“Where are you kids off to?”
“We’re going over to the O’Reagan’s” I shouted as I headed for my bike.
“We’re gonna jol arlies!” my brother shouted as his bike swung into the road. (Translation: We’re gonna play marbles!)
“Listen for my whistle!” That was how we knew when it was time to head for home. We could be a whole block away but as soon as we heard my Mother’s clear whistle echoing over the roof tops that meant one thing – home! My brother and I both knew how to whistle back and we would whistle, mutter: “Damn it!” and head for home.
The O’Reagan’s lived four houses away and they had a great garden. Countless afternoons were spent playing marbles and cricket there. I wasn’t much good at cricket and grew sick of fielding that damned ball from every bush in sight. But I was ace at marbles! My legs would be open in a vee and a pile of ten marbles would have been expertly built in this conical structure in the front. “Shymapadda ten man!” I would call out, “C’mon, any takers? Nikkie anything under the sun.” That was a way of ensuring that everyone stood at the correct distance and there was no cheating! I was great at marbles but my brother, Patch, was inevitably in a class of his own. I managed to rake in only four marbles before his marble smashed into my conical ten with an accuracy and ease that was startling.
“Ohhh man,” I muttered handing the ten marbles over to him.
I look back at my childhood memories and I smile. Our childhood was filled with expeditions with the neighbourhood kids: on our bikes into the veld; building a fort in a old sewage pipe; playing tok-tokkie; games of cricket on the front lawn; roller skating up and down the road sans helmet and knee pads. We had such fun together.
I now live in a street in George that would have been a perfect playground for us children of forty-four years ago. Today, where are the bicycles? Where are the laughing, chattering, bantering groups of children? Nowhere in sight. Today’s children seem to have a different mind set.
Children don’t roam the streets as we used to. As soon as they have a break from their studies, they are on their cell-phones, X-Box or other computer games. I have watched these computer games. They are incredibly violent and blood thirsty. The child will sit there, his eyes glued to the screen as he is sprayed with bullets and he, in turn, kills man after man either through his machine gun or he could change his weapon to an axe or a wieldy knife! For goodness sakes, I too played games inside as a child. But these games seemed more constructive somehow. We played Monopoly which taught us about money, lending, buying properties, cash flow! I really do believe that violence begets violence. Why don’t computer game designers come up with a less horrifying form of entertainment? Oh glory, I sound like a know it all, disagreeable grand-mother, don’t I?
I was sitting at a restaurant the other day. At the table next to me were a couple of teenagers. They were not behaving in the way I would expect a dating couple to behave: shyly making conversation and laughing at one another’s jokes. No, this couple were facing one another but with their eyes glued to their I-Phones while their fingers tapped furiously away in conversation with whoever was on line with them. Great date, huh? Scintillating conversation! Yeah, yeah, yeah…..
John Breyault, the vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League, said:
“Today about 80 percent of teens between 10 and 17 own a cell phone, and about half of those own a smart phone. That’s about twice the rate from just two years ago.”
I am frightened that the youth of today are missing out. They are losing out on the art of conversation. There is the wonderful world of fantasy and imagination that is put into gear when children play with each other. That child spending his free hours glued to his X-Box is interacting with a machine rather than gooning around with friends. The children that I do see on the street walking home from school are all chatting – to their cell phones!
Nowadays most children from the age of ten upwards own a cell phone. We live in South Africa which is a crime infested country. People are mugged and murdered. As a result, children don’t play in the neighbourhood as I used to. Parents drive their children to and from school and take them on play dates. They are only too aware that the cell phones they have given their children to ensure their safety, are prime targets for thieves! Ironic, isn’t it?
In South Africa, children living in locations don’t have this problem. They play outside in the streets without the fear that the middle and upper classes carry with them. The majority of location children don’t own cell phones!
Also, the only muscles that are involved in working a computer game are the muscles in your thumbs! While in England I noticed a preponderance of chubby children. Guaranteed that over there the weather is often not conducive to going outside and exercising. But a large amount of chubbiness comes from sitting in front of a computer screen, a packet of crisps in hand!
I wonder if this a case of simply having to move with the times! Is this similar to how our grandparents thought when television was invented? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for technology. I am a hearing person as a result of my wonderfully constructed Cochlear Implants. But at the same time, I do wish that the children of today could know the pleasure of running from one neighbour to the other and playing in the road until Mum’ whistle drew them inside for their baths.
But don’t we all long for times that have disappeared?