Saturday 10 July 2010

The art of survival

In today's Times, there's a delightful article entitled 'a beginner's guide to survival'. It tells you how to build a loo (dig a hole etc etc, and then 'if you happen to have a small loo seat' you can use that. Well, who goes anywhere without money, keys and a small loo seat?) To make clean drinking water you strain dirty water through a sock and then boil it (the water, not the sock). To create a shower but ensure it's not too cold, you carry a bin liner quarter-filled with water around on your back all day, then string it up from a tree, attach a tube, stand underneath, and bingo. Don't you just love it?

All this put me in mind of Barney, one of my sons, when young. His favoured reading at the time was 'The SAS Survival Handbook'. It had all kinds of useful tips on things like what to do when your car starts careering towards a cliiff edge (roll into a ball and hurl yourself out), and things you can find to eat when out in the wild. We came home one evening to find him, handbook in hand, feeding toadstools to our eighty-something baby-sitter to see if they really were edible. The baby-sitter is now fit and in her ninetieis, but I reckon we had a lucky escape.

Then there was Toby, eldest son, who when aged about 7, carried around with him a 'survival kit' in a tiny tin. It contained a bent pin and cotton (for fishing) a match and various other indispensable items. He would never have known how to use them. This is the (now) man who tried to fit a cat flap. The cat gained entry right enough, but came into the house wearing the cat flap.

What was it with my children and this preoccupation with survival? Was it something we did?


  1. I was like that when I was a child. I use to keep a small suitcase packed just in case with Books, toy etc. I think it might have been all the talk about the cold war, bombs and CND marches I grew up with on the radio and TV.

    Thank you for your kind comment on my blog.

  2. I used to ask myself that when it came to my sons and swords/sticks/other long hitty things - two more liberal-minded and pacific people you couldn't hope to find than their father and myself but, right from toddlerhood, if it could be rolled into a cylinder and used to hit things (preferably one's brother/his cylinder/stick) then they would roll it. Or induce me to roll it. I am the best cornflakes packet sword maker in the country. Bar none.

    At least there's this to be said for all this ad hoc weapon-mongering - my older son, at least, has grown up with the unshakeable belief that if you have cardboard, string and sellotape, you can create virtually anything. He has taken this belief to university with him and is amazing his friends with his resourcefulness (and tendency not, consequently, to be broke!)

    At least all our offspring weren't sitting around watching the telly, Frances!

  3. Alis, I have some friends who made a firm decision that their son would be provided with no 'war toys.' Little did they realize how many things--including his sister's parade baton, and, on many occasions, her Barbie--could qualify as 'swords.' (Barbie also makes a passable gun if you bend her at the waist.)

    Frances, I love the cat door story!

  4. Jamara - your post reminds me of when my youngest son decided to leave home after a row (with me - who else?). He was abaout four at the time. He packed his little suitcase with, among other things, his dressing-gown (how uncool was that - to leave home as a grand gesture, but take your dressing-gown?).

    Alis - You are obviously a talented woman. Fortunately, my sons were never into weapons, but my grandsons are always armed to the teeth. Their mother plays rugby, so maybe that's where they get it from. I'm still wondering how your son is saving so much money with sellotape and cardboard. What on earth is he doing with it?

    David - I'm fond of the cat flap story, too, but Toby is rather sensitive about it (so is the cat).

  5. It's the resourcefulness that's saving him money in this instance, Frances, rather than continuing to weild the sellotape, cardboard and string!!