Childhood: today versus the 70s and 80s

Tina has a fantastic photo of our children re-uniting after several months apart. As you can imagine they are joyfully jumping up and down, chatting loudly over each other and embracing. Actually I tell a lie: the reason the photo is so brilliant is that it perfectly depicts today’s children;  they are all sat closely together on a hotel bed, heads down and deeply engaged in ipads. I found myself wondering if this is a sad sign of our times: where children are losing the art of conversation and spontaneous playing with their friends; preferring the online company of friends or strangers. Or where the creativity of den-building is forever lost to the creativity of city building, courtesy of Minecraft. I suspect the answer is not clear cut; as for some children the anonymity of computers may help develop their social skills and what the picture doesn’t show is the playful moments that came before this, or the cartwheels on the grass the next day. And although difficult to ascertain from a photograph, the way they were bundled together on the bed also demonstrated a deep bond and comfort they feel in each other’s presence.

Nevertheless, the photograph highlighted the stark difference from my childhood in the 70s and 80s: I recall den building, tree-house building, staying out all day, running through a field causing mayhem…the farmer shooting at us…yep, vastly different to today’s indoor, electrical and social media-focused children!

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve the bi-annual visit to my grandparents; who chose to settle three-and-a-half hours away in the coastal town of Clacton-on-Sea.  As a child sufferer of car-sickness (although oddly enough, usually only on this particular journey…) my elder brother must have really looked forward to the long journey cosseted in the back seat with me.  Predictably an hour or so into the journey, my window would wind down, as I desperately breathed in fresh air.   After eliminating the contents of my stomach, the car would stop, out would come my fresh clothes – specially packed for the occasion – and the journey would resume.  On one of these journeys I lost one of my favourite Christmas presents; an almost life-sized doll.  Taking her out of the car with me for the big-sick-clean-up, we forgot to put her back in and when we drove back minutes later to retrieve her, she had been taken! Sickness and wailing for the remainder of the journey; what a treat for my long-suffering brother!

On another occasion my brother, desperately trying to distract me from vomiting, came up with the ingenious idea of playing hide and seek with some used chewing gum.  After several innovative hiding places in the back of the car, I had the inspired idea of hiding it in the depths of my hair – he would never think to look there! Sibling rivalry points notched up for me as he looked around the car in vain. However, my imagined superiority was soon kicked into touch when we arrived at Clacton and I had to endure a bowl hair cut to remove said chewing gum, courtesy of my mum, with my brother smirking in the background.

Unfortunate haircut aside, I loved the excitement of staying at my grandparents house.  For a child, it was filled with treasures and knick knacks that inspired wonder and necessitated exploring! Together with my brother and dog, we would camp in the living room and raid their chocolate tin when all was quiet in the house. We assumed they never knew of our midnight feast, but looking back perhaps the tin was filled up precisely for that special occasion! I was intrigued by the small black and white television in their bedroom that had two knobs on it; one to turn it on and off and the other to wind up to locate each of the four television channels. I loved exploring their sheds; one where granddad would show me his war paraphernalia – mostly stored in jam jars – and the other creepy, long-forgotten-shed at the bottom of the garden; where my brother would push me in before him to clear his entrance of cobwebs and spiders. I loved the old-fashioned, musty-smelling board games; particularly scoop and mad marbles.

Mad Marbles board game

Mad Marbles board game

Scoop

Scoop

And was fascinated by their telephone with a wind-up-dial and a secret drawer at the bottom that popped out with people’s telephone numbers written on it. 312_black_small2I was puzzled (and still am!) by the toilet paper that looked and felt like crispy tracing paper and really, really hurt! And we used to hang onto the car seat in terror as our grandad drove us speedily into town, minus seatbelts I recall, not a care in the world. I used to think he was reckless, but now, considering the danger he faced as a rear gunner in WWII (Rear gunners: a perilous and lonely war), driving fast probably felt like a walk in the park and I doubt seatbelt safety had been fully-realized in those days.

