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Sunday, 10 December 2006

Hothouse Flowers

I had not been looking forward to this morning at all. The third 'first interview' in recent weeks for little Freya at one of the wonderful local private schools. I was completely terrified and useless. They took my cheery three and a half year old off into another room with myriads of other little people for a 'play session', and I just could not sit around and wait with the other anxious parents. I felt so guilty leaving her with strangers to be 'assessed'. She is just a baby after all.

I decided to head off to the toy shop in the village in search of Freya's dream toy - a life size 'Fimbo' with his own 'shimmy shaker'. Toy shops in the locality are always 'no go' area for sensible people at weekends, as they are cram packed with parents and their children - in search of appropriate gifts for the afternoon round of birthday parties.

Alas, the dream toy was not to be found, but I noticed some lovely art materials that my children would love, and so I began to browse. In the background I heard a woman enquiring about sudoku puzzle books for children. I can't work out the fascination myself, but then I don't know how to play sudoku - it all looks rather complicated to me.

The softly spoken assistant explained that the shop did not stock puzzle books, but offered a computer sudoku game instead. The customer became extremely animated when the assistant mentioned that the shop stocked three levels of difficulty of the game - all for children.

'What a perfect Christmas gift! I'll take all three',

she said, but her friend interrupted and pleaded anxiously;

'Let me have them, Antonia is swatting for entry exams - she is almost seven'.

The first lady snapped:

'No, I saw them first'.

It was about to get nasty - when the assistant pointed to a capacious box of the games on the floor to one side of the counter. At this point the women snatched three each and then simultaneously endeavoured to obscure the box under an enormous container of Playmobil, clearly hoping to conceal them from the observant eyes of other Dulwich parents - on a mission to find appropriate 'educational toys' for Christmas.

OH MY GOD.................. Please tell me, they will get the children some imaginative play toys for Christmas too?, doesn't anyone around here buy a seven year old skates anymore? Little Antonia will play with the box!

What is going on around here? Whatever happened to childhood in Dulwich?

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