I hated being a child. I chuckle with glee when I spot a grey hair on my thinning crown and dance a jig on my doddering old legs in celebration of the fact that I’m one increment further away from the horrendous swamp of bright colours and squawking idiocy that was childhood.
Childhood mainly seemed to involve making friends (often based on who could run fastest), those friends eventually pissing you off, you pissing them off in return and ultimately one of your number (possibly you) being ejected from favour and left to wallow in immature misery on the sidelines. With grass-stains all over your shorts and scabs on your knees. And then you’d get home late as a result and get a ruddy good telling off for your troubles from those looming, intolerable swines you were forced to call parents.
Childhood’s little more than a prolonged period of mania, like a horrible, frenetic dream. You’re constantly searching for answers and coming up short because you lack the experience to form conclusions. And if you’re not wandering around in a tight circle, despairing in the midst of what could be existential angst – but you don’t know because you’re too young to figure out what that actually means – you’re wasting the best years of your life absorbed in digging a hole in the garden with a spoon. And then getting told off for digging a hole in the garden and for bending the cutlery, again.
The concept of sharing stuff with your pals and siblings was one of the hardest ideas to get your soft head around. You were handed a bag of crisps, say, and your first instinct, wasn’t to say thankyou. You’d have to be prompted to do that. You’re not, in that first moment, remotely concerned with saving them for later.
You want to wolf them all down, every last maize snack or potatoey morsel. You don’t want to give a single scrap to anyone near you. You want to hide in a cupboard until you’ve stuck them all in your stomach and you’re damned if anyone’s going to stop you. But adults would make you share your crisps as you sat there in hand-me-down, discoloured trousers, diluting all the fun in one breath of unreasonable reason. The long-bodied bastards.
The worst of it all is that you didn’t know what you had until it had buggered off, leaving you in a bedsit with an overdraft and loads of forms to fill in. Suddenly it had all gone away, and those old sods who stopped you taking your Speak ‘n’ Spell into the bath had stopped giving you pizza and making your bed.
So I don’t envy the kids in Channel 4’s Boys & Girls Alone. They’re in the midst of an orgy of awful insanity, filled with thumps, recrimination and bitching arguments. After that, they’ve got a festival of hair-sprouting, self-doubt and insecurity to go through before they’re left to face the world of work without any real assistance (after a stint of humiliating themselves through ill-judged activities at University, if they’re unlucky enough to be shunted in that direction).
I feel even more sorry for them in that their own folks felt it’d be a good idea to stick them in a same-sex house for a couple of weeks unsupervised (apart from the odd social worker, solely placed there to prevent them from killing one another).
Two episodes have been and gone and the kids, in isolation, are charming. Full of hope and innocence, they trundle along contentedly or speed around willy nilly, without a care in the world. But the moment they come head to head with one another, as the production team probably predicted, fireworks follow. So many arguments, tears, physical and mental abuse, so much confused ideology smashed heartlessly by common sense, that it makes excellent television, but to describe it would be hopeless. With minds this undeveloped, it’s impossible to characterise or stereotype any of the infants as they’re learning every single day exactly who they are. Each one is simultaneously a bully and a victim, or an idiot and a genius in one stunted parcel.
As for the argument that this could impact negatively on the kids, I don’t buy it. I went on a PGL Adventure Holiday when I was a youngster – and the bizarre and ludicrous event that is ‘cub camp’ – and the antics we got up to on those jaunts (setting fire to a dead rabbit, force-feeding a fat kid dry pasta, reading lots of split-beaver porn and smoking proper fags) would put these kids to shame in the bad behaviour department.
The fact it’s televised is the only danger, I reckon. But these short-arse runts can just blame the whole thing on Mum and Dad when they become spotty adolescents. They’re bound to blame everything else on them anyway, so it won’t change a thing.