Blasts from the past triumph

PUBLISHED: 10:32 24 December 2008 | UPDATED: 22:05 05 July 2010

SO is your Christmas turning out to be more retro than techno?

Has the ghost of Christmas past loomed large in your house bringing nostalgia and warm familiarity?

In homes everywhere Santa's deliveries looked back in time for inspiration, coming with counters, a dice and easy-to-follow instructions rather than multiple wires and futuristic faddiness.

SO is your Christmas turning out to be more retro than techno?

Has the ghost of Christmas past loomed large in your house bringing nostalgia and warm familiarity?

In homes everywhere Santa's deliveries looked back in time for inspiration, coming with counters, a dice and easy-to-follow instructions rather than multiple wires and futuristic faddiness.

The credit crunch might be miserable but it brought a bit of light relief to help turn Christmas into a more wholesome thoughtful family time for many. A positive long overdue thing, surely.

Grandparents were, for the first time in years, not bamboozled or baffled by games on a screen but could sit down with their grandchildren and enjoy games they knew and loved.

According to retailers, parents sought out more lasting presents this year, toys and games - traditional toys and games from their own childhoods - that have stood the test of time more than expensive, prone to break down technology.

Surprisingly, time-honoured favourite Scrabble was a big hit with retailers selling fast with other board games. Scrabble -who'd have thought it for the texting generation who speak a different language from the rest of us?

Oh, how the English teachers will be thrilled.

And simple toys like Playmobil and Sylvanian Families. Toys that need no batteries or plugs just lots of imagination found their way to the top of the wish list with children and parents.

My friends thought it was just us who got lucky escaping demands for games consoles or hi-tech gadgets. The most hi-tech present my 12-year-old received was a classic Rolf Harris Stylophone identical to the one I cherished in the 70s.

My friend's two girls, aged 12 and 10, each got the doll's house they had asked for, another friend's 12-year-old son had a telescope and his nine-year-old sister Build-a-Bear stuff.

They were thrilled.

Other friends were buying bikes, scooters and, like me, good old-fashioned failsafe Lego to go with board games and puzzles. Our only concession to a modern craze this year was US-inspired speed stacking - a set of plastic cups and a stopwatch to test coordination against the clock. Again, simple and uncomplicated.

Previously, pester power had made us all give in to PlayStation 2s, 3s and Nintendo Wiis, spending small fortunes on gadgets that turned out to be three-minute wonders, laying abandoned and neglected as children have found stuff more interesting to do. It speaks volumes. The desire is often bigger than the reality.

How fascinating that tight times financially sends the toy market looking backwards to a time of quality not quantity when presents had to last because there wouldn't be more until next Christmas.

Or perhaps after years of blind devotion to the new today's children have finally seen through the mindless screen staring and want something more stimulating.

The current craze for my boys is as simple as a Victorian spinning top. My older son is devoted to his Diablo, learning whizzy new tricks on a simple instrument of two sticks, a length of string and a plastic bobbin-shaped thing that whizzes up and down the string and can be spun, caught and whipped around.

He spends hours practicing his “skillage in the village”, as he calls it, as does every other 12-year-old boy he knows. At school every boy has one and tries to out skill each other. They cost a tenner and do more for hand-eye coordination than a remote control ever could.

His younger brother has latched on to it too and the pair of them are devoting their Christmas holidays to learning new tricks- and doing their bit to cut our energy bills with all their new technology switched off lying redundant.

No one would wish financial misery on anyone else, but if the credit crunch has revived families sitting round playing - and fighting about - Monopoly and bickering about Trivial Pursuit, hurrah.

At least families are together in the same room, talking, spending time together and conserving energy over a traditional game. Happy New Year.

SO Strictly Come Dancing judges got the winner they deserved.

Not the best dancer - as they pointlessly insisted it should be during the John Sergeant debacle - but, inexplicably, the man who could win a gold medal for smugness.

If the BBC hadn't made such a hash of the semi-final voting, the supercilious Chambers - have you ever seen a smug face to rival his? - Would never have won a two-dancer final.

