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Planning Retirement Online

Beyond the Headlines

Oct 2014

 

By Jeanne DavisJeanne Davis

Each month our resident writer and commentator Jeanne Davis goes behind recent news stories to comment on various ideas and subjects that have special resonance for our age group.

Written in her usual thought provoking and entertaining style, we know you will enjoy this addition every month

To view all of Jeanne's articles visit the Interest Index.

Overrated and Underrated Family Activities

I am a great fan of Tim Lott, the writer, and the weekly columns he writes in the Family Section of the Saturday Guardian. The one titled My five top- and- bottom family activities recently was especially satisfying. Here’s his list of the five most overrated and underrated family activities:

Overrated:

  1. Going to the circus
  2. Swimming pools
  3. Art galleries/sculpture parks
  4. Puppets
  5. Swings

Underrated:

  1. Feeding birds
  2. Going for a walk
  3. Guns
  4. TV
  5. Flying a kite

I especially liked Going for a walk.

“The most basic form of entertainment of all,” says Tim. “But when the world is so full of competing attractions on phones and screens simply being together in a quiet open space is a joy.”

I read this comment on the underrated list nodding in agreement. When I visit my grandsons for the weekend I do suggest we go for a walk, partly because, I must admit, I can no longer manage the bicycle rides we used to do. We take varying paths, walking along tree-lined lanes or in parks at a leisurely pace. There is no pressing need to carry on a conversation. From time to time we may comment on a blossoming bush or a scurrying squirrel and then retreat into a companionable silence, content with our own thoughts.

It makes me happy to know that what I find most agreeable to do is a pleasure for the grandchildren, too.

Feeding birds, too, lasted well beyond their toddler years. Every visit we would go down to the local pond with bags of stale bread pieces to tempt the ducks, I, a little nervous and ever watchful that one young person would run too eagerly and into the pond to get closer to the open quacking mouths. Tim Lott says,

“It’s a real show down at the ponds – scary when the swans get surly and acrobatic, when the seagulls snatch the bread out of the air. And the ducks –they are just so grateful.”

Going to the circus. (Overrated). The circus lost me when the staging aggrandised into a three ring spectacle. I never knew which ring to focus on and in the end anxiety and confusion outweighed any pleasure. None of my grandchildren has ever said, “Please can we go to the circus.”

Swimming pools. (Overrated). Tim says,

“I dislike swimming at the best of times. Up and down and up and down; wet, crowded, dozens of unhygienic bodies in proximity. However, when you’ve got kids you have to play “shark” or “holding your breath”, or “throw the child.”

I prefer the sea. It’s where I learned to swim. And where we have the most fun.

Guns. (Underrated).

“Can’t think of what to give your son or daughter for a birthday. Give ’em a toy firearm. Think they won’t like it? Go and watch kids playing Laser Quest. Nothing beats pretending to kill people for good clean fun. For girls, it’s a great way to break down gender stereotypes.”

No! No! No! Never!!

When you look on the internet you find comments from readers of his columns. About this one, a reader writes:

“Wow – I would totally have reversed the order of this list. My kids hate walks. I hate Kids’ TV and guns; ducks and birds should not be fed bread (salad greens are ok). On the other hand, we can play in the pool for hours, pushing them on the swings becomes wondrously meditative for all concerned and for my daughter, puppets are up there with the most magical of creatures.”
TV. (Underrated).

“Once, watching TV was considered a low-rent activity, for morons,” says Tim. “But compared with everyone on their own screens doing their own thing, everyone watching a film or TV programme together is a genuine social experience. If you doubt it, take a peek at Gogglebox.”

Good! It’s okay now! To watch TV. I used to get so upset when my husband sat on the sofa with our son every Saturday morning, all morning, both contentedly watching cartoons, sitcoms, and I don’t recall what else. I would be nagging them to get out, kick a ball around, go to a museum, learn something. I thought it was very bad parenting to be mindlessly watching a screen full of silly characters and stupid stories.

Now, my beloved and departed husband should see me sitting between the grandchildren on a sofa, munching nachos, and I am content, too. I have acquired new knowledge, keeping my mind refreshed; appreciating the graphics of the new Japanese produced cartoons, suffering the wit of the teenage sitcoms. The fantasy adventures based around characters from legend fascinate me as I try to figure out which Greek heroes or medieval knights on a quest the characters are representing. And I must bite my tongue not to say the TV writers have mucked it up, I think, and got it all wrong.

I will leave you with one comment from a reader of Tim Lott’s column. You may feel the same. “I can’t believe he gets paid for this drivel!”

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