The last month has been an opportunity for me to reflect further on my childhood and adolescence along with considering our commonly held understanding of the notion of childhood. The Oxford dictionary simply defines it as ‘the state or period of being a child.’ It defines a child as ‘a young human being below the age of puberty or below the legal age of majority.’ This dictionary definition appears to concur with what was the generally held belief in history until the advent of romanticism; children were small adults. In history, children were expected to work and to dress as miniature adults (something which appears to have had some what of a renaissance in recent years but not without controversy; why a child needs to wear a thong I will never know! Mini Ugg’s however are a must!). Academic education was seen as a luxury which many could not afford up until the Victorian times when education up to the age of 10 became mandatory in 1880 and became free in 1891. The years following this led to the age for mandatory education to be raised and in Britain today it is now 16. Nowadays, no child can work (excluding in the arts and family businesses) part time until they reach the age of 13 and full time work is only allowed post 16. Elders will always suggest that children grow up much faster these days but in fact, children are now entitled to a childhood which hundreds of years ago didn’t exist. The twentieth century is commonly thought of as ‘the century of the child.’ Over the years the way children are brought up along with the toys available, have gone in and out of fashion and if anything children have greater control over their lives than they have ever had. Sylvanian Families appear to have been given a new lease of life. I loved these as a child, getting my first as a present for my bravery. The girls at the school I recently did my work experience at were very in to them and even asked if they could have my collection but I can’t part with them; they currently clutter up Mum and Dad’s loft! It’s amazing what you can now get for the Sylvanian’s too, I used to have to improvise and make accessories for them. There are so many toys now, I do wonder if children have the same imaginations as we used to have? I affectionately recall hours of fun in the garden with a simple sheet to make a tent. Most people are lucky enough to be able to look back on their childhood with fond memories and I am grateful to be one of those.
Since 1928 when Mickie Mouse was first unveiled, one thing that has endured is children’s love of Disney. One of my favourites has always been the Lion King so it followed that I dragged my partner to the cinema to see the new 3D version of it. I enjoyed it as much as I did as a ten year old and also watched Beauty and the Beast on DVD with the children at the school during their golden time. Sometimes I really wish I was Peter Pan or even that I could go back and do things differently. Mind you our past makes us the person we are today so perhaps I wouldn’t want to change it. As Walt Disney said ‘Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.’ I still long for a trip to Disneyworld Florida. My best friend recently went for her honeymoon there. The Disney legacy along with the general love of fairy tales means that for girls at least, we grow up believing that one day our prince will come. Thankfully mine did eventually although I had to kiss a lot of frogs first!
When I entered the reception classroom on my first day volunteering at our local independent primary school (originally built in 1906 as a council school), the first thing that struck me was how small the chairs were; it was like I had walked into a dolls house! The children had swimming on my first day so you could say I was thrown in the deep end (pardon the pun). Trying to get a swimming hat on a bouncy, excitable child is like trying to stretch an elastic band around a large ball! Now I know why my Mum hated it so much when she helped out with swimming when I was at primary school. The children were adorable and it was so satisfying to see them understand different concepts. I was amazed at their French skills. I especially enjoyed reading to them. I loved books as a child and my Dad would read to me every night, doing his special voices and adding his own bits into stories. I’m sure he knew ‘The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark’ off by heart! When I was recently ill with my eye again meaning that I had to cancel my greatly anticipated Halloween party; I couldn’t watch TV, read or use the computer and I longed to cuddle up to my Dad whilst he read me a story. Children bless them are so observant and honest. One little boy asked me if my hair was turning blonde; definitely time for a trip to the hairdressers! Mind you it could have been worse; at least he didn’t ask if it was turning grey!
Anyway I came back to earth with a bump after the two weeks at school and returned to the office. The experience had confirmed to me, what I was already certain of; teaching was definitely the right road for me. Consequently this blog has been somewhat delayed because my creative writing talents have been focused on my personal statement for my teacher training application. I’m sure like all teacher’s I shall amongst everything be teaching children the importance of reading the question; advice which apparently I was incapable of following myself being that the first draft of the personal statement I did was some 4000 words instead of the required 4000 characters!
