Swings and Roundabouts

Two years is a long time to spend in the blogosphere and I find my thoughts tracking  back over those 211 posts – a little over one a week by my reckoning – to consider what, if anything, they signify. Worth remembering, I think, what I wanted to achieve – here’s a mash-up of the first few posts:

My voyage of exploration begins. I want to recapture the spirit of childhood, when we would set out from home with the deliberate aim of getting hopelessly lost …

I find it sad that children today don’t occupy the streets and open spaces like we did when I was young. There have always been risks in such freedom but we made a habit of going around with our friends, rarely if ever alone. We knew the dangers and were able to avoid them. So many kids were out and about, there was safety in numbers. With more adults around, too, we behaved ourselves most of the time because we didn’t want to get into trouble. In this way, we learned how to take responsibility for ourselves.

Sitting alone in your bedroom is not a healthy substitute, especially when you factor in the online risks and bad cyberspace influences that would shock many parents. It’s a case of out of the frying pan into the fire, I’m afraid. Let’s make the open air a place for children again, providing proper facilities and a sensible but not stifling adult presence. It would be quite a challenge but I can’t think of a better way to create the communities of the future.

I love the idea that when you start saying something, you don’t know where you’re going with it …

Hmm, not sure all those lofty declarations of freedom have borne fruit. More often than not, my writing is tightly controlled: acrostic poems, haikus, hundred-word stories. Such constraints enable me to turn out posts on a semi-regular basis but there is a danger that they can become somewhat glib and formulaic. I’m wondering what became of my desire to go off-piste once in a while, starting stuff I wasn’t sure I could finish with my adult dignity and amour propre still intact!

Two years ago Obama was still in the White House and the United Kingdom still in the European Union. The future – always glimpsed through a glass darkly – at least showed signs of being recognisably and reassuringly like the past. But now all bets are off. I’ll risk a wild metaphor and say we are adrift in a sea of raw emotion clutching at puny straws of reason. At times like these, I sometimes think, only the heightened language of poetry can hit the spot:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
                                        from The Second Coming by WB Yeats
 Anyone dismayed by the surfacing of ugly prejudice in their own societies will find the poem’s final imagery disturbing:
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds …
… And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
A while back I created an imaginary town called Bafflesby because I had a strong urge to send up the sort of blinkered thinking that threatened values I grew up with:  the likes of tolerance, empathy, clarity, openness.
Just recently I’ve found it hard to invent new scenarios because it turns out that truth really is stranger than fiction. What with all these alternative facts and all this fake news, truth is a now a character in a costume drama. Remember those cheesy sword-and-sandal epics where the Romans wore wrist-watches?
Truth is now so strange that complete strangers come up to me and say, You couldn’t make it up! It’s true. I can’t. If I tried, it would be like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Actually I’m hoping he’ll get bored running around and come sneaking back home for some hay and a nice rub-down. In the meantime, I’ll read Private Eye to discover how to poke fun when things stop being fun.
I suppose most countries have satirical magazines which probe wrong-doing and parody folly. What about those in your neck of the woods? It would be good to hear about any.
Private Eye’s covers are an art-form in their own right …
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Laughter is the best medicine, they say. They would say that, wouldn’t they, as it’s also much cheaper? But I don’t want to end this post on a cynical note. I played with my little granddaughter today and we just followed our noses, making it up as we went along. You don’t need toys when the whole world is yours for the taking.

Watching a bit of telly is OK, though, when invention begins to flag. And YouTube is a great way to explore past and present together. She loves the Bill & Ben colour animations – though not the ponderous old black-and-white string-puppet versions we had to endure. But I did get her to watch this little gem from back in the day, when grown-ups could poke fun at themselves without losing their dignity … and we both laughed like drains!

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14 thoughts on “Swings and Roundabouts

  1. Children these days are not street smart and more techo influenced. No romping in the sun or climbing trees. Our kids here think chicken looks like those shrink wrapped birds in chillers at supermarts! As to how our next generation will become, is left to be seen. 🤔

    1. They definitely get a more airbrushed view of the world. I remember when butcher’s shops looked like this!

      To be serious, though, and a little more optimistic … despite its pitfalls the online world does bring new opportunities for guided exploration – kids can and should be taught to connect things together in creative and productive ways rather than just viewing weird stuff at random!

    1. Thanks, Opher, thought I’d make a little tactical retreat before plunging back into the fray. I always find meaningful communication a bit of a battle – so hard to make any kind of difference and so tempting to give up in the face of ignorance and selfishness …

  2. “Adult dignity and amour propre” – I think that grandchildren especially love it when adults apparently lose their dignity and self respect – I suspect that readers of your entertaining, thought provoking and laugh inducing blog would love it too, Dave. Let’s face it, you have some of the most supportive readers I have ever seen – if you were to let yourself go and shake off the shackles of form and word limits (how about 235 and a half words?) I am sure you would be warmly welcomed.
    By the way, I totally agree with your comments about children’s activities. Fortunately, as well as having active, silly grandparents, our grandchildren have parents who encourage them to go paddle boarding, rock wall climbing and play-writing. In their last production, Ned was a one man Spanish Inquisition – nobody expected that. (I have yet to introduce them to Stanley Unwin.)
    Thanks for your blog, Dave. It works for me.

    1. Ooh, 235 and a half words – now there’s a challenge! I’m sure there’s enough mileage left in the ‘exploration’ theme to get me there. So that’s my next post sorted …

      Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, Mike, it’s good to know people like yourself appreciate what I do. The idea of stretching out a bit has been with me for a while. Five-finger exercises are all very well but sooner or later you have to go the full Rachmaninoff …

      If the children of the world all had grandparents and parents like you and yours, we could be more optimistic about the future. I won’t say a golden age because there never was one nor ever will be, but such a positive and creative heritage is a golden baton to pass on in the great relay race … minus the torture, perhaps, although I’m sure your grandson did it in the best possible taste!

      Hmm, Kenny Everett, Monty Python … some heritage!

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