Greener BeeGreen HolidaysWhat we used to do in the school holidays

Simon Says was a popular electronic game in the 1970s.

I’ve been staring into the eyes of a tiger rather a lot this past week.  And the mouth of a leopard.  Not to mention the ears of a giraffe. 

I’m not sure how many bits of the 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle my wife and I actually allowed our kids to find during the school holidays – it was supposed to be for them when they got bored. Needless to say you need the teeth of a lion round here to get close to the puzzle table.

So it was probably just as well Pokemon Go got the green light with its worldwide release these past weeks. The kids told us all about it, but we were too busy putting in panda pieces of the Animal Magic puzzle to listen. What we did hear was just enough to induce moral panic.

You could while away hours with a Rubik’s cube.

Why would you want to do that, we asked our three kids?  Why don’t you do something useful with your time during the school holidays we said, while piecing back together a cuddly koala.

“Look”, we said, when news showed zombie like footage of Pokemon Go players descending on New York’s Central Park, “look as those crazy people.  Nuts,” we said.

Imagine spending hours hunting augmented reality monsters, we said, picking up the remote control and turning the television channel over to the latest Real Housewives of [insert your reality flavour].

The humble jigsaw provided hours of fun – for the adults at least in the Harding household.

“And I hear people are being run over in the street or knocking on the doors of bikie gangs looking for Pokey whatdoyoucallthems.”

My eldest son asked me what I used to do for entertainment when I was a kid growing up.  We’ve been on his case for spending too much time staring at different devices for most of his teenage years.

I delved back into my dusty memories and told him about Doodle Art and how for a time when we were kids one of the great joys of the school holidays was picking up a Doodle Art and colouring in giant posters of a thousand birds, or cars, or butterflies.  With felt tip pens.  

Pokemon Go is sweeping the world.

Man, you were set for the entire school holidays if you had one of those.  And good felt tip pens were worth a small fortune when we were kids I said.

He looked unimpressed by my nostalgic enthusiasm.  Adult colouring books are all the rage again, I told him. Still he looked underwhelmed.

I thought about telling him we used to make paper planes and have endless competitions to see which design would go the furthest.  We’d spend close on five minutes for each fold of paper just to get it right. Crisp and straight and just right.  Hours of paper folding.  All winter holidays long.

I thought about Monopoly and Poleconomy and countless other board games, but my son’s face looked bored enough. I knew I had to pull out the big entertainment guns of my youth.

So I told him about his great aunts and uncle coming back from trips to America in the early 1980s with the first electronic devices. I told him about Simon Says, which was a real breakthrough in its day. 

It was like having your own personal video arcade at home.  After I told him about video arcades, I told him how the round Simon Says with its four giant green, red, yellow and blue buttons would flash a pattern that you’d then have to repeat. It was awesome I told him. 

He was so unimpressed even I started to doubt just how good the good old days were.

So I told him about the Casio Boxing Game Calculator!  It was a calculator that was also a game!  It was also a clock and an alarm!  When you played the boxing game you could move the boxer’s arms up or down, or sway or punch!  You battled against the calculator which had its own boxer!  It was you against the calculator and the calculator was a mean as boxer!  It was awesome!  Look, here’s a six-minute long YouTube clip of someone playing it!!

My son gave me one of those faces only a teenager can give.  He said nothing, but his face had LAME written all over it, in capitals.

I thought about telling him about Electronic Detective with its 130,000 murder mysteries to solve and its own Case Fact Sheet you’d fill out, and characters you’d interview with names like Candy Roll and Lenny Little before you accused someone with a name like Professor Peter Plum of the crime.  All via an electronic device as big as a small suitcase.  But I thought better.

I’d already told him about the Little Professor that helped me learn my times tables, so there was no use bringing up that one again. 

And I didn’t think I’d have a hope in explaining what the red flip-top phone sized Merlin could do  For starters I’d probably have to tell him about a flip-top phones. Electronic noughts and crosses anyone?

Wait, wait, I know!  Rubik’s cubes.  That’s what we did when we were bored. We played with Rubik’s cubes. For hours.  They made us heaps smarter.   No, I still can’t do much more than I side.  But man, Rubik’s cubes. That’s what we used to do.

My son looked at me with pity.  A deep pity.  A pity only a son can give to his out-of-touch dad.

It seems we’ve always been predisposed to time wasting our lives away. No doubt my parents used to despair at the things I did to fill in the giant void of my youth and the countless hours of school holidays. Just as their parents did with them.

“Books, son,” I said.  “We used to read books”.  That shut him up for a few minutes of the winter school holidays.


 – Stuff

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