a gradual, creeping lockdown over at least a generation”.

Researchers asked more than 1,900 parents of five-to-11-year-olds about their children’s play for the British Children’s Play Survey, the largest study of its kind. They found that children averaged three hours of play a day over the course of a year, around half of which took place outside.”

The big fear is children are not being prepared for independence later in life. It’s a tricky business, giving your children freedom, letting them go. Most people of my generation will talk about being more or less kicked out of the house to play first thing in the morning and not being expected home until teatime. Phil remembers going train-spotting all over the place at age 12. My own case was not so extreme, but I would set off alone to play on the swings on the rec (the recreation ground. My siblings and I would play on the pavement outside our house, on condition that we didn’t go “round the block”, in other words out of our mother’s hearing. And I would walk alone to friends’ houses to play. 

But we all did it and so there was safety in numbers. And by the time we were in top juniors and moving into secondary school we were all used to getting on the bus across town, or across Manchester in the case of some of my friends. And that still goes on but perhaps to a lesser extent. 

Our own children played out but with less freedom than we had. However, they became perfectly independent secondary school attenders. 

I have commented before that I have seen more children “playing out”, ie. on their own, in the last year than I have in a long time. Maybe lockdown has given children in country-ish areas like ours a new taste of freedom.

Now, here’s a bit of linguistic stuff that a friend sent me.

“Torpenhow Hill, England. 

When the Saxons arrived and asked the Welsh the name of that hill, the Welsh said “pen”, which means “hill” in Welsh. So the Saxons used their word for hill, “tor”, and called in Torpen (Hill Hill).

Then the Norse arrived and the same process added their word for hill “Haugr”. So now it was Torpen Haugr (Hill Hill Hill). 

Later the English called it Torpenhow Hill (Hill Hill Hill Hill).

Language is awesome!”

Similarly, by the way, “avon” is Welsh for river so the River Avon is really the River River.

And here’s another odd consequence of the lockdown. According to certain surveys, people are not just spending days in their pyjamas but we are washing less. Well, personally I am showering every day just as I ever did but some people are not bothering. They are wearing the same socks for days and not washing much of themselves apart from their hands. Almost everyone has got quite obsessive about that bit of personal hygiene. One young man questioned said he had not showered for months. He had washed his hands, his face, his armpits and his private bits but that was it. He expected he would get back into the routine of daily showering when he went back to the office. This, he said was probably his last chance in life not to wash every day! How odd! 

Of course, the general obsession with cleanliness is a modern phenomenon. I remember sharing “digs” with a friend in our first year at university in the late 1960s. Our landlady stipulated that each of us could only have one bath per week. I used to go to the students’ union building one day a week with my towel and soap and shampoo and for 2/6d (two shillings and sixpence, half a crown - about 12 modern pence) I could have a bath, wash my hair and use the hairdrier. I wonder if that facility is still available. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone?

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