Feb 21 2014

Disappointment should be expected

Category: Generalfootlight @ 15:47

I first went to the Horniman Museum as a small child. My dad and mum were always taking me – and then ‘us’, when my sister was born – to places of interest. Museums, parks, country houses, art galleries, London’s tourist attractions – we were exposed to every form of culture available at the time.Some of it stuck, some of it didn’t, but at least we were given the chance to choose what we liked and what we didn’t. Back then, the Horniman was a fusty, old dark place, full of stuffed animals and dingy hidden corners. I loved it, though, as it was so different from my everyday life.

So I decided to reccie for a school visit next academic year, as it will have changed dramatically in the years since I was last there. I was not wrong.

Firstly, I had chosen to go during half term week, which was unavoidable as I can’t go during the week in term time. Consequently, the place was teeming with children, each adult appearing to have more than their fair share – I’m guessing they were taking some for people who had to work. There was at least one pushchair per group and none of the ‘pushers’ would have gained a licence if they were giving them away! The museum now has considerably more floor area and is on three floors, but this did not seem to alter the fact that I felt as though I was running the gauntlet just to get from one side of a room to the other. There was a lot of ‘stuff’ (I apologise to my colleague, who would know who she is if she ever managed to read this) which was displayed in huge, glass cases in every room. The museum possesses a massive musical instrument collection, also behind glass. The African room is packed with scary masks and headdresses and the old part of the building – the one I remember – is still full of stuffed (mostly extint) animals.

The teacher in me was sorely disappointed.
1. In order to speak to the Education Officer, I would have had to queue up for the ticket office to ask to speak to her/him – even though I didn’t want a ticket. The queue was incredibly long when I arrived and no better when I was about to leave. I didn’t bother. I was given this information by a young man at the door who had a walkie-talkie but was apparently unable to contact people with it,
2, There were no gallery specific leaflets – not even for ready money.
3. There was no museum guide. Anywhere. I asked.
4. A school party would be able to enter the special exhibitions for a reduced price, but it wasn’t possible to book online or over the phone. It had to be done on the day, at the ticket office.

I really want to take some kids for a story-telling workshop but I’m not at all sure I would be able to book it without a lot of hassle. I will try because it looks good and because the devil in me wants to be able to complain when something goes wrong. Am I a bad person?

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Aug 23 2008

Put your own house in order

Category: Generalfootlight @ 11:29

Why is it that people are generally so selfish? Always me, me, me! Wanting to be first in the line for everything; last if it’s something nasty, like an injection. Looking for the easy buck, the least work for the most gain. Just – selfish. But selfishness has many guises, not just emotional ones.

Take the person who drives down the road with his/her (although usually men) car hi-fi at full pelt, all windows open. Better yet, no windows open and still loud enough to deafen the populace in the next town. My only consolation is that he or she will be deaf long before I am. It is highly anti-social to have your car radio/stereo blaring out, but it is very hard to regulate. Try telling one of these yobs they are disturbing the entire county and the most likely response would be a stream of good old Anglo-Saxon invective. If you are really unlucky, you might get a physical response, but only if you are stupid enough to stand too close.

Then there’s the noisy neighbours. I doubt there is one person in the country who hasn’t been affected by this problem at least once. Parties that regularly go on until the wee small hours with excruciatingly loud music and people shouting at the tops of their voices to be heard over it. One of our neighbours last summer even moved the hi-fi into the garden – why!?

Intrusive music, like an MP3 player, has been dealt with on public transport in the UK and it is a recognised offence, but where does this lack of courtesy come from? Why are people so selfish and thoughtless?

I blame the parents (or whoever brings them up). No, really – I do! I am one who had a very difficult child who was damned hard work, so I speak from a position of knowledge. It doesn’t matter how much legislation the government puts in place, how many prosecutions there are over noise pollution, how many times people complain to the local Environmental Health Department. The vast number of these people have not had any guidance on how to behave in society. There is a current advertisment in the media pointing out that small children will copy grown-ups into bad habits, in this case road sense. They will also copy good habits. If a child learns at his parents’ knee that it is bad to make so much noise that you disturb other people, and this is constantly reinforced as said child grows, then he probably won’t do it! If he is reprimanded if he makes faces, or hits, or snatches, or shouts abuse, then he probably won’t do it as an adult. Of course children have to do some of their own growing and make their own mistakes and of course some will grow up unpleasant in spite of all the attempts by their parents to produce a well-balanced adult but, if they have no positive role model in the first place, they don’t stand a chance.

And don’t blame the schools! They are in loco parentis – ‘in the place of the parent’ – but they don’t stand a chance either if the groundwork hasn’t been done.

Bringing up kids is bloody hard work. They aren’t there to finish the tally – house, car, kids – nor are they there to cement a failing relationship. If you have kids it should be because you want them and it is then your duty, to your children and to society, to show them how to be good people. I don’t mean in the religious sense – that sometimes produces the worst offenders – but just good, old-fashioned common decency.

So it isn’t just the products of this lack of guidance who are selfish, it’s the place they come from – the parents and, for ‘parents’ read also ‘home’. Many children are effectively brought up by grandparents, childminders, friends. It can’t be helped in an age when it is almost impossible for a mother or father not to have to work to support the family. But that doesn’t change anything. A good start is a good start and it would make a world-wide difference if more people thought about that instead of their own comfort.

I repeat – bringing up kids is bloody hard work! When you complain about the noisy driver or the gang of teenagers you are afraid to walk past, check for a moment whether one of them couldn’t be yours. If not, pat yourself on the back. If they could ….

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