For many years, I have not been in weekly receipt of a free local “news”paper (perhaps down to buying a new home) but this situation has now changed. Each Thursday, I take reluctant delivery of the Cambridge News and Crier (though who the lachrymose individual might be is not made clear) which proudly boasts that it is “Free weekly newspaper of the year in the East of England”.
This week’s front page lead (actually, the only story on the front page) relates the harrowing tale of a local lad who has been forced to endure warmer-than-wanted legs as a result of his school’s banning of shorts (the leg wear, rather than the drink – though, as the child is only 12, I presume this is also banned). To alleviate his distress, he has taken to wearing a skirt – on the grounds that some of his fellow pupils (the girls and any immigrant Scots, I assume) are permitted this luxury.
At the risk of sounding my age, they don’t know they’re born these days!
When I was a lad, I went to school throughout the year in shorts (trudging, thus attired, through the deep Kentish snows of the 1970s) up to the age of eleven. This was not a school policy, but that of my mother. As a child I used to fall over quite a lot (so, not much has changed there – except the cause) and my mother reasoned that my knees would mend and my trousers wouldn’t. The switch to secondary school – with its stricter uniform policy – brought some relief as I was then compelled to wear long trousers. The requirement for long trousers obtained throughout the year and, being the inmate of an all boys school, the skirt option really wasn’t available. However, it wasn’t all overheating in my teenage years – when we played football or hockey the teams were distinguished by the members of one team wearing coloured “bibs”. Well, that was the theory, but as a result of funding issues (I assume that was the cause, though it could just have been sadism) there were not enough bibs – and so one team had to play in “skins”, i.e. naked from the waist up. Football and hockey were only played in winter, and often in driving rain as I recall – but it never did me any (lasting) harm.
In some ways, the enforced experience of extremes of temperature has proved beneficial in my later life. I think my childhood rather over-loaded my body’s temperature sensing ability, and as a result when I later moved to Newcastle (the one upon Tyne, and the best – beware imitations) I was well able to fit in with the locals and go throughout the winter wearing minimal clothing (to be brutally frank, I often found myself wearing less than the locals).
I’m not quite as good in heat, but did still manage to give an all day training course, suited and booted, in a London basement office with no opening windows or air-conditioning, when the outside temperature was 38ºC with 100% humidity. Worse, I was sharing this office with a projector, 4 desktop PCs (not mini-constables) and three Italians. I did warn the Italians that the office would be hot and they should dress appropriately, but for some reason they assumed I was joking about the lack of cooling and dressed for style (way too much wool) rather than comfort. Let’s just say, it was very hot in that room and the PCs weren’t the only things humming! But, we survived – and, at least one of us was able to spin the straw of that day’s suffering into blogging gold (yes, I am the electronic answer to Rumplestiltskin – though I reckon my name would have been even harder to guess)!
I do worry that, in some ways, we are making childhood too easy for our young people and the real world is going to come as a terrible shock (as it did to my Italian friends) when (and, if – let’s face it, I’m still resisting) they grow up.