Saturday, 21 September 2013

Childhood memories? Forget it.

When the boy was doing his geography homework about coastal erosion and deposition the other day, I pointed out that we'd visited Orford Ness which is a great example of this subject.  Previously used as a military test site for bombs and over-the-horizon radar, this spit of land on the east coast is now a nature conservation area with an interesting history and accessed by a small ferry. There's also a nice pub called 'The Jolly Sailor' in the village of Orford where we had a really good lunch.
This was only five years ago and yet he remembers nothing of that day, which made me realise that this is not the first time we've mentioned places we've been and things we've done that he has no memory of, which leaves me with one big question. Why the hell did we bother?
Obviously part of the reason was to alleviate the feelings of impending insanity that seem to go hand in hand with having a child, and one always feels that by having all these trips out and experiences, that you're shaping your child's knowledge and perception of the world with the aim of creating a well-rounded individual who is able to enjoy the many and varied aspects of life. Well, that's the theory anyway...

Looking back at my own childhood, I seem to have very few memories of outings and big experiences with my parents that have stayed with me.
The few I have retained include being mentally scarred by repeated visits to Linton Zoo so that now I  just can't bring myself to visit any sort of zoo. If I never see another bloody llama as long as I live I'll be happy. The times the boy has been taken to such places was with his mum - I stayed out of it.
As a child, money was tight which limited my parent's ability to do very much, but it's only when you're very young that you can cope with camping for a week at Landbeach Marina Park (now gone and replaced with a commercial business estate) that was actually only about ten miles away from home. This regular 'adventure' was occasionally supplemented by a number of visits to the same caravan site at Kessingland, which holds vivid memories of a video game arcade, a very cold pool and Blakes 7 on the telly. Scarily, I've just looked on Google Earth and the place is still there.

Holidays aside, I remember countless hours spent just riding my bike around the village, and seeing how fast I could go down the steep hills. I remember scavenging large empty cardboard boxes from the skips in the industrial estate to use as a sledge to slide down the banks of the empty reservoir during the summer.
I remember the time spent walking the dog, numerous aspects of school life, Trumpton, really embarrassing home haircuts that resembled an open-face crash helmet, proper snow in the winter, half penny coins, a can of Coke costing 15p, and watching the original Star Wars film at the cinema.
When my son is older, I wonder how much of the holidays and days out to various events and activities he will remember, and if all of his childhood memories will revolve around endless hours playing video games and listening to Eminem.
Perhaps my lack of memories of parent-centred activities is down to there being little to remember. As I recall, every evening consisted of mum clicking away with her knitting in front of the TV (for some reason it always seemed to be Last Of The Summer Wine or Antiques Roadshow), while dad fell asleep (though he always insisted he was just resting his eyes) in the corner with his newspaper, and the dog laying by his feet farting.
For a few years my parents were self-employed doing gardening, decorating etc, and at that time I'd usually accompany them and help out during the school holidays. It wasn't all that bad really, and I think that doing these activities helped give me my attitude for just getting on with things and getting the job done.
Simply being around them and taking part in everyday activities made me capable of washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, mowing, washing up, putting up shelves, wiring a plug, and all the other basics in life that modern kids seem to be so reluctant to get involved with when there's Facebook chat that so desperately needs to be dealt with.
These are the sort of memories that have stuck, and I don't believe that being taken to Disneyland would have done anything to improve my life.
So the message here is simple. Forget the exotic family holidays spent swimming with dolphins because when the kids are older they won't remember anything about it, let alone care that you saw fit to spend five grand on it. Just drag your spawn away from the TV and get them helping to make dinner and do the laundry, because at least they might get some useful life skills out of it. Just make sure they're not plugged in to their iPod while they're drying up because they won't be able hear just how loud they're crashing the plates together.

Helmet hair. Not a good look. Not even in the 1970's.