It’s struck me lately that my kids’ childhoods are going to be remarkably different from my own. If we stay in London, that is. As children, Sausage and I used to roam free on the moors, muck about in streams and hummocky fields all day without our parents knowing where we were (so we thought – our house was in the middle of nowhere and directly opposite the moor we used to freely range, and we later discovered that the binoculars on the window-ledge were not, in fact, for bird-watching but for us-watching). Ziggler and Pickle are too little to do any such thing but even when they’re eight or so they won’t be skipping out of the door with a ‘I’m off out – see you later’ like we did. Do London kids knock on each other’s doors and ask if they’re playing out (or ‘laikin’ out in our childhood dialect)? Surely by the time they’re allowed to, the idea of playing is Just In No Way Cool?
I romanticize, of course, and anyway there are a couple of generations, governments and world wars (not really) between me and the kids which will make us different enough. But while I’m pretty sure Pennine kids still run about the countryside and know every farmer and dog-walker they might come across, Ziggler and Pickle will get their greenery from parks and learn to avoid eye contact with adults and give dogs a wide berth.
Ziggler already gets a bit twitchy when she’s outside her zone of urban civilization. She wants to know where all the houses and people are, and she really hates having muddy shoes. I think she might be allergic to air if it’s fresh and unlaced with exhaust fumes and she likes knowing there’s a shop available for chocolate button purchases at any point between now and bed-time. In her favour, she has that London-kid habit of seeming to innately understand turn-taking on playground equipment. She can make new best friends for the hour we’re at the swings and she’s not afraid of sticking up for herself. Sausage and I, unused to seeing anyone else at the playground, would have to size the newcomer up for at least the first three encounters. I personally would probably rather have avoided the swings than actually have to converse with anyone while I was there. All this even before we get to the whole teenager-having-to-be-unwillingly-chauffered-to-social-life versus let’s-pop-down-to -the-park/bus-shelter/pub-see-you-mum issue.
You know those dog owners in parks whom you always see purposefully rustling a plastic bag in a good-poo-collecting-member-of-the-community way? I think they perform their rustly poo-bag pantomime when their dog inconveniently shits as someone walks past. Then they wait for them to pass by and then just put the bag back in their pocket. I’m sure I’m being grossly unfair and tarring everyody with my own (extremely lazy) brush. But we do seem to end up with quite a lot of shit on our shoes, considering all those rustly-bagged dog walkers. Of course at home, in the countryside, this does not happen. First of all there’s plenty of room for dogs to shit in peace and away from human feet. Secondly by the time your wellies are smeared in cow pat and chicken poo, the dog shit blends in and you don’t notice it.
Anyway. Mine and the girls’ childhood playing out experiences will be different. But yesterday we escaped our germ-ridden house in which Trulove festered with the flu (real not man) and noticed some similarities. The softening of the wind. The joyous cacophony from the birds in the trees. The ducks chuckling, post-shag smug, ruffling down their feathers. Light-green hints in the undergrowth and the smell of the sap. The purposeful organising of squirrels and parkies. Spring is the same in the park and the moors. And spring is finally here! Hurrah!