Tag Archives: iPads

Calling all (big) kids: It’s time to bring back the conker…

midlife

Do you remember that Cadbury’s Fudge advert from years back where the kid is holding up a conker on a shoe lace but get’s distracted by his mum and a Cadbury’s Fudge bar? Ah, good times, right? I mean, yeah, the kid who the young cherub was holding his conker up against looked like the school bully, but apart from that, it was a cracking ad. The tune! The hazy, days-gone-by atmosphere! The big, fat school ties!

Conkers, see, then was all the rage.  Back in school, at break and lunch, we’d hide somewhere away from the eagle eye of the dinner ladies and their tabards (love that word – tabard) and when they weren’t looking, we’d embark on a game of conkers and hope we didn’t lose a finger. Or an eye.

I loved playing conkers, me, I mean really, really loved it. It was like dicing with death. Ok, not really, but it felt like that at the age of seven – the dinner lady threat, the fear of a loss of limb – it had it all going on. We used to put them in the oven, my brother and me. Yup, the night before, in they’d go, those nut-brown shiny conkers, to come out harder than ever. One stolen shoe lace later from my sisters shoes and hey presto, we were fight ready.

This, you see, was

In case you've forgotten - a handy guide
In case you’ve forgotten – a handy guide

the early 80s, when we were still a whisper from the seventies and its hangover of no health and safety, yet still an ocean of time away before even the slightest ripple of smart phones and iPads these school kids have today. Heck, we didn’t even have a land line, just an emergency 10p in my Brownie belt purse for the phone box down the road. It was the one next to the mobile chip van.

So I am troubled, yes troubled, to hear that this autumn there exist school children who do not know how to play conkers. A recent survey revealed that most school children in the UK don’t play conkers, with many not even knowing how to. And why? Because schools are banning the game due to fears of health and safety. So what, conkers is dangerous but an anonymous pedophile sashaying as a 11-year-old boy on Moshi Monsters is safe? And that’s the thing, that irony. It’s not just health and safety that’s driven the nail into the conker coffin – it’s technology, it’s phones, it’s iPads and gaming and social media obsession. Kids today play on their devices more than they even speak to each other face to face. Surely the consequences of that, the long-term social problems it will create, is far more dangerous than the threat of getting a bruise on the cheek from a swinging conker on the end of a frayed shoe lace?

The mighty good news is that adults are on the conker case. This week saw the Conker Champion (who knew?) crowned in Northampton and, according to Nicola Hunt, the Scottish championship judge (yes, there really is one), ‘In the 7 years we have been running the championship, we have seen more and more adults taking part – they’re just big kids.’ Well said, Nicola,

So, it’s time we told these kids what conkers is really about. Get those autumn limbs ready because my oven’s on, a lace has been nabbed from the nearest unsuspecting shoe, and I mean business. Finger nails, watch out.

By the way, for a trip down memory lane, here’s that Cadbury’s Fudge conker advert. All together now…

What do you think? Post your thoughts below…

Parents – don’t let your kids have their phones in their rooms at night!

sbSome things are not rocket science. How to tie shoe laces, for example – easy when you know how, obvious, in fact.  So why, oh diddly why in a recent report, have we discovered that pupils are just too tired to work at school because they have been up half the night on social media?

A study of more than 800 school children in Wales from the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research Data (WISERD) found that one in five between the ages of 12 and 15 wake up on school nights to check social media. And it gets worse. 58% of the 12-13 year olds surveyed said they were too tired for school the next day because they had been checking their devices in the night.

Now, look, I have kids, two girls of 11 and 13 and, naturally, they have phones, and yes, they use them to keep in touch with friends. But – and this is the cruncher – a) they are not allowed yet on social media and crucially, CRUCIALLY, they are not, repeat NOT allowed any devices in their rooms overnight. End of. Because, see,  give a kid a phone, and they’ll look at it. Heck, you give an adult their phone and they’re on it every two sneaky

3 out of 5 children have used a social network by the age of 10, in a survey of 8-10 year olds
3 out of 5 children have used a social network by the age of 10, in a survey of 8-10 year olds

seconds – I am, you are, we all are. That’s why we have to have rules. No phones in the room at night for our children means they won’t look at them – it really is that easy.

So parents, listen up  – you are in charge, you have the veto card here – play it. No phones in the room at night. You know, like a comfy pair of shoes for that long walk home, it makes sense. This ain’t rocket science. It’s just simple, essential parenting.

Got an opinion? Post your comment below.

Media Monday: Has Waterstones sold its soul to Amazon?

Writing news

It’s “Media Monday” where I bring you my views on the latest writing and publishing news…

Isn’t it funny how things change? This morning, I was all set to write this post about the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron’s new biography reveals how he likes to ‘chillax’ (his words, not mine) by singing some karaoke, calling his tennis machine the “Clegger” (I kid you not) and kicking back to watch a DVD box set. After I’d sewed my sides back up from laughing, making yet another mental note to ALWAYS WORK HARDER, I was greeted with the bizarre news via The Guardian that the UK bookstore chain, Waterstones, is hooking up with its arch nemesis Amazon to sell Kindles in all its Waterstones stores.

