Monday, 8 October 2012

Old Skool

I don’t often use this space to have a moan. And I do like to retain my positive, sunny disposition but having spent more time in recent weeks trying (and failing) to find a single children’s DVD in my house that isn’t cracked, scratched or covered in jam (or other unknown sticky substances) than doing housework and writing put together, I decided it was time.

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the whole point of progress meant to be that things get better as time goes on? Why then, pray tell, do so many good things disappear while the new stuff is just crap? Take the good old VHS for instance. So you would have to stand around for all of five minutes waiting for it to rewind (instant is not necessarily better), and it made some clunky noises (noises which I find rather satisfying these days, electronic items have got so quiet that I am forever burning my ear on the side of the kettle trying to find out if the thing is actually working) but other than that, they did the job. And the best thing about VHS is that the cassettes are verging on indestructible. Even if a small child works out that if you stick a pen on the button on the side the tape is revealed and can be unwound, you can always wind it back up, the picture may go a bit fuzzy in parts but it’s still watchable. Not like DVD’s, one game of frizbee (sadly a common occurrence in my house, and there is no point putting them on a high shelf, this is just another opportunity for Son Two to practice scaling bookshelves) and the bloody thing won’t even play any more. If you get it to play at all you could be halfway into it when it suddenly decides it doesn’t like it anymore and skips a few times before giving up completely. The Dad and I did some sorting out in the loft of doom the other day and we found two DVD players, both less than two years old that were inexplicably broken. And I have two TV/DVD combi’s currently in use, which are now just telly’s with useless extra chunks of casing. I had a TV/VHS combi that was still working when I passed it on after ten years of faithful service.

I long for the old days when, apparently, you could pop along to your local shop with a basket over your arm and ask for half a pound of cheese (just “cheese” not a million different varieties), a dozen eggs (again, just “eggs”) and a pound of sausages (yep, just sausages), and the process of shopping took maybe half hour, tops. Apparently things were more expensive. But you did not walk out of the shop two hours later with an extra hundred pounds spent on a TV/DVD combi (that will break after two weeks), a dazzling array of different flavoured sausages and a Peppa Pig ball pool. If you were to go to the shop and ask for something exotic like say, pasta, you might have a choice between macaroni and spaghetti. The pasta aisle at the supermarket now is a perfect example of how ridiculously overwhelmed by choice we have become. Not only can you get pasta in a million different shapes and sizes, but you are also faced with those millions of shapes and sizes in many different brands and levels of “luxury”. I do not see this as a good thing at all. According to WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) we throw away at least third of all the food we buy (that’s nearly half a ton per household per year). So, having access to all this choice does not mean that we are enjoying the lower prices of the supermarkets, any savings made are literally thrown away (or being spent on Peppa Pig ball pools).

A few years ago, in a fit of nostalgia, I put Guess Who? on my Christmas list. When I finally got it out of the box, excitedly rubbing my hands together, it was crap. The boards are flimsy, you have to spend half an hour putting it together before you can even play it, and the flip up faces are flimsy card pictures barely held in plastic frames, the cards get lost, the frames fall off and get sucked into the “missing things” vortex and it is frankly a shadow of what it once was. Son One does not understand why I think Guess Who is so good, he never experienced the glory days of Theo, Fran and Hans, when you could turn the board over and flip all the faces with one flick of the wrist (try that now and half of them fall off).

Thankfully, while in the loft, we also found a VHS player, still working, despite languishing up there for many years, and it now has a place in the Sons bedroom. There were some baffled looks from them. Son Two kept saying “Wha’s tha?” while pressing his scratched Wallace and Gromit DVD into my hands. “That is a piece of history. Just you try and destroy it.” I am waiting for them to ask for an Xbox in their bedroom. They’ll be getting an Atari and will be happy with it.

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