The supermarket chain, Aldi, has withdrawn from sale copies of the Roald Dahl classic “Revolting Rhymes” owing to complaints form someone (someone?) claiming that the book contains inappropriate words.
That is, in the hilarious re-vamped tale of Cinderella the word ‘slut’ is used.
This book was first published in the 1980s, when most children had possibly never heard the word, ‘slut’ and had no idea what the word meant if they had. The word was generally just passed over as another very funny part of Roald Dahl’s story telling.
Here’s the offending section:
The Prince cried, 'Who's this dirty slut?
'Off with her nut! Off with her nut!'
I often read this and other ‘Revolting Rhymes’ to students in my classes over the years and never had a complaint.
(Children all knew that ‘nut’ referred to ‘head’)
I probably didn’t read this story to the very young children; small children who were still gaining enjoyment from the original fairy tales, but at about eight years of age and beyond, children were thrilled to hear such tales with a rude and yes, ‘revolting’ take on the old favourites.
Parents, also, found the book (and the others, “Rhyme Stew”, and “Dirty Beasts”) very entertaining.
These Roald Dahl books provided great opportunities for families to have reading time – and fun – together.
Other Roald Dahl books were also read by me to my pupils, including his far more serious memoir, “Boy”, which was a favourite, especially with Grade Five students.
It wasn’t only rude and grisly accounts that helped make Roald Dahl a favourite author for children and adults from before 1980 to more recent times. His books were (and are still, to some extent) devoured by millions; encouraging young people of every age to pick up a book and read.
The current furore over the word ‘slut’ has flabbergasted me. Perhaps I understand the original meaning of the word to simply mean ‘dirty’ or ‘slovenly’, but why some people place such importance on a single word and become all morally offended and (falsely?) high principled about it I cannot comprehend.
A final comment: If you are likely to be offended by words, why on earth would you buy a book that is entitled, “Revolting Rhymes”?
What did you expect?
To end, just another tiny extract:
'All right?' cried Cindy .'Can't you see '
I feel as rotten as can be!'
She beat her fist against the wall,
And shouted, 'Get me to the Ball!
'There is a Disco at the Palace!
'The rest have gone and I am jealous!
How delightful is that?
There seems to have been talk recently – and a few books on the subject – about children losing the ability to use their imagination and about kids living in cocooned inside worlds, with nothing but electronic games to amuse themselves.
Whilst I disagree with some of the more dramatic (hysterical?) statements concerning the demise of real, active and experience-filled, learning childhoods, I am in agreement (as I think I have stated before) with the people who suggest that an outdoor play-time led childhood is the more beneficial one to be experienced.
The topic of cubby houses has been in my mind lately as I have been seeing far too many of those terrible pastel or brightly coloured plastic ‘play houses’ both in back yards and in sales catalogues from (cheapish) department stores.
What’s the point in producing a lollipop-looking dolls-house thing that’s just big enough to fit a small child? A plastic set-up that’s destined to fade and fall apart shortly after the child has become terminally bored with attempts to make it into something exciting – or even satisfying.
Whatever happened to the idea of a family collecting building scraps of timber and constructing a real ‘cubby house’ – or even a tree house, as both an interesting activity and a personalised play space for the kids and their friends?
Is it too much like hard work to build something?
Would such a construction spoil the neat look of the perfect home?
Is it the dangerous possibility of a child getting a splinter in his or her finger?
Is it not safe for a child to learn to use a hammer and nails?
Is it the even worse fear of a child falling from a home-made play house and actually hurting themselves?
I fondly recall the cubby of my childhood, the dirt floor of which my sisters and I constantly swept clean with an old broom. The cubby that had a (glass-free) window that served as everything from porthole to shop counter.
I recall the cubby my husband built for our small children (with their help and advice!). It was in a corner of the yard, therefore negating the necessity of constructing two of its four walls, as they were provided by the paling fence.
Our young daughter often invited neighbourhood children into “her house” and even enlisted me as an occasional drinks’ waiter to bring out plastic mugs of cordial and sometimes a plate of plain biscuits.