Now, look, call me a fool here, but isn’t Waterstones flogging Amazon gear a bit like Tesco selling Sainsbury’s own brand? Or, to put it in book terms, like Harry Potter asking Voldemort to give him a foot rub whilst reading a copy of The Worst Witch? Either way, aside from looking strange, it’s just not going to work. At this juncture, I have to point out that I am not normally one for the negative,Waterstones Logo and like Obama himself, I like to think, ‘Yes we can! ‘when approaching most issues (for example, ‘Can we eat this chocolate? Yes we can!’ ‘Can we finish this novel? Yes we can!’ ‘Can we ignore the icky feeling we get when David Cameron says Chillax? Yes we…Actually, no, we can’t.’)  I can see what Waterstones are trying to do by linking with Amazon, hoping, as I am sure they are, that it will help sales and drive footfall. But the thing is, climb into bed with a lion and, sooner or later, you’re going to get bitten.

If Waterstones was looking at this with more rational, unfettered minds (have you seen the slump in paper book sales lately?) they would admit that they were late  to react to the emergence of the e-reader and were similarly uninspired to proactively adapt and develop as the market rapidly changed. But wait, I hear some say. The Kindle is popular, speedy! Won’t that help poor old Waterstones? Well, to be honest, I don’t think it will. You see, one of the great advantages about a Kindle is that you can have instant access to books, where ever you are, what ever the time and what ever your attire (shops don’t like you turning up in your PJs. So I hear.) And so, if you do chose to make a specific trip to Waterstones, surely that negates the need for a Kindle, because you are in a shop! Ready to buy! Wearing clothes! A book, you think, I just want a paper book! I want to browse, feel the page, soak up the atmosphere. That’s what you are there for. If you wanted an e-book, you’d get one from your sofa with your feet up and the TV on.

To be honest, I think what Waterstones have done here is fail to recognise that consumers – us readers out here – like paper and digital book formats, but, just as you might like your boss and your betrothed, say,  that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to hang out with both of them at the same time. Yes, book stores need to adapt. Yes, it means the likes of Waterstones having to change their business models to survive. But that’s just the thing: we want them to survive and be themselves. By letting Amazon in through the front door and selling Amazon’s merchandise for them, haven’t Waterstones just banged the first nail in their own coffin? I hope not.  Or perhaps we are witnessing the beginning of Amazon’s entrance into their own-brand high street bricks and mortar store? Who knows what’s going to happen next. But either way, I’m just going to have to make like David Cameron and jolly well chillax about it…

 **Look out on  for Wednesday: Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry from my Diary of a Hopeful Author…**

Media Monday: New York Public Library changes – good or bad?

Writing news

It’s “Media Monday” where I bring you my views on the latest writing and publishing news…

Ah, libraries. I’ve always had this mildly Dickensian image of dusty rooms and ticking clocks with me surrounded by wooden shelves wearing some half-moon specs (don’t know why…), a research book at my fingertips and big loud ‘shushes’ if anyone made a noise. However, since I’m not about to shove my kids up a chimney any time soon, I have to accept that, like it or not, libraries just ain’t what they used to be. Everyone agrees, right? Hmm. Not quite, because over in New York the prestigious New York Public Library  (NYPL) is facing a $300 milion dollar makeover – and some people are not h.a.p.p.y about it.  When the plans were revealed, a letter  to the NYPL, detailed by the New York Times,  was signed by more than 700 eminent figures, many of whom are academics, writers and other prominent persons with bigger brains than me, and, I suspect, bigger bank balances. In it they state that, ‘NYPL will lose its

NYPL research room
People busy working in the New York Public Library – probably reading Dickens

standing as a premier research institution and become a busy social centre where focussed reasearch is no longer the primary goal.’ Okay, I hear you say, and what, pray tell, are these dastardly NYPL officials proposing that has upset this esteemed bunch so? Well here it is: book collections will be moved about to create more space for working, there will potentially be a – wait for it – cafe, there will be more (breathe) computers, and, finally, 3 million books will be moved into storage. That, my friend, is it. Now, let me take you to a time non-Dickensian and somewhat more modern. Let’s call it Obamian, for argument’s sake. It is a time where children, adults and even your granny, are using computers and the Internet for instant research. Documents are freely available – a bit like speech,  academic opinions and fresh fruit.  Instead of dusty room full of ticking clocks and frowning researchers, there are docking stations, internet connections and cake. Yes, there are books. There will always be room for books. It is important to retain them and I really do understand the signatories of this letter and their deep concern that the books will be forgotten, pushed to the basement to be replaced by digital imposters and a robot, say.  But as for worrying that research will no longer be the primary goal of any library as a result of the proposed changes? I don’t think so.

Let me tell you a little secret, signatories. Come on, huddle up. The secret is this: if you cling on to the past, if you stand in the way of change, the number of people willing to do research in the first place will decline. And then what will you have? A room, books, ticking clocks – and no progress. By the NYPL folk investing now in the library, they demonstrate that they understand that times are changing, and that to bring everyone – and I mean everyone, no matter their background, socio-economic group, colour or creed – with them, then they have to adapt, and fast.  If children can look to the NYPL – or any library world-wide, for that matter – and feel it is accessible and relevant to them, then it is a job well done. And it is this result that will shape our future. As for me, I will be there, my imaginary half moon specs on, my iPad in a docking station, a Dickens book open by my side in the cafe. As long as no one tells me to shush if I let out an involuntary yelp as I drop my cake. I don’t want to have to ask for more. 

Do you think the library changes should go ahead? Are libraries to be kept in the past or should they move with the times? Let me know.

If you live in Gloucestershire (UK) and are concerned about the library cuts, you can go to The Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries website for more information on how you can petition and help.

 **Out on Wednesday: “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry from my Diary of a Hopeful Author…**