MODERN parents are apparently giving up on the old fairy stories – because children find them too upsetting.
But they had to be.
Once upon a time, long before the days of childcare books, nanny television shows, CRB checks and lollipop ladies, the world was a dark and dangerous place. And parents were on their own.
Parents did what parents have always done and tried to bring up their children to be alert to danger as well as to be kind and decent human beings.
So they told them fairy tales.
Fairy tales warned little girls to be wary of strangers in the woods who offered to carry their baskets to granny, or of strange old ladies who enticed them in with gingerbread. Or mad old men who popped up out of nowhere and offered them three wishes.
Pretty decent advice really.
They told them not to be horrid to ugly old people, as they may turn out to be witches and put a spell on them And always to be nice to humble peasants, who might just turn out to be princes in disguise.
Riches were no guarantee of virtue. And it was usually the youngest son with no gold or power who got the girl – because his heart was honest and true, which was the really important thing.
There were dangers in dealing with the random spitefulness and wickedness of people who exacted unfair bargains or had a piece of ice in their heart. But that’s the way the world can be, so you’d better be prepared.
And even if you were doomed to be poor and spend your day sweeping cinders, tending geese or working for nothing on your father’s farm, one day a handsome young prince/beautiful young princess might just happen by and appreciate your true worth. So keep at it.
If all else fails, you can always dream of some magic beans – the way dreams of a lottery win still get some of us through the ironing.
As a rough and ready guide for life, fairy tales did a pretty good job for generations.
Not any more.
Apparently parents think fairy tales are outdated. Cinderella shouldn’t be spending all day doing housework.
Well that’s nothing new. There have been many splendid feminist variations on the fairy stories in which doughty maidens refuse to be shut in towers, slave for seven grumpy old men or settle for a second rate prince.
Or who kiss a prince only for him to turn into a frog...
My favourite of all has to be Roald Dahl’s take on Little Red Riding Hood.
The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She slips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head.
And bang, bang, bang, she shoots him dead.
But I don’t suppose the anti-gun lobby are too keen on that one either.
The best time for children to be scared is when they are young and safe and cuddled up to their parents.
That make it all a bit like a fairground ride – scary in a nice way.
And all the time, important lessons are going into tiny impressionable minds.
Yes it’s sometimes scary. But life can be scary. And the younger we know that the better. Especially if we want to live happily ever after.
OKAY, so Valentine’s Day is a nasty commercial rip-off fest of plastic hearts and twee tacky tat.
On the other hand, it was slightly disconcerting that the only card I received was from the Honda garage. Especially as I abandoned them last year to drive a VW...
Why are these men paid so much?
ALAN Hansen is probably a better footballer than Angela Rippon, but is he a better TV presenter?
And is he worth 40 times as much for presenting a programme that doesn’t get as many viewers as the one presented by Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville?
Those three get £1,000 each for presenting Rip-Off Britain, which has five million viewers.
Alan Hansen gets £40,000 for Match of the Day with 4.5 million viewers, Gary Lineker at least the same and Alan Shearer gets £10,000 per programme.
The men’s wages are ridiculous – especially when we, the licence payers are forking out. The gap between the men’s money and what the women get is scandalous.
The women should get a bit more – and the men an awful lot less. But boys will always shout louder until they get what they want.
It’s probably relevant that Angela, Gloria and Julia are all of a certain age, a generation who grew up in a time when men were always paid more than women and who are now, at this stage of the game, reluctant to rock the boat.
Well they should start making big waves.
The generation coming up behind them won’t be as quick to settle for less – so the boys might as well get used to it now.
Who is feeding him?
THE world’s fattest man, Keith Martin is so fat that he cannot even turn over on his own.
He’s confined to bed, can’t get out, can’t go to the shops, can’t go downstairs to open the door to the delivery man or into the kitchen to raid the biscuit tin, let alone cook himself a meal. Yet he still manages to weigh 58 stone. Why?
He can eat only what his carers give him. So why do they keep giving him so much?
As his weight is clearly threatening his life – he suffers, unsurprisingly, from heart problems and depression – couldn’t they be charged with grievous bodily harm or even attempted murder by over-feeding?
Maybe the time has come for some healthy neglect. If it got him out of bed looking for his dinner, it could be an easy miracle cure.
Well done Adele, and well done Adele's mum
MANY congratulations to singer Adele, winner of an amazing six Grammy awards this week. (So yah boo to Karl Lagerfeld who had the nerve to criticise her size). She was brought up in fairly grotty flats by single mother Penny, who juggled a series of jobs, introduced her daughter to music, encouraged her dreams and yet kept her feet firmly on the ground.
Congratulations to Adele – and nearly as many congratulations to her mum.
I HAD not read any books by Charles Dickens since I was in school, which was a very long time ago. And yes we have a complete set of his books, inherited from my grandmother, together with the Scottie dog bookends.
But one of my Christmas presents was a Kindle and as you can download classics for free, I was inspired by the TV version at Christmas to download Great Expectations and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Maybe it helps if you know the story.
I am currently travelling by train to Leeds twice a week so have plenty of time for reading. I have finished Great Expectations and am nearly at the end of Oliver Twist, which I have also enjoyed.
Charles Dickens’ characters and stories are still very much alive so he will always be important.
Sue Schofield (by email).