Friday, 15 April 2016

Why don't you....?

When I was a kid, we made our own entertainment. Countless hours were spent just riding our bikes, exploring all the little nooks and crannies of the village (sometimes in places we shouldn't have been), and building dens in the woods.
A favourite occupation was to raid the skips on the industrial estate for large cardboard boxes which we'd flatten to use as a sledge to slide down the grass banks of the reservoir, which was dry in the summer save a small stream running through the middle.
Simple times.
By the time I was a teenager we were into playing video games on our Sinclair Spectrums or similar, but this was still something that would only occupy an hour or two a day - perhaps less if Knight Rider or Airwolf was on telly that evening.
Another programme that was on TV when I was a kid was 'Why don't you', which was dedicated to showing you what else you could do instead of watching telly. A strange idea to have a TV show that told you to "turn off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead", but once it was over that was pretty much what happened.

I'm considerably less adventurous now, and once work is done, dinner cooked, eaten and washed up, there's usually about three hours to kill before I'm heading off to bed.
During this time I'll either watch something on Netflix, search the web for something entertaining or inappropriate, or irritate the wife by shooting bad guys on the Playstation.
I'm not as bad as my son who from the moment he wakes up to the time he finally succumbs to mental exhaustion, spends every possible moment hooked into something with a screen.
Whether it's swearing profusely at the Playstation, laughing his arse off at some neurologically deficient fuckwits on YouTube who spend their entire time making ridiculous whooping noises, watching something with zombies in, messaging friends on social media, or any combination of the above, there's precious little time when he's available for any sort of meaningful communication.

So you can imagine how lost he was yesterday when we were left without electricity for the day.
The power company needed to connect the supply that will feed the new housing develoment being built behind us, and in order to carry out the work, the power had to be switched off to the local area.
What does a dyed-in-the-wool technology addict do when there's no internet access, no TV and no gaming available? He goes stir-crazy within thirty minutes, that's what.
When he asked what there was to do that didn't need electricity, I pointed to the bookshelf and suggested he try reading something more inspiring than Facebook posts, which prompted the standard outburst about how he hates reading books and will never read for entertainment etc, etc....
It quickly became clear that his solution to the lack of electricity was to lay on his bed moaning about being bored. Funnily enough, it didn't seem to improve the situation.

We couldn't go out because we had to wait for the person who was coming round to buy his motorbike at 1pm, so once I'd dragged out the gas camping stove to heat some water to make coffee, I gave up trying to assure the boy that there was more to life than the cluster of electrical equipment in his bedroom and took myself into the shed to rearrange things, taking advantage of the extra space freed up by selling numerous items on Gumtree.
Once the bike had been collected by its rather nervous new owner (accompanied by his even more nervous mother who was clearly shitting herself at the prospect of her boy riding a motorbike), we were free to get in the car and take ourselves off for some lunch.
Once we'd refuelled ourselves and been for a brief visit to my father (every visit with him is brief because he always starts making it obvious you should be on your way as soon as you've finished your cup of tea) it was time to head home in the hope that power had been restored so I could start preparing the evening dinner.
As luck would have it, when we got back we were greeted by a variety of flashing clocks demanding to be reset, indicating that normality had returned.
The boy, determined to make up for lost time, launched himself into a frenzy of screen-based activity, while the wife and I settled down after dinner to watch Masterchef.

It's very easy (and fun) to ridicule the younger generations for being incapable of making their own entertainment or existing without being plugged into something or other, but even those of us who grew up experiencing huge advances in technology at a time before it had become so invasive are not immune to having our lives taken over by such things. The difference is, that when the electricity stops flowing, we can still occupy ourselves without going into a complete meltdown.