His victory was a travesty. He scored the lowest and left two entrancing dancers, Rachel Stevens and Lisa Snowden, their partners and their fans wondering how on earth it ended as it did.

Chambers was an unworthy winner.

He made it all the more insulting to the real dancers by his pathetic bleating about his wife and missed honeymoon - it was his choice.

And his scant regard for his poor partner Camilla, the only reason he was standing there as the winner, was appalling and showed the true man. He missed her out entirely from his self-serving syrupy speech until he was reminded she was there at all.

IN our topsy-turvy world where statutory help for the homeless, needy, inadequate and abandoned is in short supply, binge drinkers are to be given goodie bags by police funded from the public purse.

People out to drink themselves stupid in towns across the country, ending their night vomiting and collapsing in the gutter are to be given survival kits of flip-flops - staggering around on four-inch heels with a skin full is lethal, diddums - condoms, bottles of water and lollipops.

The more-money-than-sense police forces hope it might encourage people to drink responsibly because the bags contain information on units of alcohol and warnings about drink driving. Mmmm. So when exactly are the blind drunk supposed to read these leaflets?

In Bolton, where men are men, police are giving out bubble blowers to revellers picking fights as they leave pubs and clubs. Bubbles? In Bolton?

Which course did the Officer in Charge of Daft Ideas or more likely the Originator of Community Initiatives for the Persuasion of the Public to Remedy Anti-Social Behaviour and Imbibe Less, salary £75k, find that idea on?

Imagine handing a bottle of bubbles to some shaven-headed tattooed brute from Bolton when he's trying to tear the head off his rival?

“Here my good man, blow these at him instead.” I hate to think where those bubbles might end up.”

Children get their party bags at the end of a party, now big kids rampaging the streets drunk are getting theirs. Madness and our money.

IN a similar vein, Suffolk police have adopted an apparently more cerebral approach to drunkenness and drink driving.

Their campaign to curb drink driving is by publicising lists of words difficult to say when drunk.

A sort of tonguetwister when tight game. If they can't say them they're too drunk to drive.

Do they hope people will carry a checklist of words around with them? They'll be too pie-eyed at the end of the night to read them let alone say them.

What's with all these so-called innovative ideas?

It should be enough to expect people to obey laws of the land.

But, judging by both initiatives, it's not crime prevention and public safety that's uppermost in the originators' minds, it's coming up with a winning campaign for one of the multiple campaign awards.

Now even law-enforcement is driven by campaigns and PR.

THIS week has been all about a simple young woman giving birth in a stable giving the world reason to rejoice and great hope.

Today, nearly 2009 years later, the soaring level of births to poor uneducated young women in Britain is at its highest since 1974 thanks to handsome state handouts.

Instead of hope and rejoicing, it's cause for grave concern for the future.

Research has proved, that young single mothers do view motherhood as a payslip for life and that generous reforms to Britain's welfare system triggered a baby boom among poor women making it “economically much more attractive to have children.”

The academic study claims that an extra 45,000 babies were born to mothers who left school at 16 in 2000, the year after the “unprecedented” increase in the value of child benefits.The report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies concludes: “We have shown that more generous Government support coincided with an increase in births among the group most affected by the [welfare] reforms.

“We have also provided supporting evidence of a decline in use of contraception among the group affected.

“Our results indicate a sizeable response in childbearing among the group affected by the reform.”

Just what everyone suspected.

Taxpayer spending on children is “unprecedented” in the previous 30 years with couples who both left school at 16 seeing increase in benefits of 45 per cent, from £39 a week to £56.76. This is a rise almost twice as much as the handouts for which a couple who went on to sixth form college would be eligible, which increased by 25 per cent to £37.27 a week.

The results show a 15 per cent increase in the probability of having a baby in the "low education group", equivalent to an extra 45,000 births compared with 670,000 across Britain as a whole.

And analysis of household surveys found large numbers of poorly educated women who said they were not using contraception because they wanted to have children.

I don't know about you, but as we enter a year when many hard-working tax-paying families face unemployment, home repossession and huge anxiety, it's a pretty depressing picture.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Lowestoft Journal. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Lowestoft Journal