As a youngster I remember "playing out' with others from the neighbourhood, often on the flat roof of a motor garage built into the hillside with drops of twenty feet or so on three sides, with access possible from the rear which was level with the sloping terrain. Here we would ride, un-helmeted on ramshackle secondhand bikes and play games of our own devising, often to the annoyance of adult residents. Later we went further, down into the woods, unaccompanied. Cuts and bruises were common but visits to the doctor were a last resort, I think you still had to pay- the NHS didn't arrive until 1948. Of course this was just after the war and resources were limited.
Now we have "adventure" playgrounds in every village, designed' by experts with university degrees, with soft surfaces, and helmets almost obligatory, but for more special treats a series of more sophisticated venues have sprung up for children. These have arisen partly from the increasing financial difficulties of farmers, pressurising them into finding more lucrative ways of making a return from their land.
Last weekend we took granddaughter Katie (fifth birthday) to The Ice Cream Farm south-east of Chester. Here investment in the purpose built adventure play park must have cost more then a million pounds.
Much thought and invention has gone into creating a series of costly well constructed activities. One building with a floor area of quarter of a football field houses a bizarre collection of water handling machinery (German manufacture) with windy handles, pumps, sluices, troughs, channels, scoops and the like. Children bring a change of clothes and then go ape with water splashing, tumbling and gurgling everywhere. There are seats for adults to sit and read their books (or play with their mobile phones).
Another attraction features a mock-up of a wild west gold panning site with water running through wooden troughs where the children (and the adults) get a metal tray/sieve to dredge sand from the stream bed which is panned off to reveal randomly placed mini jewels which the kids are allowed to keep, up to a full small bag which is supplied; the collection of jewels Katie obtained provided the background for many of her endless imaginary games during the rest of the weekend.
There are three proper JCB excavators which the children can operate solo scooping up, swinging, and dumping piles of gravel. That is very popular and you can pre-book your slot to avoid wearisome queuing.
Another purpose built shop the size of a mini supermarket displays and sells over forty different flavours of ice cream.
There are many other activities. Children can easily be occupied for a whole day - have a look at the website: CLICK
|The array of ice creams in the background is less than half of the total counter|
|Panning for jewels - Mum just as enthralled as Katie|
|We went to the farm on Friday staying on a nearby site with my caravan. On Saturday we circumnavigated the walls of Chester...|
|...and on Sunday we went to Beeston Castle (cold and windy, but good fun). Katie tries out her skills as a medieval archer|
I watch a lot of documentaries on TV and I know I have mentioned this before, but I am becoming almost frenzied at the obtrusive background music, but more and more often, foreground music that accompanies them.
I recently switched one off that otherwise would have been an informative experience.
Last night saw the second of a series about the human face, which apart from the music had long periods where we learnt nothing at all with frequent repetition of what had been said before, and only occasional references to factual recognised research. I again switched to something else.
Another gripe concerns astronomical programmes - I never know whether I am looking at proper photos, perhaps from the Hubble, or a computer simulation.
A few weeks ago I saw a BBC film made about a sheep farming family in the northern Pennines, Addicted to Sheep, CLICK FOR BBC REVIEW There was no commentator and no music. The family provided intermittently what I reckon were unscripted comments and conversation. The film makers had obviously spent many hours there over a long period showing the hardships of weather, animals succumbing, lambs being neutered, and many other graphic sights, but at the same time conveying the deep satisfaction of the family derived from this hard encompassing way of life and their pragmatic, but caring regard for their livestock. Even the village school sought to discuss with the children the ethics of rearing stock for food, and other aspects of hill farming life. That was worth the whole of the license fee (if I had to pay it) in one hit.
Las night I watched another excellent documentary on BBC4: A Very British Map: the Ordnance Survey Story. I had seen this before but it merited this second viewing giving insights into the so British development of the Ordnance Survey from the military, combined with all the stuffiness of the Establishment - wonderful. My only gripe here was the the commentator, Lesley Manville pronounced the word "ordnance" as "orda-nunce" throughout - there is no such word as ordanance, and "ordinance" has a different meaning altogether.