independent

Tuesday 17 July 2018

On the road

By David Medcalf

'I spy with my little eye, something beginning with T.'

'Tree. It must be tree. Has to be tree.'

'Yes, but is it that tree over there or the tree we passed a minute ago.'

'I'd say in all seriousness that it must be a tree beginning with T, with a trunk. Probably a teak tree or a tea tree, or how about a taxus baccata?'

The offspring were taking the mick. We were out of range of the internet, prompting the pair of them to put down their mobile devices.

The family was out taking in some mountain scenery on our way to visit one of Hermione's old school pals who lives in the hills.

For once beyond the reach of all signals, Eldrick and Persephone asked how people used to fill in journey time in the bad old days.

When referring to the bad old days they did not quite mean BC (Before Christ) but more BB (Before Broadband).

It is nigh on impossible to persuade teenagers that there was once a time when the unit of currency was divided into 20 illogical sub-units. And it is beyond primitive in their bemused eyes that each shilling was then further broken down into ungainly twelfths, called pennies.

They laugh at the notion of simple homely entertainments such as hop-scotch or french skipping or watching 'Glenroe'.

And they find frankly baffling the idea that it was possible to spend an hour - maybe two hours - in a car without sending selfies or playing Mario Brothers.

When they were suddenly deprived of their virtual reality on this occasion, they refused point blank to take part in a sing-song.

Scorn was poured in infinite disdain on the proposal that we play that game where the first person names an object.

Then the second person names another object and the original object before the third person names a third object and the second object and the first object. Before long the first person must recall objects one to nine. And so on around and around until someone loses the thread and must drop out.

In fairness, at least they were prepared in their desperation to give I Spy a shot though the limitations and absurdity of the exercise quickly became evident.

'I spy with my little eye, something beginning with S.' Sky.

'I spy with my little eye, something beginning with C.' Cloud.

'I spy with my little eye, something beginning with R.' Road.

'I spy with my little eye, something beginning with T.'

Fair play to Persephone with her taxus baccata. She was obviously paying attention during the last trip to the garden centre in search of hedging. I felt nevertheless obliged to point out that this was commercial forestry we were passing through and every tree on view had to be a sitka spruce…

'I spy with my little eye, something beginning with P.' Pedant.

There is a school of thought that the offspring of the internet age are in some way missing out because they need never be bored.

There is always an app or a game or a music player to hand guaranteed to divert and to entertain and to keep boredom at bay.

It could also be that youngsters whose experiences are all post-BB may be losing all touch with geographical reality as sat nav and Google maps take over.

Both our teenagers are able to parrot off the counties of Ireland, a credit to their primary school teachers. However, they appear to have no clue as to how the roll call from Antrim to Tipperary relates to the reality of any journey they take. With heads down in transit they emerge at the far end not having registered any landmarksor absorbed the name of any village passed through. Confined to the back seat, they have no reason to look up or look out or consult a map which might give them a broader picture.

Okay. Let's forget I Spy. Here's a good one instead. Eldrick, you count red cars and, Persephone, you count blue cars. Hermione, you can have the green ones. I will be the referee. The person with the highest total wins.

'Hold on there, Da. No need. We seem to be getting a signal.'

'Yes, I have at least three bars now. All is good.'

Wexford People

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