Tuesday morning broke with a gentle warm glow and gradually turned up the grill until only the architecture and retail gave away the deception that Grey Street was not Rodeo Drive. I had planned to go straight home after my meeting and deforest the garden but the city girl of my childhood suddenly broke out, stamped her foot and threw a hissy fit demanding a summer in the city moment. There is a song/poem I learned in the early seventies about a childhood summer in the city, I wish I could remember it, but one line always sticks “pavements singing”
I’ve no idea what the author meant, but it always reminds me of sitting on the steps of Georgina’s house on Hillgate Place with our penny sweets from the scary lady at the grocers on the corner of Hillgate Street (gosh I can even remember the names!). Hot and sticky and planning our futures. She is now a highly respected agent but every time I see her name I think not of famous authors and the Groucho Club, but long hot summers, Holland Park, the Serpentine and the freedom we had to do pretty much as we wanted unencumbered by parents.
Today a report has been published suggesting that today’s children suffer from NDD – Nature Deficit Disorder. Any more tags and we will be unable to move from the flapping of little bits string and cardboard, like an army of evacuees or an over addressed Paddington Bear. This one posits the theory that children don’t get outside and interact with nature. Rather difficult if you live in an inner city tower block I would imagine even if you wanted to. Interacting with the dead bush in the concrete pot in the middle of the local roundabout has a limited appeal even to the most imaginative child.
Living now, not in the city but the kind of rural idyll I dreamed of as a child my children have not had a shortage of natural interactions, not all of which have been great fun. We have endless fights with the foxes who tear through the poultry and not just at dusk. Poultry feed attracts rats and never ever underestimate the intelligence and memory of a rat. Septic tanks crack, I don’t think I need to expand on that one. The nearest bus stop is over a mile away, pleasant enough during the summer, terrifying in winter walking along an unlit single track road used as a rat run by morons too lazy to use the brake pedal. As for the internet to which children apparently are overconnected, that requires a phone line, which works, and can take broadband …… nuff said.
My children long to live in a modern house with wall to wall carpets and reliable heating and plumbing. They wonder what it would be like to have neighbours. Oddly enough they don’t want to live in the city, they are exhibiting the classic grass is greener symptoms.
I am sure if you looked at Georgina and I wandering along the streets to get another bag of sweets you could have sighed and said how terrible that we were out on our own unsupervised open to all the hazards of London. My father spent his childhood avoiding being killed by Hitler’s bombs and scavenging for shrapnel in craters and half standing buildings.
The whole point of life is that it is transient, that it is full of risk. Yes I am sure that children should get out more, I am sure my mother said that to me as I begged to be allowed to watch some dreadful TV programme on the new colour TV recently delivered by the nice man from Radio Rentals. I expect my grandmother shooed my father out of the house and told him to go find some more shrapnel. We all survived, some us did rather well.