Saturday, December 23, 2006

A carefree time?

click photo to enlarge
Have you noticed how childhood is ending sooner but adulthood is starting later? I'd noticed the first of these trends, but a journalist drew my attention to the second. In recent years I've come across little girls of nine or ten years old who think and dress like teenagers, and scorn the idea of playing with "toys". Boys are not immune from this trend, though they seem to trail the girls by a couple of years. By the same token, there seems to be an increasing number of men who are thirty five going on eighteen! They are living the lifestyle of people half their age, and, what's worse, thinking like them too. It's my feeling that this elongation of youth at the older end affects women less: perhaps it's the responsibilities of motherhood that explain that difference.

There are reasons connected with diet and the earlier onset of puberty that go some way to explaining why children have teenage values earlier. But it wouldn't be happening to the same extent if there weren't societal forces - advertising, popular culture, increasing work hours - entering the equation too. Having spent the last thirty odd years as an educator I've been able to see these changes at first hand, and I have to say that they trouble me. Some would argue that I'm being starry-eyed, harking back to a view of childhood that existed for only a short period in rich countries in the twentieth century. Maybe. But if a period of carefree innocence and joy is possible in a child's life (and I know it's only a dream for some children) what is to be gained by shortening it? As for the later arrival of adulthood, well, I need to think more on that. You may say what's wrong with being young at heart, and I say "nothing - it's to be commended", but you surely need to worry if your mind stops developing and you become a thirty five year old Peter Pan!

The sight of these kids climbing on some pier remains at St Anne's, Lancashire, prompted these thoughts. They were making their own entertainment, and enjoying some of the freedom of youth. Like many piers, the one at St Anne's, built in 1865, suffered from fires. These shortened its length from 914 feet to 600 feet. This decaying structure with its twin tapering iron columns, surmounted by spheres, is all that remains of the seaward tip. I took the photograph in the late afternoon using a long zoom lens at 300mm (35mm equivalent). The camera was set to Aperture Priority (f6.3 at 1/800 sec), with the ISO at 100, and the EV at -0.7.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen