What are you doing right now?
At this point,you may be staring blankly at the screen and thinking 'um?' You may even be thinking 'daft git, I'm hooting!' The muti-taskers amongst you may add 'and feeding the cat/picking my nose/holding down a full-time job' etc. The clever ones might well declare 'I'm thinking; whilst existentialists would surely argue 'I am not doing, I just am.'
Well, bossy little toad that I am, I will tell you what you are definitely doing.
You are READING!
Nope, de-coding the written word is what you are up to and, without this skill, there would be little point in h2g2, the internet, and indeed computers. Or quite a lot else actually.
According to Meet Britain1; a 1957 book designed to explain the finer points of British life to the French, we find:
'the occupations which they use to cheer and adorn these leisure hours with the family, the British read a great deal, and they have at their disposal abundant reading matter of excellent quality.'
Results of an enquiry made in 1947:
'90% of men and 84.3% of women read at least one national or regional morning paper.
94.8% of men and 90% of women read at least one Sunday paper.'
And this bit Shazz and The Post team will like!
'A persistent British custom is to write to the editor of one's favourite newspaper from time to time.Thus the "letters to the editor" form a very sensitive (though not always very true) barometer of public opinion.'
The section emphasises that a great deal of use is made of the Public Library, I wondered if this was still the case today.
Typing 'Library membership' into the Search/life facility of h2g2 produced about 20 results, including Peckham Library, which examines both the architecture of said establishment and the impact on community life, and Library: effect of Internet on amongst many gems; but I couldn't resist David B, the Dewey Demon's description of the higher education library as:
'The shhh-and-cardigans world!'
Posting the question 'Do you have a Library ticket?' on Ask h2g2 seems so far to indicate that they are still seen as a useful item.
Meet Britain is distinctly scathing about the radio, or wireless as it was known in those days:
'Even though the three programmes of the BBC form the most effective intellectual guides of the masses, and though the quality of each is excellent in its own way, the habit of listening to "the wireless" has a detrimental effect on family life which it reduces to silence
And as for TV:
'This is even more strongly the case with television which not only prevents conversation but reading and all forms of work as well.In many houses, the television set is banned from the living room.'
Hmm. I don't in fact have a TV by choice and wondered if I was the only one on Hootoo, but no, the Ask h2g2 question 'Anyone out there NOT have a TV?' produced some others who manage this feat and provoked, not surprisingly, some debate!
No doubt, of those who are actually reading something, many are devouring the latest Harry Potter book, which I am told is selling quite well . Never read one myself; not that I've got anything against it, but being Enid Blyton's most devoted fan, loyalty is everything!
After all, who but Enid could come up with such joys as this little brain-teaser, aimed at the average 9 year old of 1947:
Find the words2:
'I am found wherever a bonfire burns; behead me and I am a coster's donkey; change my head and I will make you laugh; give me a tail and look for me in a pack of cards; change my head and put me in the fire; change my middle and I am the dream of all rulers; change my head and I am not so high; add yet another head and I am not so fast.'
(Answers next week, prizes: post answers below!)
The Home of Today3 sets great store by learning to read, but warns that:
'Miss CM Mason, the great educationalist, deprecated any set lessons before six years old; The toddler was to lie fallow and be free; he was to learn in his own way before the schooldays began, so that at six years he came to school with fresh mind, unsullied memory, and no fatigue.'
Quite right too, after all:
'A new Latin grammar can be very baffling, and the new-comer loses his way in it very easily.'
I'm sure Z's flatmate Neil would agree with that sentiment, as he kindly provided this very apt quote from somewhere:
'O tempore, O mores'!