That cubby house even had a (low) second storey, with a makeshift ‘ladder’ of wooden steps nailed to the nearby gum tree.
Certainly, there were a few falls and knocks, but not one child broke a bone and I cannot remember blood being spilled. But fun they had in spades.
There doesn’t seem to be much fun associated with the plastic ‘already-prepared’ constructions I see lately.
But I may be wrong.
I’ve always been a fan of Dr Seuss - a devotee, not only as a teacher and a mother (& grandmother) but as an admirer of his attitude to life and the wisdom of his words.
His simple and amusing books have helped millions of people throughout the world to learn to read, while imparting gems of philosophical wisdom dispersed in the undercurrent of his words.
A favourite quote is:
‘Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind.’
Oh, how true - and oh, if only everyone could digest that thought and remember it - and act upon it.
Then there is:
‘Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is You-er than You’
Sadly, most people go through life imagining they are something other that who (or what) they truly are. We all do it; we (nearly) all have a vision of ourselves that is different from the true self.
Likewise, I suspect we (nearly) all have a vision of how others see us other than the way they really do see us.
I have always had a feeling that I have a lot of ‘catching up’ to do before I can be like other people. I feel that most people have a better grip on life and a better approach to everything than I have.
I remember throughout my childhood, even though it was a fairly happy time, often thinking that I would never be as good as the other children in my class. Not only as far as intelligence went but even as far as having the ‘right’ look and the ‘right’ family and even the ‘right’ pencils, for heaven’s sake!.
Not so very long ago I had a simple reunion get-together with some old (yes, quite OLD) school friends, from long ago. While talking to a girl – now a middle-aged mother and grandmother - I mentioned some of my not-so-pleasant memories of school days. She surprised me by saying, ‘But, Dianna, you were always so clever!’
What a shock. I had never thought that any other girl in my class would have thought I was clever.
I had spent many a school day trying to be just like the other girls and never seeming to quite make it. That at least one girl had a vision of me as a clever person was a small revelation.
Perhaps it was a late-in-life jolt to my self-esteem and opinion of myself - to realise so many years later that others’ views of me (even though as a child) were quite different from what I had imagined.
So, I try to follow Dr Seuss’s advice and not even try to think about what others may think of me and to remember that I do not have to conform to anyone’s ideas or ideals - and to remember the words,
‘There is no one alive who is You-er than You’
Thanks, Dr Seuss!
There are times when we are able to choose between being kind or being dismissive or rude - even cruel.
During our life times we retain memories of times when people have been cruel or unpleasant towards us and those times can often fester and become troublesome recollections that are difficult to erase.
But memories of times when people have shown kindness, often unexpectedly, are the memories that we can treasure; they are the memories (to coin a phrase) that ‘warm our hearts’.
These two differing memories – of kindness and indifference (or cruelty) are commonly experienced in childhood, when our learning blocks are the experiences we have on a day-to-day basis.
When we, as adults, come across a situation where we feel we can either offer some kindly words or alternately blurt out a sarcastic or hurtful comment, it is perhaps wise to keep in mind our childhood experiences and, even when dealing with adults, choose the kindness path.
The same goes for actions.
I hold memories of a cruel and nasty teacher in whose class I spent a year at the age of eight or nine. So many decades have passed since then, but I am unable to get the unpleasant ‘taste’ of her words and actions out of my memory bank. The mere thought of her can make me shudder.
And yet, I also possess memories of times when people have shown remarkable kindness towards me and those memories do, indeed, ‘warm my heart’, even to the point of threatening to bring a tear of thankfulness to my eye!
I have been reading Anne Manne’s small memoir, “So This is Life” in which she tells a little story of how a woman offered kindly advice to her and her sisters, when the advice could have easily been dished out in a disparaging and quite scathing tone. It is a memory that Anne holds dear, while also accepting that the woman involved probably didn’t even give her comments a second thought.
That’s how easy it is!
I am not hopping on the “Random Acts of Kindness” wagon, that has reached plague proportions so much so that it is almost losing its relevance.
