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'Youngsters need to learn the value of doing nothing' during school holidays

Washed Up column, by Sarah Juggins

I think my contemporaries, born around the end of the 1960s and start of the 70s, are the last of the generation who spent their summer holidays experiencing the luxury of aimless boredom.

I remember wandering, small dog trailing behind me, down dusty lanes and over stubble-fields during summer holidays that just seemed to stretch forever.

Washed Up column, by Sarah Juggins (Award-winning author of 'The History Makers' and 'Under An Orange Sky')
Washed Up column, by Sarah Juggins (Award-winning author of 'The History Makers' and 'Under An Orange Sky')

There was no purpose to my travels, I was simply exploring. Actually, when I look back, I think I was getting to know myself as much as anything else.

I read a piece by nature writer Melissa Harrison in the New Statesman where she spoke about the hours she hid away in an old apple tree in her parent’s garden and aspects of the article resonated.

On the farm where I lived as a child there were at least three trees, two oaks and a chestnut, where old wooden boards had been dragged up into the branches so I could sit and read, undisturbed.

That concern about unwanted disturbances was largely unrealised.

No-one was ever concerned where I was unless there were jobs to be done.

I don’t mean I was abandoned or neglected, it was just that it was deemed safe for children to wander around the countryside without fear of either traffic or molesting strangers.

This was all brought home as I read letters and emails in one of the Sunday newspapers about the dilemma of how to keep kids amused during the summer holidays without spending a fortune.

It seems that if they are not visiting amusement parks, having educational or sporting experiences or, in the case of older kids, doing some form of work experience, then they are not having a meaningful summer break.

Looking back, I think that just being, with no distractions, no forced entertainment, was one of the greatest things about the school summer holidays.

When I look at my to-do list now, I would grab with both hands the opportunity to wander down a dusty lane or climb a tree and just contemplate life quietly for a few hours.

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