Where for art thou, childhood?

So where I work, a small barbers in a smaller Welsh town, I have to pretend to like a ridiculous amount of very excitable children; apparently parents will wait for over an hour to get their little darlings a haircut, lolly and sticker. the whole concept really baffles me. I am not a natural child speaker; I lack the ability to gain their attention and seem to scare the living day lights out of many, even with the simple “would you like a glass of squash, darling?” Apparently this is a fear inducing question. Maybe it’s my hair.

Yet today, in what I will henceforth refer to as “Bernard’s Barbers”¬†in, let’s call it, Aberllew town, I asked what I believed to be a foolproof, fearproof question: “so what have you asked Santa for this year?”

Now I was fairly sure I could have predicted the answer; a jigsaw, a bike, maybe even a serious request of the elves for a puppy. But do you know what I was met with?

“I want an iPad.”

AN IPAD. this child was under 10. An iPad. What has happened to childhood? I cannot believe times have changed at such an Olympic speed; I was only 4 when we welcomed in the millennium and even I feel like I am lost in time, lamenting the good old days. I write this to plead, quite frankly, and not to complain about the unfair amount of haircuts everyone in Aberllew seems to need all at once. (Honestly, I love making painful amounts of tea/coffee/squash/glasses of water and sweeping, while singing Some Day My Prince Will Come in my head, pretending to be Cinderella, but that is neither here nor there). My point is that children need to stay children. We don’t get to stay innocent and naive for long enough; before we know it, exams and school work and gossip and breaking hearts and bank balances that you simply cannot believe start to take over, drowning us in a sea of our own thoughts and conflicting feelings (and, let’s face it, comfort foods to eat our way out of feeling like an overweight failure which is such a vicious but delicious circle). Basically, buy you children a bike and take them outside to enjoy the precious time they have to graze knees, get dressed up in mud and make memories. Buy them dolls to play with, and not Barbies that were pretty much designed to give us all some form of appearance complex, but real rag dolls to be drEssex up and dragged around the garden. Buy them finger paints to inspire their creativity and real, tangible fun. Soppy, I know, but if I see one more child ignore the play box in Bernard’s, this breaking heart might fully crack.

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Why We All Need More Austen.

So for a history project, I was given a slightly daunting task; find anything of interest that happened between 1840 and 1890, then ¬†display that information however you like. Now as you can tell from this title, I have somewhat strayed from the whole history aspect of the task (sorry, Mr Stacey – but I honestly do listen in class – you can ask me anything you like about Robert Peel). However, I feel like this is okay, as it is through the work Jane Austen that many of us have had access to the days of the mid-1800s. That makes this a history blog… kind of. In a way. Okay not really.

I chose to write about Austen because I don’t feel like her work is studied and appreciated enough by young people. When Jane Austen died in 1845, we lost an inspirational, forward thinking and extremely talented writer, not to mention a feminist icon. She was able to use her work to outline the social constraints on middle class women during the 1800s through her comedic and romantic narratives. Opening “Pride and Prejudice” with the famous line “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” shows just how trapped women of that class were; they had to be defined by the men who were willing to marry them. Yet it is the way in which the characters are brought to life through their everyday issues that make her work so enjoyable and relatable. We feel their pain as they are ignored by perfect men and have to friend-zone some serious weirdos. We laugh as the sisters make fun of each other, and everyone roots for Elizabeth, the underdog, as she has to go all “Mean Girls” on Catherine Bingley (who, in my opinion, Regina George is definitely based on). Overall, the writing of Austen can be enjoyed by everyone, as she does address the very common issues we still all battle with; desperately trying to look attractive on what is a terribly low budget, attempting to get along with the sisters we know we love very very deep down, and overall just trying to get what we want in life without coming across as a massive cow (the problem which “Emma” has to deal with, circa 1815).

Therefore, I think we all need a bit more Austen in our lives to remind us that times really haven’t changed as much as we think. Yes, we can now skype, blog, and “troll” has somehow become a verb, but the day to day problems we face have not changed dramatically just because our lives are now ruled by a rather posh robot called Siri. It’s nice to get into a good book, travel back in time (tenuous history reference – that ones for you, Sir) and remember that we are not alone in our struggles. It doesn’t hurt that the characters always have a happy ending, too; if everything can work out for Elinor Dashwood after her hundreds of awful setbacks, there is hope for all of us.

(So my history project is me showing the links between the middle class back then and our lives today… lets go with that. Yes.)