However, I am trying to promote the idea that we should remember the times we experienced kindness as a young person and how it affected us. And that, as grown-ups, nothing much has changed: We still thrive on kind words and deeds and shrivel up when we receive the opposite.
Now, here’s a boring topic: Local manufacturing of goods and the lack of it.
Once upon a time people bought items that were mostly made in the country in which they lived and, in my case, an item displayed a label stating, ‘Made in Australia’.
Nowadays almost everything has a label with ‘Made in China’ emblazoned (or hidden) on it somewhere.
Now, this is fine and I ‘take my hat off’ to the workers in China producing all these goods at such an amazing rate. Good on them!
But, at the same time, our country has recently announced that the unemployment rate is the highest it’s been for over ten years.
So, where are the jobs?
Well, many of them have disappeared overseas, to places where workers are paid far less than ‘our’ accepted wage. At what cost?
I’m afraid the horse has bolted (as the saying goes); the horse has bolted and the stable door is locked.
In fact the stable is probably no longer there.
People now have adapted to buying goods almost in bulk – kids’ clothes and home-wares, for starters – at cheap prices.
There would probably be a terrible backlash if we were expected to return to the days where our children owned just one pair of school shoes and one pair of good (or casual) shoes and one ‘good’ outfit and one pair of playtime jeans and a couple of T-shirts (for example).
Not to mention only two or three pair of socks and two or three sets of underwear.
The same goes for adults.
We are drowning in clothes and the clothes don’t last long because they are mass produced from (often) inferior materials.
Is it too late to restart a (local) clothing industry that makes quality goods?
Certainly prices would increase, but the clothes would last far longer, thereby being ultimately more money-saving.
And the other (perhaps) main benefit would be that there would be jobs for all ages and expertise, from the factory floor workers to the distributers, to the designers to the advertising promoters….
On a personal note, I own three woollen pullovers that I have had for anywhere between 10 and 15 years. They are still in excellent condition, and all are labelled, ‘Made in Australia’. They are not misshapen, nor do they have ‘pilling’.
But, try to buy a ‘Made in Australia’ piece of clothing today and it will be an uphill battle.
I used to shop (locally) for night attire, always the lovely ‘Givoni’ made in Australia brand nighties and casual wear, but the last two ‘Givoni’ items I bought, even though the same brand, are skimpier, with poorer quality fabric, with ‘Made in China’ on the tag.
So, apart from the lack of quality in newer garments, where are the workers who used to make these items? Where do these once busily occupied people spend their days?
Where do they work?
Do they work?
And this is just me talking about a few clothes.
Walking through stores such as Target and Kmart, one cannot help but see shoppers pushing huge trolleys stacked high with clothing and house-hold goods.
This is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Do we all need so much stuff?
Why are socks and undies sold in packs of three and five?
It’s almost impossible to buy a pair of socks – just one pair at a time.
Small children’s underwear seems to be sold no other way but in bulk. Is this because they wear out so quickly?
Do they get lost?
What’s the reason for this?
Does anyone ever stop to wonder where all these things come from - and who makes them? Or who might make them? Does anyone care?
But, enough about clothes! Obviously I could go on and on about that forever.
Let’s ask about cars, for instance. Do we all have to have a new car with a jazzy new name every year or so? What happened to the sturdily made family car – made here in the land we live, that lasted for many years and was well cared for?
And what about furniture?
Does every newly ‘hitched’ - or non ‘hitched’ - couple have to fill their home with new (shoddily made) sofas and other furniture and accoutrements, that will no longer be fashionable in a couple of years’ time and there will be a need for a new set of everything – not to mention that the sofa, at least, will have lost its spring and the fabric will be worn by then.
Surely there’s a need for some manufacturing industry to convince the buying public to once more go for quality, locally made, items that may cost more but benefit not only the buyer, but the people (yes, real people) who use expertise and care in making such things.
And I haven’t even started on the possibility of a brilliant sustainable energy manufacturing explosion, creating thousands of jobs - and helping save the planet.
PS: In case you’re wondering, the accompanying picture is of a factory in China.
What are we doing to our world?
