Monday 3 August 2009

Flying Carpets


Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. ~ Leonardo da Vinci


‘Sailing the Ssese Islands’

I’ve never been much of a grump. I’ve been uppity-downity sometimes, but I could generally laugh myself out of it quite quickly. Now, however, I seem to be getting grumpier and grumpier as each day passes. Maybe it’s because England doesn’t seem to want to have a summer this year. Or maybe, as each new wrinkle manifests itself like some dry, dusty riverbed across the map of my face, the grump factor goes up.

My main grump today is about how 21st century children have too many toys. And too much television. Speaking of telly, I watched a fascinating programme – yes, on television - a while ago about a delightfully anachronistic family known collectively as The F****** Fulfords**. I laughed fit to bust for the entire programme – it was an absolute gem. I even gave Mrs F. F. a full-on standing ovation when, in a fit of pique, she ripped the the family television from its plug and flung it into a lake at the bottom of their garden.

** It has been pointed out that I should explain that the Fulfords live in an 800-year old crumbling manor house in Devon where the ball-room is used as a roller skating rink by their four children.**

In fact, some of the best axioms on ‘too much stuff’ I’d ever heard came from her husband, Francis. This one, for starters, “My father made sure our one tap still came from the well. Health and Safety came round — you had the sods even then — and discovered that our water was being filtered through a dead rabbit. We didn’t care. At least it meant we could go to India and not get the shits. Who needs more than one tap, eh?”  I digress….

See, the thing is…..21st century children have lots of toys. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of toys. Toys that light up. Toys that talk. Toys that sing. Toys that flash, spin, beep, hop, bop, bang, dance and crash. Some of their toys even have babies. Sheesh. No wonder they all need to start the day with a Ritalin tablet after eating their chocolate covered cornflakes.

But give them an old saucepan and a wooden spoon and they’ll start a band. Towels can become turbans; a rug becomes a magic carpet; an old cushion can change your shape; a torn sheet can transform itself into an Indian teepee; that broom behind the kitchen door is a white stallion or a rodeo bull. A large cardboard box is a boat, or a secret den, or a fairy castle.

Where did your imagination take you when you were little?


steven said...

hi tessa, i sailed across the living room carpet in an upturned wicker foot stool. tied my ship to the dining room table dock and came ashore for peaches and clotted cream. onboard rations were teeny tiny little dairy milk bars and chocolate buttons. beautiful post. thanks for asking. have a lovely day. steven

Holly said...

I was most often a pirate. My Dad says, I'd shimmy up the front of him in his chair and ask, "Do you want to play Pirnats?" And, he'd say with seriousness, "Sure," to which I would say, "Okay, give me me jewels!"

Even as a tot, I was all about the jewelry!

Marisa said...

This is a lovely post and so true. We do have so much and most of the time it goes unappreciated. I can remember when we had to hand pump our water, but at least the pump was indoors. During the summer when the water level was low, we carried it by bucket full from the well.

We are bombarded with so many choices today that even grocery shopping is stressful. Life was easier when you just had to choose between five different jams than dozens of varieties on the shelves today.

When we were children we loved to fly. We accomplished this by tying a rope to a low bough of an old spruce tree in our back yard and while one person pulled the rope to hold the bough down, some one would place a cardboard box on the bough, and climb in, where upon the person holding the rope would let go...we did a lot of flying but fortunately there were no injuries.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

It's the parents, they're out of there minds. The kids don't play with all that crap, it just ACCUMULATES. Give a child a ball or a bike and they're happy. When my 1yr old grandson comes over I give him the plastic measuring cups and spoons and he's in business.

When I was a kid I liked to play with the garden hose and make rivers and lots of mud.

Karin Bartimole said...

I love this Tessa - and am grateful to know some families that share your values, which I find encouraging. For instance, when m sister in law was being nudged repeatedly by her girls because all their friends had toy cell phones (some might have even given the 6 and 10 year olds the real thing...) but she said "I won't buy you one, but if you want one, make your own" and she got out all the art materials they had, and put them to work. In little time the girls had created personalized thick colored paper versions, with cut out push buttons that they made paper *springs* for so that they moved in and out, pipe cleaner antennae (back when those were still needed!) and even made them flip open. I thought, I wonder if their friends will just laugh - but no, they wanted to make their own, too, and they all were soon playing with these hand made phones - the plastic crap left in the side lines!!

We had no tv for a number of years growing up, and weren't allowed to watch it much once we did have one, so I either made art, read, or explored nature, especially the insect world - which fascinated me!

Rosaria Williams said...