Despite my attention being swallowed by my application, I did however still find time for some therapeutic internet shopping and purchased this years must have; a tuxedo jacket. The tuxedo dates back some 125 years when it was first introduced as a less formal alternative to the tailcoat. The women’s masculine look is widespread this season. I shall be wearing mine with a glittery top, black shorts and of course sky scrapper heels!
Talking of shoes, I was less than impressed when a navy suede pair I had hardly worn became collateral damage of a girly weekend in Cambridge. We went up there for a friend’s birthday; had a meal, drinks and then on to a new club called LoLaLo. It was lovely to catch up with my friends and the majority of the time was most enjoyable. It was lovely to see my friend enjoy her birthday so much. However call me boring but I am failing to see the attraction of being squished by people with less than perfect personal hygiene when you are trying to dance, overpriced drinks and a floor sticky with spilt alcohol; clubbing is definitely something I seem to have grown out of. Even worse than this however was a guy throwing up in the middle of the dance floor, making no attempt to try to go to the toilets; hence my ruined shoes. I guess that’s students for you. I can’t say too much though as I was some what of a hedonistic wild child during my short stay at Newcastle University when I was 18. Recollections of that time came flooding back when my boyfriend and I went up there on Guy Fawkes weekend.
I chose Newcastle for university partly because the place felt like home (my Grandad was from the North East) but mainly because I wanted to get away and have the freedom to go where I liked, rolling in at anytime of the morning and trust me, rolling in is an apt way to describe it! Once given this freedom, I was not only off the rails but a total train wreck. Keeping Kookai in business single handedly, having my nose pierced and an ambulance picking me up drunk were a few of my antics along with attempting to steel a traffic cone! What I was going to do with such a thing I have no idea but it seemed that the student trophy was either this or a road sign! I finally got to see my beloved Newcastle United FC at St James Park for the first time on this latest trip and it was an historic game being that it was the last game played before the stadium was renamed after over 130 years, the Sports Direct Arena. We won 2-1 against Everton for those of you interested and were second in the league for a matter of hours. My initial reason for supporting Newcastle was fancying Alan Shearer but that is of no consequence now. Whilst up in Geordie land I visited one of my friends who has just had a baby boy. This made me even more broody as did the other weekend when my brother, his girlfriend and my niece came to visit us. I guess being a mother is someway off though being that I have not yet had the joy of becoming engaged. I cheered myself up however with a new addition for my wardrobe; a navy polka dot silk dress.
I want to take this opportunity to wish a happy thanksgiving to all my American friends. Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November each year. The ceremony is an occasion to give thanks for the harvest and a hope of good growing conditions in the spring, much like our harvest festival. I was involved in the harvest festival at the school I volunteered at, helping the children to make apples and seeds. For days afterwards I was still singing the ‘Johnny Appleseed’ song! The festivities for thanksgiving are much like our Christmas ones in the respect of a turkey dinner; however this is generally followed by pumpkin pie, rather than a Christmas pudding. In fact in the USA more importance is put on thanksgiving than Christmas itself. I would love to visit New York during thanksgiving or Christmas; I bet central park is stunning under a blanket of snow! Perhaps I would even get a nice surprise from Tiffany’s and a skate in on the central park ice rink. Mind you given our experience in spring this year on the ice rink there, I think my other half and I would both end up on our knees and not because he was proposing!
Talking of Christmas, it is just around the corner now; 27 days for those of you counting! The festive songs are beginning to be played on the radio. This is my favourite time of year, a magical time and definitely all about children. I am a big kid myself though; the advent calendar for 1st December is ready and waiting, mind you as Dickens said ‘if you let the child in you die, you are in effect dead.’ I will definitely be taking a trip to Hamley’s and I must start looking for the elusive party dress! This year as in previous years I took part in Operation Christmas Child. For those of you who don’t know what this is; the initiative is run by Samaritans Purse and dates back 21 years. A wrapped, gift filled shoebox is delivered somewhere in the world to a child in need. After all Christmas is all about giving and children and imagine the smile you could put on a child’s face. Unlike children in this country, the shoebox will probably be the only gift they get.
I shall sign off now and continue searching for a replacement for my shoes, not that I need an excuse to buy another pair! Happy Christmas shopping!