Over the centuries there have been countless wars and violent disputes over territory and ideologies But you’d think that in this ‘smart and modern’ world of ours we would wake up and see that fighting gets no-one anywhere. The result is always death and despair. Plus, nowadays, it’s not man against man – as in soldier armed with gun against similar soldier with gun – it’s truly “weapons of mass destruction” (to quote an ignorant former president).
Children and 'ordinary' citizens are slaughtered on a daily basis; houses are obliterated. What for? Over a slab of land; over an overzealous religion or belief system.
And passenger aeroplanes are blasted out of the sky; bodies scattered among farmland and ignored, while the fighting continues.
On and on it goes.
My suggestion is for world leaders to publish millions of copies of the Dr Seuss book, “The Sneetches” and distribute the books widely, accompanied with lectures of explanation for those too ‘thick’ to catch on to the message..
I quote a small section:
‘But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches
Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort
“We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!”
And whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
They’d hike right on past them without even talking.
When the Star-Belly children went out to play ball,
Could a Plain- Belly get in the game…? Not at all.
You only could play if your bellies had stars
And the Plain-Belly children had none upon thars’.
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) wrote “The Sneetches”, in 1961 to teach children about discrimination. (I have an idea that he had suffered discrimination as a child).
He was born way back in 1904 and penned this (anti-discrimination) children’s book when in his 50s. He knew the score. Why can’t we learn from that?
I suggest to anyone who is not familiar with “The Sneetches” to look it up and read the whole brilliant story. Then spread the word.
It’s a start.
PS: Wasn’t there someone else, even longer ago, who recommended to
'Love your neighbour as yourself.'? That’s worth a try also.
Last night I watched, on television, a sensational and disturbing true life story about how a man survived an attempt – by his seemingly devoted wife - at killing him. I don’t usually watch these sorts of programs but this one was somehow compelling. Without dwelling on the reasons behind or methods of this awful murder attempt, it is enough to say that the woman was clearly not your average reasonable thinking person. She showed no empathy in any part of the sordid story – and yet her husband was unaware that anything was wrong, even after nearly dying. This story, called “Love You to Death” displayed a most mysterious attitudes to death – one that put the desire for money ahead of all else.
On the ‘other side of the coin’ so to speak, I have recently read a most satisfying book entitled, “My Mother, My Father, on losing a parent”, edited by Susan Wyndham, an Australian journalist.
In this book (and I quote): “some of Australia's best known writers share their wise and searingly honest experiences of losing a parent”.
They are stories that are “intimate, honest, moving, sometimes funny, never sentimental, and always well written”.
It was such a lovely read and I felt privileged to be able to share the writers’ experiences and have an insight into how they viewed losing a parent, even when the parent was well into old age (in some cases).
After finishing this book, I returned to the library and borrowed a book called “When I Die”, written by Philip Gould, (Baron Gould of Brookwood) – the brilliant Labour Party strategist who helped bring Tony Blair to power in 1997, and was awarded a peerage in 2004.
Philip Gould started writing his book after being diagnosed with cancer in 2008.
In an effort to try and understand his situation and to record all the efforts made to beat the disease and to make people aware of cancer and its (and his) journey, he started writing a detailed tale of all he endured.
When he eventually realised that he was, in his words, “in the Death Zone”, he began to embrace the lesson of it all:
“I am enjoying my death. There is no question I am having the most fulfilling time of my life. I am having in many ways the most enjoyable time of my life, too. I am having the closest relationships with all of my family”.
Philip Gould died in 2011.
Attitudes towards death are interesting as is the general fear (or not) of death and dying, but I simply must stop reading this subject matter – for a while at least.
Glancing at my notebook where I jot down titles of books I plan to borrow from the library, I see that the next book on my list is “This House of Grief”, by Helen Garner. It is the true story of how a father drove his car into a dam, with his three small sons strapped in their seatbelts, unable to escape; all because he wanted to ‘punish’ his wife.
Perhaps I’d better skip this one and go to the next book on my list, which sounds a little more cheerful. It’s “Survival of the Nicest” by Stefan Klein.
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.