As much as we might crave those heady days for our children, it’s worth also remembering the less-rosy aspects of the ‘old days’. Walking in the dark to find a vacant phone box to call my parents when I was at University was less-than-pleasant and I struggle to recall an average day at work before the advent of email! Even in recent years, contacting my husband on detachment relied on electronic eblueys, whereas now you can have immediate contact (if they are ever in their tent…) via FaceTime.  For me, today’s ideal for our children is a good combination of the old and the new…

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The many faces of Cyprus

As a book-lover, I rarely give away books and consequently have over-flowing bookshelves; including one devoted to guidebooks: interesting and beautiful places that I have visited and hope to return to some day.  So my atypical decision, in 2004, to throw my guidebook to Cyprus in the dustbin, adamantly proclaiming I would never want to visit the island again, is still a vivid memory.  Fast-forward three years and I found myself packing up my worldly-possessions, waving them away onto a container ship and boarding a flight to what would be our new home;  in Cyprus!  The irony of my former book-throwing decision did not pass me by and certainly filled me with a little apprehension!

So what led to my guidebook fermenting with apple cores and pencil shavings at the bottom of a bin? Was it caused by my heat-intolerance as I doggedly persevered with sightseeing plans: battling against high temperatures and humidity at Paphos Archaeological Park, DSC02387a UNESCO World Heritage Site, wearily placing one foot in front of the other to view Roman Mosaic floors and ruins from Prehistoric times to the Middle Ages? Was it the seering sunburn emanating from my legs and burning through my linen trousers, as a constant and nagging reminder of the perils of not re-applying suncream often enough? Was it the discovery of a box full of bullets in our hired 4×4, having assured my friend’s mother it was just water bottles noisily-pinging around behind her in the boot? Was it the fear-inducing journey as our 4×4 slowly climbed precarious roads and dirt tracks to reach the spectacular scenery of the Troodos mountains?  No, it was none of these! It was simple really; with the exception of daytrips to the Troodos mountains and the busy, tourist attractions of Paphos, we barely got to know the island.   We were in Cyprus for a friend’s wedding and along with the other guests, we stayed in a huge hotel in Paphos, which was pretty much the same as every other hotel packed tightly together along that strip of beach.   And that was our defining image of Cyprus: hotel after hotel after hotel: all catering for us Brits; including menus advertising that well-known Cypriot delicacy; fish and chips!

How little we knew and how wrong we were about Aphrodite’s island!  In the three years we subsequently lived in Cyprus, we scratched beyond the surface and explored the island from tip-to-toe: from the charming, pretty old town of Limassol;

Old Town, Limassol

Old Town, Limassol

Limassol

Limassol

the rugged and wild scenery of the Akamas Peninsula

Akamas Peninsula

Akamas Peninsula

and the heights and temperature difference of the Troodos mountains;

Troodos mountains; January/February

Troodos mountains; January/February

to the less well-travelled and perhaps greener North of the island. The breathtaking beauty of Bellapais, picturesque Kyrenia and a spectacularly long car journey through the Karpas Peninsula to reach Golden Beach at the tip of the island, which geographically points to Syria, captivated us with their natural splendour. Relaxing at Nankomi (Golden Beach), a deserted sweep of sand, backed by rolling dunes,  our experience of Cyprus three years earlier became a distant memory!

Golden Beach, Karpas Peninsula

Golden Beach, Karpas Peninsula

Here is more of our journey – in images – for you.

The Akamas Peninsula:

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The Troodos mountains:

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The Karpas Peninsula, Northern Cyprus:

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Basic beach accommodation, Karpas Peninsula

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Bellapais, Northern Cyprus:

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Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus:

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Fabulous and inexpensive villa

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Larnaca:

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Aphrodite’s Rock:

Petra tou Romiou, Aphrodite's Rock

Petra tou Romiou, Aphrodite’s Rock