You've hit a major issue here. We are all too busy and too rushed. We indulge our children and can't say no to their wants. They want the newest toy, or the latest gizmo because their friends have them. No parent wants to be the one that says "No".

My teen grandchild and her friend will be visiting me this month. We'll canoe, swim, fish, harvest clams and crab, cook with vegetables from the garden, and visit historical sites. Nevertheless, she'll keep up with her friends via email, phone, blogs. We can't go back technically; but we need to be savvy in how we explore nature and interact with each other.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Oh yes Tessa. My three year old grandson has baskets full of toys and is always showing me something new but what he really likes to do is to pretend to bake biscuits in a house made of sticks leaning against a tree. We spent most of our time outside as children and sailed rickety rafts and climbed and fell out of trees and built elaborate dens in the wood on the edge of the moor. I am not sure modern parents would dare to let children out for the day with a rucksack full of sandwiches and dilute orange drink and an old watch with instructions to be back by tea time.

The Bug said...

I had some old net (not a fishing net, but I guess similar) that I used to pretend was long hair - I felt gorgeous with that stuff on my head LOL. And one of our favorite games was playing with our lite brite in my brother's room (it was dark blue). We'd turn the lights out & pretend this was a new world where the only light was from the lite brite - and we'd take turns being part of the ruling group who owned the source of light...

Natalie said...

I was talking about this to my hub yesterday. Our little ones have the most fun 'cooking' in the tupperware cupboard.
As a child, i was always the beautiful fairy princess , who lived under the giant willow tree, in our front yard.
Great post.xx♥

A Cuban In London said...

I love rabbits. Tell your husband that. Preferably as a stew. Last time I had rabbit was in Spain, about three years ago. I had already forgot that they are quite bony.

As for your question, my answer is books. My mother gave me the best present ever at the age of five years old, teaching me how to read and write in a hospital bed. And I never looked back. Books have given me a tunnel through I have explored the depths of the human mind without any fear of drowning.

But there were objects that triggered my imagination: trees, walls, homemade toys. I agree with you on children today having too much of everything, not just toys. And I believe that that is conducive towards a smaller attention span.

I enjoyed this post so much. No, I haven't departed to Spain yet but I have been travelling around the British Isles. We went to Margate yesterday for the first time ever. My wife used to have an auntie who lived there and for her it was a trip down memory lane. She and her brother used to stay at her auntie's. Margate is the quintessential English beach resort, although it was a bit rowdy yesterday on account of a carnival taking place. The crowd was getting a bit leery so I was a bit cautious as to not to stray too far fromt he beachfront. Still, we had a fab time.

Greetings from London.

Miss Footloose said...

What is there left to say after all those geat comments? Your wonderful post sure fell in fertile ground. I'm glad you found my blog and I'm glad I found yours! I love your art work!

Miss Footloose

Silke Powers said...

Hi Tessa, we weren't allowed to watch TV when we were growing up and had a VERY active imagination. We built forts, houses from blankets, houses under trees, etc. We played and played and played until it was time to go to bed... :) Silke

karen said...

Oh I do agree with all here!

Silver said...

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. ~ Leonardo da Vinci

love this quote. couldn't agree more.

and yes, i agree about the kids and toys. That constitute most of the clutter in most homes with children today.


Debra Keirce said...

Sounds cliche', but I was content with crayons, pencils and paper when I was little. I created a newspaper for my siblings, I wrote a novel the summer I was 9, I sculpted figurines out of salt clay, painted them with nail polish, and sold them at lemonade stands. I think kids don't need less toys - they just need more art supplies!

Lola said...

Dear Tessa,
Just popped by to say so pleased you enjoyed the fun of our Awards party - hope you met some nice people and enjoyed the champagne!

I'm glad you found my blog and I'm so glad too I found yours!

Love the post. My imagination took me as a child into myself & into storytelling & I'm certain that's been the impetus for writing ever since...

Will be back again soon to check out other lovely posts - and am also your newest follower!

Hope you’re having a wonderful Tuesday,

PS Love the book & film choices on yr profile!

Lola said...

PS Me again! Am posting my latest LOLA'S LIFELINE COLUMN tomorrow - hope you can join us for some more fun! See you!


Catherine said...

