February 6, 2006 – 9:44 pm
Around Christmastime, we instigated Screenless Days in our house. Sundays for us now include no computer, no tv – no screen-based media. Anything else is fine. This is a progress report of sorts.
At the time, we Dubbers were already a two car family (and the proud owner of a Phillips K9 telly).
One of the cars was an old Riley, the numberplate of which I still remember 30 years later (BG6338 – not sure why that’s stuck) – but although each car had a different sticker on it for a different day of the week, there was still clearly a sense of ‘going without’ on the days we couldn’t use both. Not in an ‘unfaily treated’ way. More sort of in a ‘belt-tightening, pitching-in’ kind of way.
Years later, I ended up working with Sir Robert at Radio Pacific, and had my suspicions confirmed that there was nothing particular to recommend about the man on a personal basis. He was awful.
That said, it would have been interesting if he’d ended up getting getting that gig at the World Bank instead of Robert McNamara back in the late 60s. According to John Ralston Saul, Muldoon was all for cancelling third world debt even way back then.
Anyway – Muldoon’s legacy in my life is somewhat less grand – but appreciated nonetheless: the ‘Object-less day’ concept. Back then it was cars – today, for my family, it’s screens (which is why you won’t see a Sunday blog post from me).
This weekend, it wasn’t exactly freezing outside (and certainly not in that pretty way cold can be when it tries), but it was fairly uninviting nonetheless. There was no question of excursions. It was clearly a ‘hang around the house’ kind of a Sunday.
I slept in, then had an extended brunch with Bobbie and Jake. Bobbie did a great ‘Oaty pancakes with poached eggs and fake bacon (or ‘fakon’) with fresh coffee and a croissant’, which hit the spot as such late breakfasts do.
We sat and digested while we played cards for about an hour: a German game called ‘Rage‘ which can be pretty engrossing. A bit like Five Hundred only with a special multi-coloured deck with cards that go up to 15, no partnerships, and a very fluid approach to trumps.
Then I went and read a book until the bath went cold. The book was a free giveaway that had come with an issue of Melody Maker back in 1995 – 20 Great Lost Albums or some such thing. Exactly what I felt like (nondemanding and entirely of that Nick Hornby world so many people I know inhabit) – and now it’s on its way to a friend in NZ.
Music was on all day and all evening. Hours and hours of it. Everything you can think of and some stuff you can’t. It’s amazing what my family has learned to either filter out or tolerate over the years.
We made the mistake of not stocking up on books for Jake. He’s pretty much read everything in the house – so there was added agitation from that quarter. While he fidgeted about and made the odd suggestion that the only conceivable solution was a good session with his Tony Hawk game, we took it easy. And he eventually took the hint.
Late to rise, early to bed – and lots of not very much in between.
I have to say, not checking the email and the RSS feeds is an act of self-control – but other than that, it’s a welcome rest from daily telly and people who don’t live in your house asking you to do stuff.
Bobbie inhales books. She gets through whole novels a day, easy – and disappears in a world of fiction where she loses both her sense of time and her sense of hearing.
I can be entertained for tens of hours just sitting in the comfy chair that occupies the sweet spot facing the midpoint between the stereo speakers, marking out a kind of equilateral triangle of hi-fi perfection. I have a footstool and one or two records lying around. That makes me happy.
Blank pages of paper and multicoloured pens can keep Jake occupied for long periods. Monsters, swords and spaceships litter our flat – often in the shape of crashed paper aeroplanes.
Of course, we do other stuff too.
A couple of weekends ago, we listened to the 1930s Orson Welles ‘War of the Worlds’ radio play. I taught Jake a few chords on the guitar. We built some stuff out of Lego. We often use the time to just sort of stroll to the village and stroll back again. We’ve even brushed up on our origami skills:
All in all, the screenless day is a regime I thoroughly recommend. Of course, if sport enthusiasms prevent you from ditching telly on a Sunday, then pick another day. It’s not so hard to do as long as you’re prepared to engage your offspring on an ongoing basis.
Jake does still get bored as the Sunday afternoon wears on, but he’s starting to acclimatise to the screen deprivation little by little, and he does like sitting around the table, playing games, drinking tea and talking.
Which suits me fine.