Thursday 12 August 2010

Where are all the children?

It occurred to me today, as I pressed through the crowds at Clapham Junction and London Bridge (it is amazing how crowded London is in the summer), that I was feeling a little like that scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in Vulgaria, when Dick van Dyke realises there are no children.

Where are they all?  In the suburbs?  In the countryside?  Locked into airless, artificially lighted New Labour-style nurseries, enjoying their interactive education smart screens?  I don't know.

There are one or two.  This isn't yet the era of the Childcatcher.  But for some reason, most of us seem to prefer to keep our children locked away somewhere, out of sight.

I don't think it's healthy.  I've just been to Genoa for a week, with two children (mine), and was overwhelmed at the welcome they received wherever they went - from shop-keepers and fellow travellers alike.  Even those poor souls fated to share the sleeping compartment with us seemed delighted to see them.

The contrast with the UK, or London at least, is extraordinary.  People are so often grumpy, at best, when they are forced to share space with children.  Sometimes they are downright hostile.  I know in Germany they even have a word for it: kinderunfrieundlich (have a spelled that right?).  It isn't the sign of a healthy society, and I can't believe our habit of hiding our children away - force-feeding them videos of Toy Story 3 - helps very much.

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