Hi Tessa - I love the painting and recognised the name of the Ssese Islands from when I was in Uganda on hols from Tanzania in 1993. Never saw them but did live in sight of Lake Victoria in Tanzania for a couple of years. Your African paintings are gorgeous. I think I found your blog via Irenes and added you to follow. I have no artistic talents but love Africa as it was home to me for 12 years.
I mentioned bored kids in my post yesterday on my blog if you want to visit, so this is timely. They are all deadly bored as they are used to having every moment scheduled and today's helicopter parenting encourages that. I remember wandering for hours around the Irish roads and fields and walking to Mount Melleray in the mountains about seven miles away just to pass the time with friends. I had a great imagination and loved reading, and would lose myself in books for hours. Also I see the more toys kids have the less they value them, and while we have plenty of computers in the house and the twentysomething student sons spend a lot of time facebooking and chatting they never had playstations and we got a Wii when I fell in love with it a few years ago! They had Game Boys in the african bush as major treats back in the 90s - our only concession to modernity as they had no telly - not from parental conviction, just no telly broadcasting in Tanzania then!
Hope you visit and follow my blog.

JennyMac said...

Great pic...we didnt watch much tv as kids bc we were constantly outside. Oh, we loved to play Olympic Gymnast in our front yard and take turns being both competitor and athlete. And when I wasnt rollerskating, I read like mad.

Cynthia Pittmann said...

Me too~ call me Miss Peeves~ I can get moody...especially, now that our summer season is turning...or rather we are returning to school. I wish I could send you some of this summer that you would so appreciate, Tessa. And about "too much stuff" ~ we all have to get it under control. What does the rabbit filter mean? I think I need to watch the Fulford's show.<3

Rob G said...

Oh yes! Commercialism is everywhere and even the littlest are caught up by it.

I was Tarzan, climbing trees...until I fell off a creeper growing up the side of the house and broke my arm. That put stop to the tree climbing, for about 6 weeks! Tin can and string telephones, forts in the bush. Imagination in full flow.

Great post.

Polly said...

Even though I don't have televsion I did see this programme on iPlayer and also really enjoyed it!

You're right about children and their toys. When I was little me and my brother used to spend lots of time outdoors playing and we didn't need many toys. It was a very happy childhood.

Ces Adorio said...

Entitlement! It's a sense of entitlement, not just with the children but with the parents. Everyone thinks they are entitled to their happiness so they will achieve their happiness whatever and however it takes. I think we have also become so secular, lacking in spirituality and we are basically becoming an immoral society with the pursuit of individual needs and so called "rights". I don't think a lot of people know the meaning of "altruism".

Elizabeth said...

Yes indeed, we spent most of out time 'exploring' in the woods where we wandered about at will for hour upon unsupervised hour.
"We" were me my brother and the 4 collective BoysNextDoor.
We lived in a gamekeeper's cottage on an old dilapidated estate with a ruined mansion and huge rhodedhendrons(sp) etc etc.
(Full disclosure I did have some nice wooden bricks and 2 dolls and TheBoysNextDoor had all sorts of stuff that my parents sniffed at....).

For a wonderful account of what childhood pretty much feels like however dull a place one lives in reread Dylan Thomas.

Toys don't matter at all.
In fact, the fewer the better.
Would write more but am meant to be WORKING

justdoodleit said...

Gorgeous! This image is a nice tribute to childhood, full of simple pleasures rich in imagination.

Bee said...

We finally cracked and bought a Wii for our children for Xmas, but neither of them play with it, really. My youngest daughter has busied herself, the last two days, with cutting up an old striped sheet and making herself a sari and her beloved monkey a little suit.

You are so right: little children never care about the fancy toy and always prefer playing with the crunchy wrapping paper instead.

I LOVE that picture as you know. It reminds me of several favorite childhood things -- one of them being the Curious George book in which the curious monkey makes sailboats of all of the newspapers he is supposed to be delivering.

Maithri said...

Dearest Tessa,

This post resonates so deeply with me,

I was born in the lush tropical splendour of SriLanka,

They say i would go missing and they would find me hours later in the corner of a garden cupping a leaf in my hands...

For me the world was my playground....The bark of the coconut palm, the red furry flower of the monkey tail tree, the mysterious 'niddhi khumba' whose leaves would fall straight to sleep when you touched them, the variegated butterflies that surrounded us like winged angels,

These were my nintendo ds and wie and computer...

I feel sorry for kids whose imaginiation is replaced by pixels on a screen,

There is magic in this world...

Thank you for reminding me,

Much love dear friend,


Mariana Soffer said...

Lovely post, I agree about the toy things, it is very interesting how kids brain works, and I loved the painting, it is fantastic, along with the quote that is at the beginning.

Mariana Soffer said...

Lovely post, I agree about the toy things, it is very interesting how kids brain works, and I loved the painting, it is fantastic, along with the quote that is at the beginning.