I went for an interview at Debenhams, the big and bland superstore, the other day. (Not their official slogan, but one I intend to suggest at the nearest available staff meeting.)
Anyway, before my appointment I took a few minutes to wander around the store, more out of curiosity than anything professional or forward-thinking, and, to be honest, because I wanted to look in the toy section.
Guys my age, and I think all ages, really, are plagued by toy sections. We wander amongst the shelves, pretending not to look, much like in the “adult” section of a video shop, but as soon as we’re convinced nobody can see, we start looking at ray guns and squirty things and action figures and toy cars with undisguised longing. I think it’s a travesty that “desire to play with toys again” is never included on surveys about why people choose to have kids. If I had to pick 5 good reasons to have a child, I think the secret yearning to play with his toys when he’s gone to bed would cover at least three of them.
(You do, of course, have to be careful about playing with a young boy’s stuff when he’s in bed. Michael Jackson is on trial for that very offence…)
On this particular occasion, what struck me was a Spiderman suit. Not the kind of weak, ill-fitting cloth type suit that I had when I was young, but a proper, neoprene/latex Spiderman suit with a full head mask and gloves. For the next three days (and probably for the foreseeable future) the thought occupying my brain was “I wonder if that thing would stretch enough that I could fit in it?! I’m not a very big guy, and it’d be skin-tight like a real Spidey suit!!”
When my inner child had been sufficiently sedated by dignity, my other thought was that kids these days have better toys than any other generation.
In a burst of instant karma, however, kids are also having less fun than at any time in history since they stopped working in mills, mines, and other places where they were usefully employed.
Recently, there has apparently been a suggestion that kids playing conkers in playgrounds should wear safety equipment.
First and foremost, safety equipment for conkers is distinctly difficult to come across. This is logical, however, for the simple reason that conkers AREN’T DANGEROUS.
It seems with every passing year, people come up with another fun activity for kids that is banned in case they get hurt.
I don’t know how many people have noticed this, but kids, when mashed, stomped, trampled, fired out of a cannon or slammed violently into the ground at speed, bounce, harmlessly.
How many time have you seen a child come a cropper in a way that would make an adult cry, only for the kid to spring back to his feet and charge onwards with only a vague awareness that his progress was ever interrupted in the first place?!
Also, kids’ bones are naturally supple. They can sustain injuries that could make an adult snap like kindling, and their rubbery skeletons would just sproing back into shape, cartoonishly.
The grim reality is that WE are the ones who should be worried. Children are largely indestructible, and the only conker-related thing that would damage them severely is if the tree fell on them. And even then, it’s no guarantee that they wouldn’t just leap back to their feet and carry on obliviously.
The activities that seem to need protection are the ones we engage in. I, for one, and many people I know, would benefit greatly from some form of padding every time we go out for a drink. I can’t count the number of times I’ve met distinctly solid pavements, trees, lamp-posts, and door frames while in a merry and blurred state of consciousness, and yet the government does nothing.
This is the same government that does more and more to prevent kids from doing anything competitive, energetic or otherwise dangerous, and yet also flounders helplessly when it finds out that our kids are all fat, wheezing and generally useless.
Devoid of fun, fat, wheezing and useless is, of course, the natural state of the government anyway, so perhaps these kids are being groomed for office. Still, it’s unfair to punish kids for being kids just for the sake of safety-related paranoia.
Not that I’m against it. As far as I’m concerned, kids should be prevented from ever having any fun at all, until I’m allowed a Spidey suit.
It’s only fair.