Today was spent wisely and well, in not doing much. I did a final tweak to my stern letter and sent it, did a few other jobs on the computer, including ordering some presents, checked when my credit card needs to be paid (not for ten days) and sponsored the moustache-growers on the High School staff. I went and had a cup of green tea with Dilly and Hay. Hay was eating toasted cheese and cucumber. Not a huge amount goes down his throat, but he’s quite happy and enjoys a varied diet, now he’s six months old. After that, I took the afternoon off and went to Norwich. I didn’t do much there either, but trotted about enjoying the feel of the place, looked at clothes but wasn’t tempted to try anything on (I suspect that this will be one of the years I don’t buy any clothes, I haven’t so far) and then came home, feeling rested. I was sitting with the Sage, but the phone keeps ringing for him, and it’s not very interesting, listening to other people’s conversations – or rather, politely not listening to them and so, with my coat on, I’m in here again.
It wasn’t so many years ago that an entire family would spend the whole evening together – and actually, that still mostly happened when my children lived here. One simple reason for the change, I think, is central heating. Time was, there was only one warm room in a house in the winter, two at most; the kitchen and the living room. Bedrooms were rarely warmed. A lucky child might have a two-bar electric fire, but that wasn’t that common. Of course, one could spread out more in the house in the summer, but there was still the habit of sitting together – and that’s another reason for the change.
More than one television and an increased range of channels.
When I was younger, a household had one television and one telephone. The former was in the living room and the latter in the hall, where you stood to make calls. That’s how it was. There were two channels on the tv until the late 1960s/early ’70s (depending on reception where you lived) and eventually, along came Channel 4. So most people watched the same programme, all together. Then home computers turned up. We had one, a Commodore 64. It was firmly kept in the sitting room. I didn’t mind in the least if the room was cluttered or if it was on at the same time as the television. I thought being together was more important, and I played games on it with my children anyway. Weeza would have liked her own television, but I made her wait years, she was probably about 16. Any younger, she’d have watched it half the night. Al wasn’t bothered. Ro simply bought his own, and a computer when he wanted it – which was a good thing, I was glad to have mine to myself. It was before the days when broadband had reached the village and I used to get quite ratty with the Sage when he’d absent-mindedly pick up the telephone, immediately apologise and put it down, but it was too late – my internet connection was already cut off. He never checked first. So, ill-humour between husband and wife was quite enough, it wasn’t to happen between father and son, and I had an extra phone line put on for Ro in his room. We paid rental, he paid calls. Bargain. Peace.
And now, after all the early years of effort in keeping the family together, the Sage and I sit in separate rooms, as often as not. I blame too many channels on the television, so that we can’t be bothered to look at any of them, and the damn telephone.