Saturday, 26 June 2010

Wither Football and electronic devices?

The only thing nicer than a clear sunny day in London is a clear sunny day in London when everyone but me is holed up inside watching England vie for glory in the Football World Cup. There is a gloriously eerie, oddly reverent feeling as one wanders the peacefully deserted streets. Like Good Friday in sleepy 1980s Brisbane or Christmas morning in the middle of a snow storm. The traffic is minimal, pedestrians few and far between, the air is cleaner somehow; all that hope and anticipation somehow palpable and purifying.

An employee at Tesco today offered me three coloured foil wrapped packets for the Off-Spring - in tow for a mini-non-weekly shop (we have a teeny fridge so I shop every day). I said what is that - he said something about football match cards. Off-Spring 1 shook his head at me. Off-Spring 2 was oblivious - gazing at the ample rear of yet another scantily clad shopper blocking the aisle with her ample rear and trolley of alcoholic beverages, chips and dips - clearly a better social life than me. Off-Spring 3 was snoozing in the buggy. "No thanks," I said politely. "We don't do football." Well Mr Springgirl does and the Off-Spring follow it fleetingly when one of the nations of their parents is competing, but the idea of cards and what-not, well... just not their thing. I say all of that with no judgement or criticism of football, its followers or players. I think its like curry - you either get it or you don't, no harm done.

Anyway, while I relish the prospect of an outing to somewhere usually too popular and touristy to attract us on a weekend, I fear that the pollen count will be too high, as usual, to tempt me far from home. I have several new "fine lines" around my eyes after a vicious week or rubbing and attempted eyeball extraction due to the thick layer of tree and grass detritus accumulating in my facial orifices. I am now on not less than 4 medications, none of which seem to help. I did steer clear of the one with the stated side effect of "Agitation" feeling I had plenty of that already. Nevertheless, what might be a glorious Sunday in the city will no doubt be an itchy, sneezy, scratchy throated rush for indoors and air-conditioned comfort, sans TV coverage of sports.

I think the pool might be the trick. I would think even the Eastern European ladies (see previous post for insights on public pools) might be keen to see Germany defeated by England and stay home in honour. I would definitely will not want to be anywhere near a park or recreation centre tomorrow before the game as all those dads wanting a peaceful time come 3pm kick-off will be out in the morning earning their time off for good behaviour to watch the match and sink a few lagers.

I read somewhere about the lengths men will go to in order to secure football watching entitlements during the World Cup. I felt sorry for them, I have to say. Do they not know they can just watch it on line, or visit a friend or a pub or buy a second tv? Why so much drama? I am no fan of the beautiful game but I would hardly begrudge anyone else their 90 minutes pleasure. Also, have there WAGs not heard of credit?

I was, nevertheless, contemplating a world without football. How would that go? Can you imagine what men might do instead? It boggles the mind.

That got me thinking about imagination. I was at a meeting of parents at my sons' school discussing preparation for the school fair looming shortly. It was generally regarded as desirable that large raffle prizes or tombola (crikey) for kids prizes consist of something called a DS. I gather this is a hand held gaming device. I said - "Why not a scooter, a skateboard or a-?" I did not finish my question. The response was incredulity. No - they want DSs. It reminded me of the parents that say - how do you fly long haul without a portable DVD player? (If you are not acquainted with economy class travel on most large commercial jets you may not know that they now offer over 3000 forms of audio visual distraction per sector. I daresay a few less for the little ones...)

Has this generation truly lost all capacity to amuse their kids without a device? Could a child of under 11 not be expected to enjoy a board game, a trip to a country house full of treasure or the aquarium, an overnight stay in a museum for himself and some pals, a ticket to (God forbid) a football match or a even a voucher that he might redeem for lego, a bike, a present for a loved one, a train ticket on the TGV - or any other amazing and fantastic treat that only well-to do kids in a place like London can have access to?

Oh -no! For the pinnacle of all youthful ambition is the DS, of course. Just as the Gen Y hoards lining up outside the Apple Store and high street phone shops (Vodafone at High St Kensington, London sold its entire stock of 21 within 30 minutes of opening on Thursday) will attest, you ain't no one without the latest device (i-Phone).

We have attended parties for 8 year olds and had no one to talk to as all the children were busy seated next to each other on the sofa silently playing their DSs. Yes - this is a great time to be alive. I daresay what they lack in capacity to amuse themselves without technology they make up for in their concentration and hand eye coordination skills. Which, after all is all they will need going forward.

However, being something of a Luddite and having withstood the DS pressure - the Off-Spring are throwbacks - and fearful of the retardation of developing interpersonal skills in young people I established a coaching business aimed at nurturing a love of the spoken word and the great art and pleasure of verbal communication. It is great fun, replete with learning and challenge and the kids who participate seem to like it too.

However, a number of the attendees have what might be termed (by my "old-school" Dad, at least) ASS (Attention Seeker's Syndrome).  I am not a strict old fuddy duddy in these classes, despite what I may appear from this blog. Rather, I am all about the fun, creativity, thinking and speaking skills and imagination play. But even with that latitude for some it is a struggle to come up with an idea of their own. (If any parents are reading this don't take me amiss). But it is very interesting. Is this a symptom of modern life and the pace or style of family interaction? Is it common, or typical? Is it me? I love those children and I am privileged to be part of their learning journey but I wonder if there is something happening to our kids.

So I say, we levy a surcharge or tax on the sales of all kid oriented electronic devices (and food) and direct the takings to the Department of Education to fund research and interventions to manage the longer term impact of being amused all the time by a machine and thus deprived of human interaction at levels regarded as necessary for sustainable human development.

Might draft a letter to that nice new Prime Minister tomorrow while that match is on and the kids are busy building forts with the play-dough.