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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Playing and watching


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

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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.

9 comments:

bowlandclimber said...

'The Ice Cream Farm' - no thanks, can't think of anywhere worse. You a far far more grandfatherly than your grumpiness suggests, in fact you deserve a medal.

Sir Hugh said...

When I have a comment I am informed by email. Here is one that arrived that way, but doesn't seem to have come through here:
Bob Andrews (welshpaddler) has left a new comment on your post "Playing and watching":

I agree about your comments about loud background music in programmes. The BBC just ignore complaints about this nor do they explain why it is necessary.

Try subtitles and turn down the sound!

On a similar subject I occasionally go to see The Scarlets (regional rugby) and now whenever there is a break in play loud music is played, no chance to discuss why the ref needs to see an optician.

Have a quiet weekend

Sir Hugh said...

bowlandclimber - panning for gold in the Wild West - just up your street - you would have loved it!

welshpaddler - Hi Bob, others have mentioned that the BBC get many complaints about this and like you I wonder why it is so prevalent and if anything getting more so. I have noticed there are occasions when it does enhance a programme when it is well done, but that is pretty rare.

Roderick Robinson said...

I share your antipathy towards intrusive music and to misleading graphics. You'll be delighted to know the former infliction is detested by a huge slice of the middle-classes if the correspondence pages of the Radio Times (Surely the Daily Mail readership's favourite magazine) are anything to go by. The latter is comparatively new irritation and for me only became apparent in a very recent BBC4 programme which otherwise made a reasonable stab at explaining the physics of black holes. There used to be a tradition of inserting an explanatory word (Reconstruction, Simulation, etc) in the top left-hand corner of the screen but this seems to have disappeared.

BBC4 is the source of 50% of my TV viewing, more if I rule out the News At Ten on BBC1. Mainly because of science/history programmes and explanatory series about classical music. Even so I frequently reckoned there was rather too much dumbing down, especially via repetition. However there is another side to this which was explained in an article which - yet again - appeared in the RT.

A senior executive with responsibility for science programmes said complaints about dumbing down only came from people who reckoned they knew something about the subject. This seems reasonable given that "dumbees" wouldn't realise they were being patronised. Of the three main BBC TV channels, BBC4 appears by far the more specialised, having taken over the original principles on which the launch of BBC2, many years ago, was based. But this is a very qualified version of "specialised". BBC4 in comparison with the coverage of science and classical music in the "serious" newspapers, is still very much mass media and its brief can never be to create programmes about, say, black holes which would entertain those who work at the Cavendish. BBC4 is forced to walk a tight-rope between two extremes - being over-explicit and being elitist - and on the whole does a fair job. In any case that same executive said BBC4 would continue maintaining these policies given that by far the greatest proportion of thank-yous came from those who were previously ignorant about such subjects.

Yes, I know you weren't on this occasion complaining about dumbing down but intrusive music may be a device forced on science etc programme makers in the belief that it will give their work more popular appeal. I have never seen Strictly Come Dancing, for instance, but I have seen publicity clips and it appears to be a very noisy programme even when people are simply talking. Perhaps it incorporates so-called "intrusive music" without anyone noticing and this is now being copied on BBC4.

Sir Hugh said...

RR - thanks for that. Another irritation occurs on channels with advertising. When we return from "the break" we are given yet another introduction to the programme, which seems to indicate the producers reckon that half their audience only tune in halfway through, or their memory can't survive the length of time of the adverts. Absurd! Can you imagine at a classical concert replaying the first few bars before commencing with the next movement?

gimmer said...

Ha, you wait - that will happen soon: Grand Opera has had pressure for just this - maybe not replaying the last few bars, but certainly video flashbacks and summaries on the above-proscenium 'libretto simultaneous translation' screen in the intervals.
I solved your tv distaste dilemma a few years ago by being burgled and having my tv and video recorder (HVS of course) part of the haul: as you know, I now have no idea how people find time to watch it !
And don't expect the BBC to do anything so absurd as to react to viewers complaints - whatever next ? Immunity to TripAdvisor type reviews goes with the 5 star breakfasts and late night taxis as perks of the job.

Roderick Robinson said...

Gimmer's still comparatively young; old age may eventually blunt his fierce intellectualism and he may yet find time to watch telly. Out on the octogenarian tundra one finds one needs less sleep. Let gimmer remind himself of the passage from Ecclesiastes that used to be read out at BGS when that hallowed grove of academe was at its most portentous: “And further, by these, my sonne, be admonished: of making many bookes there is no end, and much studie is a wearinesse of the flesh.”

KenB said...

Conrad, I agree this is a great place for the grandchildren. We have been with ours as it is near their home in Chester. Our young granddaughters love it especially the diggers. Greetings to you from Ken and Jacqui of the SWCP - Portloe encounter

Sir Hugh said...

Ken B - See my reply on my latest post - A Weekend at Leyburn - 31st. October, along with reply to your comment re Barf/Lord's Seat