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Byline: Hannah Jones

Sometimes I look at my cousin and thank god his parents are not mine.

Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with them per se but they do tend to do two things I positively despise - practise portion control and wear wet-weather gear even when it's dry.

I think their ability to swish when they walk in the rain comes from the fact that because of said portion control, they actually look good in leggings and can tuck a top in.

As such, and because they're what's known as 'active, outdoorsy types', their hobby becomes their lifestyle which in turn impinges on that most sacred of places - the Christmas present list.

In the past year, they've requested such ridiculous things as a flask, flash-light that'll attach to a bobble hat and, the worst, see-through map holder you can hang around your neck.

Personally, I want to strangle myself with the cord.

But that's just me. I do, however, admire their ability to just get up and do it - 'it' being anything other than sitting down on their fat one and just stagnating in the only fulfilling way I know - in front of the telly, cat on my lap, and box of half price Pringles on the go.

They're thin, they're fit, they're happy to sleep in a youth hostel and their seven-year-old is exactly the same.

That poor, dear, white-haired boy, who has to - look away now if you're feeling emotional - 'save up' for presents they don't quite deem suitable.

It even translates to his Crimbo gifts.

Last year they requested I got him a microscope.

Great, I thought to myself; he'll have loads of fun looking at bits of dandruff and belly button fluff and dead insects under that.

But oh nope - he had to use it for 'proper' educational purposes and fun was consigned to his bottom drawer, filled with snow white socks, perfectly pressed tops and his own mini-me waterproofs, no doubt.

All that said, he's a clever little boy, polite and well mannered - just a bit polished and pristine for one so young, if you ask me.

And that's because his parents don't want him to lose his life to the joys of CBeebies.

Instead, they reason, real life knowledge comes from walking, cycling and being able to ask for chicken fried rice in a restaurant in Cantonese.

Honestly, I wouldn't be the well rounded (no jokes from the back please) person I am now if it wasn't for Tiswas and learning to forge Mam Jones' signature on letters to get me out of PE.

To me, these are the real building blocks of life and, coupled with an appreciation of the great outdoors, wouldn't everything combined work towards forming the most balanced little person possible? My childhood was delicious, and it had little to do with the fact that I grew up in a pub and my first bottle was filled with shandy.

My mother was busy running it, my father was away in the navy, my grandparents lived downstairs and our 'house' was well and truly public.

So I had to content myself with being by myself.

More often than not, basic electronic trinkets kept me company, or a menagerie of animals and fellas drinking pints of Whitbread.

Life was rich in the complexities of its averageness and the love that emanated from inside the nicotine-stained walls of The Castle in Ebbw Vale.

Some though, those who think liking museli is a life choice, would no doubt scoff at the one dimension of my formative years People like my cousin's folks, and Amy and Ella Meek from Nottingham whose mam and dad stopped them from watching telly and set them 100 outdoor challenges to complete instead.

Twelve months on and the 10-year-old and the eight-yearold possibly haven't got a clue who's gone out of Strictly Come Dancing (if you're reading this, last weekend Hairy Biker Dave Myers got the boot) but they've made a rope swing, prepared and sipped nettle soup and watched a meteor shower from a beach-side bivvy, whatever the heck that is.

They've also cooked with snow unlike what I did as a kid, which was loving watching it turn yellow.

If you have to ask how I did it, you've either never listened to Frank Zappa or you were too busy ghyll scrambling (no, I've got no clue either).

So to all you right-on parents out there who think your progeny will only become confident if they tag team a cycle train and learn a constellation, just look how well I turned out.

Who cares if I can't see my feet or read a map.

I can still do the Dying Fly, and not a lot of 41-year-olds can do that.

'Honestly, I wouldn't be the well rounded (no jokes from the back please) person I am now if it wasn't for Tiswas and learning to forge Mam Jones' signature on letters to get me out of PE. To me, these are the real building blocks of life...'


Hannah's childhood was 'delicious', despite not being asked to switch off the telly and do something more outdoorsy instead
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 15, 2013
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