Universal Experiences

Best days of our lives

I’ve been editing the interviews we did for this project and selecting soundbites to put up on our

special page on the website here.

 

Technically this proved a bit of a challenge for me, as I’d never done anything like this before. So I

had to download a package from the internet and start learning how to do it quickly! I chose the

Audacity package and got to know it very well indeed over the next few weeks. At first it seemed

very fiddly with all the soundwave forms and three different counters to keep an eye on, but

eventually I got the hang of it and was able to turn things around a lot more quickly than when I

started using it. Practice makes perfect, as they say. I have a new respect for the record producers

who produce and mix on those 64-track consoles, I had enough trouble working with just two!
What struck me listening to all these interviews was the range of people’s experiences from all

around the world and yet, perhaps unexpectedly, how universal those experiences had been. It

seems as if all over the world children were playing similar sorts of games; the universal ones like

hopscotch and marbles and jacks, of course (although they may have been called different things in

different countries); but also variations of chasing games like he, statues, knock-down ginger and

others with different regional variations. Within the four London boroughs we interviewed in, we

spoke to people who were born and brought up in the local area, but also to people who came here

from as far afield as St. Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic, Jamaica, Spain, Bangladesh and

Israel, just going to show that the area remains as much a melting-pot of different cultures now as it

ever was.

Peter recalled seeing a car for the first time when he was 12, when one came to take him to a family

wedding. Sibyl remembered travelling all the way from St. Helena to Dorset, without getting even

a sandwich to eat when she arrived. Roy and Rupert remembered playing dominoes

on the street corner in Jamaica; they are still playing dominoes at their Friday night club (and

having a great time, by the sound of it). Vera remembered playing knock down ginger on the local

policeman’s door – “we must have made the poor man’s life a misery!”. John also remembered

playing knock down ginger, and also egging the neighbour’s windows – shades of Justin Beiber,

there. Nadeem remembered his Steve Austin 6 million dollar man doll, with the bionic eye and arm;

I can vaguely remember that, which dates me!

Overall impressions are that people spent much more time out in the street socialising with other

neighbourhood children than they feel children do nowadays, and they think they had the better

part of the deal. Of course, there were so many fewer cars around then that children had much

freer access to the streets than they do nowadays. Many of our interviewees reminisced about

playing freely on bombsites after World War II, which would be unthinkable now. Sarah spoke

about the beginning of adventure parks in Stockholm, where builders created a park using left-over

materials from one of their developments; similar projects are now encouraged here. But overall it

seems as if most of our interviewees do not think today’s children, largely confined indoors with TVs,

tablets and computer games, get as much enjoyment out of their childhoods as they themselves did

in the past.

 

Posted by PMG

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