Every late afternoon I go for a short walk through a nearby park. The main path I take adjoins a cyclone fence belonging to a large primary school.
Running parallel, about 4 metres from the path, is a small shallow creek.
Being a ‘grumpy old lady’ who worries about the environment, I always take a bag with me on my walk and collect bits and pieces of rubbish that litter the pathway and surrounds. Sometimes there’s a lot, at other times only one or two pieces. The picture accompanying this is from Fridays’ walk.
On a windy day there is always more – and some bits too hard to catch!
On the school’s side of the fence, the rubbish in some places is ankle deep.
There are several concerns presented by this situation:
One worry is that so many children are obviously eating packaged snacks – snacks packed and sealed in plastic, that not only present a litter problem but (to me, anyway) displays a lack of decent nutrition. (But, I guess, that’s none of my business).
The small detail that the children seem unable to contain their cast-off packaging is another concern.
Also, while these packs may be convenient for busy parents to pop into lunch boxes, they must surely be a drain on household expense (?)
But the other, possibly main, worry concerns the fact that most of these little bits of trash will end up in the creek, which will swish them further along the waterways, ultimately ending in the ocean.
My walk, and my minuscule rubbish collecting, is hardly going to make a difference to one of the huge environmental problems besetting the world today, but I simply cannot bear to walk by this sort of almost innocent-looking rubbish.
So, I guess, I’ll keep doing it.
I have no answer!
After being immersed in children’s literature for some time - as a teacher, a mother and a grandmother - of late I have obviously not kept up with modern trends in kids’ books..
Although I have a four-year-old granddaughter living in U.K. to whom I send books on a semi-regular basis, these are usually books well known to me from my years as the aforesaid mother, grandmother and primary school teacher.
But apparently, I have ‘dropped the ball’ (as they say) and have been left behind as far as what’s trending.
I must admit I was a little surprised to read a glowing review of a new children's book by a previously (to me) unknown author, Zoe Foster Blake.
The book’s title is “Fart and Burp are Superstinkers”. A posted comment was, “What could be better than a Fart with a heart? A Super Fart of course!”
So, it must be a happy and positive story.
Please do not, for one minute, think I am disparaging Ms Foster Blake’s expertise as a storyteller. From what I have (now) read I believe she is a wonderful and very popular author of children’s books. I am perhaps the only one who missed out on reading her previous book (“No One Likes a Fart”).
On a brief search of other kids’ books containing (previously thought) “rude” titles, it was easy to find such titles as “Bumageddon”, by Andy Griffiths, who also wrote “Zombie Bums From Uranus” and “The Day My Bum Went Psycho”.
It somehow brought back memories of my teaching days in the 1990s, when a parent complained to me about a small reading book I had sent home with her son, that depicted a father wearing an apron and washing the dishes. This overly-religious mother felt that this little book was inappropriate in its portrayal of a ‘man-of-the-house’ doing household chores – and wearing an apron. She requested that, in the future, I lend her son only books published before 1980.
Yes, that’s an extreme example of reaction to children’s literature. But I am now wondering if my reaction to the current fart and bum stories is similar to the 1990 objection to seeing a dad in an apron. I hope not!
Way back, in the 1950s, kids delighted in reading Enid Blyton’s chapter books, including ‘The Secret Seven’, ‘The Adventurous Four’ and later, ‘The Famous Five’ series.
Those books ensured that most kids were happy readers for years. No television in those days, of course.
There were other books and series and perhaps Enid Blyton appealed more to the girls than to the boys, but they were the main literature of the day.
Perhaps if there was a bum or fart reference, the boys would have read more?
Would that have been shocking?
But get this:
As well as much loved and much read books, in the 1950s there was an absolute favourite poem for eight-year-olds in the Victorian Grade Three Reader, called ‘Little Boy Blue’* a poem , written way back in 1888 by Eugene Field about the death of a child.
Can you imagine that?
It seems amazing – and perhaps a little weird that this literature was presented to children. Perhaps more amazing is how much the kids loved it.
Would there be complaints in 2021 about allowing small children to read a poem that alluded to a child dying? I think there might have been.
What a huge difference in so many ways has come about in kids’ reading matter.
And now, I am wondering about that huge reading topic gap in the decades since kids enjoyed reading a sad poem about a dying child or fantastic (and most improbable) Enid Blyton adventures experienced by groups of children, towards book topics that would have been unimaginable in the 1950s.
Of course, in the middle of this, we have had the popular Harry Potter series and plenty of other books that have hopefully encouraged children to read.
I know that in times of modern smart televisions, smart phones, and computer games everything has changed, it must be a challenge to have kids read a book.
If it must be Harry Potter type fantasy or even books about bums, farts and burps, then the means possibly justifies the end.
Is that so?
But, whatever will be next?
*Little Boy Blue
The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket molds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.
"Now, don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
He dreamt of the pretty toys;
And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!
Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.
I decided to write about trees as an antidote to the awfulness surrounding us.
I am choosing to calm my mind and concentrate on the healing power of nature’s garden - that is, trees.
I am sick of the state of the nation – and the whole world - regarding everything: inequality, corruption, rorts, inability to deal constructively with Covid 19 and the tragic neglect of the urgent Climate Change situation.
So, I’m letting my mind wander off to trees….
I have always loved trees. I look at them, I breathe them in, and I often photograph them. Recently returned from a road trip around outback NSW, on reviewing my photos, I was not surprised to see that many of them were of trees.
I am currently reading “The Heartbeat of Trees”, by Peter Wohlleben*, who also wrote, “The Hidden Life of Trees”. Both excellent and enlightening books.
The amazing truth is that trees have a large input into how humans are “deeply connected to the natural world”.
They are lifesavers in more ways than one.
To cut them down and cause destruction of forests is unthinkable to many – including me.
Recent publicity around so-called, ‘forest bathing’, shows that it is proving to be a salve for stress and anxiety. No, it does not involve shedding of clothes, nor a bathtub! Search Google to find out more about the ‘Japanese wellbeing phenomenon’.
Part of what I wrote in March last year echoes what I have been reading lately, as it seems that it’s not only humans who need trees, but trees need other trees – and creatures – and humans should – and must - take trees more seriously!
…’Trees need each other to survive, and trees need what’s below the ground as well as water and sunshine and soil.
Trees are social beings. Trees have a symbiotic relationship with many creatures—insects, animals and birds…’
‘Trees do need other trees—and plenty of them. Leafy canopies protect them—and the underground, almost mysterious, symbiotic relationship between tree roots and the helpful subterranean fungi makes for healthy forests’.
‘Healthy forests’ are what we desperately need.
Here’s another interesting fact: When a tree dies the resultant nutrients nourish other nearby trees. Also, it is thought that ‘mother’ trees can detect distress signals from ailing trees and increase the flow of nutrients to them. Amazing!
Importantly, the contribution trees make to the ‘saving of the planet’ cannot be underestimated.
Trees are a wonderful and necessary part of our lives.
We neglect them at our peril.
*Peter Wohlleben is a German forester.
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.