A couple of weeks ago I was left to my own divises for over a week when Liz and Rachel went to a wedding in Bulgaria during which time, apart from having to take the dogs out twice a day I was left to fend for myself.
Which brings me to the subject of this blog.
While they were away I found myself being grateful for all of the skills that my parents taught me when I was young.
This came home to me when our neighbours as they passed our house looked in and seemed to find it amusing to see me ironing a stack of newly washed and dried clothes.
But why should it be seen as unusual, surely it is what everyone is taught to do when they are kids – except of course when I started talking to people I know – it turns out they didn’t teach their kids because apparently they were to busy.
Perhaps as kids we were very fortunate that our parents taught us all how to look after our younger siblings – as the second oldest I had the advantage of seeing four additions to the family arrive through the door.
I’m what I suppose in the modern world is called a modern man who can and have changed nappies and knows how to do house work including dusting the skirting boards.
Perhaps we were lucky in that our parents were forward modern thinking people.
Or it may just be that with so many kids the expectation was that everyone would pull their weight.
Whatever the reason our parents taught us how to do the washing – who remembers twin tub washing machines and the smell of bleach coming from a galvanised bucket of boiling nappies on the stove – a clothes horse in front of the open fire – and once the clothes were dry the ironing.
And no it wasn’t the romantic and good old days of yesteryear that some of my generation would suggest.
There is nothing romantic about waking up with ice on the inside of the bedroom windows and no it didn’t toughen us up all it meant was that we had more colds.
Anyway back to the subject.
I found myself doing a number of things that I’d not done for a long time whilst the girls were away.
I have a Miners Safety Lamp and a Ships Bell both of which are made out of brass which I cleaned with Brasso – I’d forgotten that as it is cleaned everything turns black but the end result looks great.
My memory then went back to our dad showing us how to clean the brasses on his army belt – having of course for those of a certain age blancoed it first.
I sewed two buttons on shirts remembering that the last stitch had to be looped and tied off to make sure the cotton thread didn’t just pull out and I put a patch on some working trousers that were torn.
These were all skills mum and dad taught us and which held me in good stead when I eventually ran away to sea and joined the Royal Navy where washing, ironing and sewing name tallies and branch badges on to uniforms were accomplished with ease.
Or at least easier than some managed.
And guess what – I managed to achieve all of this without once having to refer to the Internet and YouTube which is what has now become the skills teacher of today.
I’m not a great one for discussing the past and certainly not one for viewing it as some distant romantic period where everyone ate Hovis and popped around to each other’s house to borrow a cup of sugar in what has increasingly become portrayed as an idealised mythological community.
Put simply – it never bloody existed just as the mythological George Dixon “Bobby on the beat on his bicycle who gave all youngster a clip around the ear” never existed.
What is true is that children were taught how to look after themselves.
From an early age mum and grandma in particular taught us how to clean, cook, wash, iron and sew on buttons.
We knew how to polish a pair of shoes – even how to spit and polish to a brilliant shine – or whiten a pair of plimsolls, (for the younger readers plimsolls were the fore- runner to trainers – but without cushioning).
Now I know that even with all of the ‘labour saving’ devices that are available to the parents of today they are still very busy people trying to fit everything in which leaves them little or no time to spend teaching their kids these outdated skills.
Let’s face it why learn to iron when you can simply throw whatever it is in a tumble dryer for 15 minutes, take it out shake it and wear it?
Who in the modern world is ever going to need to polish their shoes, or whiten their trainers?
Ready made meals?
And buttons – good grief man have you never heard of zips and Velcro – how old are you?
The question is though, or at least as far as I’m concerned is what are parents teaching their kids?
And please don’t tell me they haven’t the time because they’re busy working full time.
Remember my generations parents also worked full time and some mums actually didn’t have a husband at the end of World War 2 and yet they found the time to teach their kids domestic survival skills as well as working.
Of course it may be that this generation of parents – and let’s be honest they are the children who we brought up – are busy teaching their children modern survival skills that we the “crinklies ” don’t or wouldn’t understand.
Things like having the ability to listen and express themselves in a way that will bring them motivation and emotional stability in a world where they need to have a moral compass and follow it.
By the way – we learned all of these at the same time we were learning all of the other things and yet today’s parents may be concentrating on teaching their kids how to multi task because clearly this is something my parents never needed to learn.
-one thing at a time son – one thing at a time.
Modern parents simply don’t have the time to spend teaching meaningless skills that are no longer applicable in 2017 when it is easier and quicker to show them how to access the Internet to get the solution.
A solution which invariably also comes delivered via a YouTube presentation usually by an American all complete with an advertisement as the introduction.
But who am I to argue that it isn’t progress?
So am I a modern man or simply a relic of a bygone age?
Whatever I am at least I can iron a shirt, polish shoes, cook a full Sunday roast with gravy made from the juices of the meat and not with granules, sew on a button, bake a cake, change a nappy, clean the house and yes even polish brass.
All without referring to the Internet.
Overall I guess as I gallop along the time line to my 70th decade on the planet I’m happy to be a relic.
Which would have pleased my mum because at least I’ll have clean uderwear on when I get run over by the mythical bus and end up in hospital.😂😂