Tots and Travel-What a Difference a Generation Makes

People’s behaviour with their children makes fascinating observation; no more so than during holidays and while travelling.

We have boarded [another] ferry-this time from North Denmark to Norway. The ship is teeming with people of all nationalities, ages, shapes and sizes. Many of these people are small, flaxen-haired and extremely excited. They are swarming like pale, shrieking insects all over the decks, and in particular in and out of a caged area which houses ‘Captain Kid’-a portly, foam encased figure [housing, no doubt a beleaguered student taking an unenviable summer job], wearing a jolly, striped T-shirt and a peaked cap. The excited squawking lasts until the vessel has negotiated a turn and exited the harbour, then settles into the odd squeak or howl, accompanied by whimpering and whining.They are all undeniably beautiful, despite the whinging.

An hour into the voyage and Captain Kid’s able assistant has sprung into action rustling up standard summer ferry-boat fare-balloon animals, for which the little tots and their long suffering parents have formed a long, snaking queue that obliterates the entrance to the ladies’ lavatories, the stairwell or indeed anywhere else.

Elsewhere they continue to holler and gallop about, or are occupied with computer games, pizza slices, swinging on bar stools or watching cartoons. It is all a lengthy voyage away from the number plate games we were encouraged to play whilst enduring the interminable drives to Wales, Devon or Scotland when I was a child in the fifties. I’d be sandwiched between two brothers on the back seat of the small family car, condemned to the middle due to my small stature, with my knees under my chin due to the obstacle that was the cylindrical prop-shaft and not enough room for as much as a pack of cards.

Later some of the infants have fallen into oblivion on a parental chest and others are voicing their discontent in no uncertain terms. A tiny boy swamped by a gargantuan buggy has set up a pitiful whine, his mouth a large O in his cherubic face framed by white curls. He is inserted into a high chair and supplied with pizza and chips, effectively stopping up the ‘O’.

Then the Norwegian coast is upon us, looking like Thunderbirds’ Tracey Island, or the dastardly villain’s secret location housing an evil world-threatening machine from a James Bond movie.

Later, at the first night’s stop by a beautiful lake, the sun blazing bright at 9.15pm, a cavalcade of small boys races round and round the camper-vans on minute scooters, hooting wildly as they career in their circles, one of their number a large, grown up man. There is something uncomfortable in the sight of adults scooting along on children’s scooters.

At 11.00pm the scooter circus shows no sign of abating, no doubt due to the abundance of daylight and it is not until twilight finally descends that the revellers give up their conveyances and retire. The next morning the sun is up early-and so are the small boys, up and attired in multi-coloured swim gear ready to leap into the lake. When do they sleep? I hear my mother turning in her grave……

Part 2…Grace’s Guide to Happy Old Age

                …So much for the experts’ guide to ageing. I am no expert, but I may be moving towards knowing what makes for a happy, healthy old age. For the majority it must be a desirable state. Who would plump for the alternative? You would have to be in a miserable condition to choose to be either unhealthy or the ultimate in ill health.


                Some of the experts’ ideas are on the right track, but to me they seem too narrow, too prescriptive. For instance, why weight lifting, particularly? There can be few people left on the planet who don’t realise by now that exercise is good for you, but any kind of activity will surely suffice? I’d opt for something you enjoy-swimming, walking, dancing, gardening, cycling-even housework [perhaps not so enjoyable]. Experience has demonstrated to me that activities which are not fun or enjoyable will not be sustained. I never got any fun from weight machines. On the other hand I love Zumba.


                Again, you would have to have lived on a desert island not to know that overweight is bad [in which case-you would be unlikely to have become fat, due to having to hunt for food]. Food intake is closely linked to the above [exercise]. It’s not difficult. Fuel in-expend fuel. Too much fuel without enough expenditure=surplus. I can’t see the need to fast, and in any case it is unpleasant.


                I agree it is best to keep the grey matter in good order. If learning a language is what you enjoy, go ahead and learn one. Learn lots of languages! But I’d say there are plenty of ways to maintain the cells. Reading, discussing, learning, writing [of course!], observing, crosswords [if difficult enough], those number things with a Japanese name. In the future I’d guess more old people will be accustomed to computer game playing. I confess ignorance as to the value of these.


                This is a tricky one. According to the ‘expert’ marriage and/or a strong social network were crucial to staying healthy. But I’d place the emphasis on the ‘happy’ part where marriage is concerned. For some, once the world of work and bringing up children comes to an end there is little left in a marriage and it could be more stressful to continue as a couple than as individuals. In retirement you spend much more time together as a couple. Similarly, the company of friends can sometimes provide more problems than it solves. But I do agree that loneliness can be a stressful emotion.

                The experts were all agreed that stress should be avoided in order to live into advanced years. I’m with them on that. This is not to say a little excitement should be avoided however. But how you do it, I reckon is not rocket science at all. Enjoy life and live it to the full!


Book Heaven

Today, Thursday 7th March, is World Book Day.

                Children, it seems are becoming less interested in reading books and less inclined to pick one up in their leisure time, according to a study last autumn, [].

                What a shock! Who would have thought it? And what has caused this ‘drop off’ of interest in books? Again, no surprises here. It is the rise and rise of screen based activities [or rather, non-activities, since sitting in front of one can hardly be described as active].

                Most people take for granted the fact that developing technology is, broadly speaking a good thing, and of course it is. It improves life in countless ways. But myself, I’d have to say that for young children it is something that they need exposure to in moderation. Computer games were in their infancy when my own children were young so I suppose I was fortunate not to have to face too much in the way of battles over restricting access, but if I were dealing with the situation now I would feel obliged to impose limits to playing on games consoles etc

                You could argue that it doesn’t matter, or that screen based games are beneficial. Late in my previous life as a proper working teacher there was one small boy who violently resisted all efforts to educate him and was both unable and unwilling to sit down and either read, write or listen to anything. His mum claimed that this behaviour was at odds with his manner at home, because he could sit for hours to concentrate on his Playstation games. Apparently, an ability to focus on shooting space aliens or achieving the next level in a car crash game denotes high order thinking. In order to address his fixation with computers we allowed him unbridled access to one in the classroom for writing tasks and so on. The result was not a success and he could generally be seen climbing around and under the worktop or disrupting others as before.

                And does it matter if they don’t read books? Well, no, as long as they read something. Because without the skill of reading life really does become very limited and difficult. There is a true story on the World Book Night website [[] more of which in later posts] of an adult woman who’d never learned to read, and of the difficulties she faced in almost every area of her life. But I always told parents who complained that their child didn’t want to read a book that they could read a comic, a football magazine, a cereal packet or the Argos catalogue if they liked, as long as they read something.

                But aren’t we missing a trick? If our children are wanting to spend all their spare time in front of computer games then it is the games that should change, isn’t it? Surely it is not beyond the wit of manufacturers to incorporate text into them? There should be instructions, written dialogue, signs to identify, captions. I’m sure such games exist already, although probably not the popular ones, the ones they want to play. I’d make it compulsory to add text to computer games.

                To me, books, and in particular children’s books are simply wonderful, and will no doubt be the saving of bookshops, since there is no substitute whatsoever for sitting down to share a gorgeous, colourful, lift-the-flap, scratch and sniff, rhyming, pictorially stimulating, exciting or hilarious BOOK.