Friday, 10 September 2010
My Second Childhood, by Gary Cartwright, aged 48 and a big bit.
We recently built our first model aircraft together - a Spitfire of course - and I was reminded of sitting at the table with my own father way back in the mid-60s, making our first model kit together. I am also getting to know, somewhat late in life, rather a lot about Thomas the Tank Engine. Its nice to sit here and think that I can look forward to rediscovering skateboarding and air rifles. My levels of optimism and enthusiasm have soared thanks to George. (And I get to play with train sets and nobody laughs).
Brussels is proving to be a good place to bring up children. As a school governor in a pretty rough part of East London, I remember being told "Think of them as younger citizens, not just as children". that is, of course, complete nonsense.
A tragic lack of social cohesion in Britain has led to a certain amount of confusion amongst families as to exactly what the heirarchy should be. Belgians, particularly the Flemish ones, seem to be far more comfortable with traditional family roles than we are. The result is that children understand their place in the family, and in society. Everybody is happier for it.
Scouting is still a big thing here, and it is normal to see large groups of youngsters in uniform touring the city, heading for the mountains, or just sitting and talking together. It is also normal that during holidays youngsters undertake activities ranging from working on farms, residential language courses, and sports training. In British cities it is different, of course. They "slob out" in front of the TV, or they hang about the streets spitting on the pavements or, very often, on passers by. You don't have to be a doctor to notice the difference in physical build between continental and British teenagers.
I helped organise an event some years ago at a youth project in SE London. We arranged a couple of 4x4s loaded with mountain bikes, with a view to taking some youngsters up into the Chilterns for an afternoon. They turned up in their hooded sweat shirts, gobbed on the floor and said "innit" a lot, and then dispersed. I think 3 kids took up the offer; the rest knew they would be unable to cope, and were afraid of failure. So they simply rolled a joint and retreated to their comfort zones.
We don't need to show these kids "respect". What we need to do is to find ways to give them back their childhood. I know what I am talking about - I got mine back!