Building memory banks and diverse skills

21:48, Jan 27 2013

Like every parent I know, my wife and I are trying to give our kids fond memories of growing up.

Why we take them camping then, is a mystery.

I start my digging their "deep well of fond memories" the moment the caravan pulls out of the driveway. The kids giggle and fidget with holiday expectation. I shout with pent-up tension and towing worries.

"JUST SHUT THE HECK UP!" I affectionately ask them. The rest, for reasons of profanity and pride, can't be printed.

The car falls silent but for the whine of an underpowered engine. Love is in the air. Let the good times roll.

We follow this sort of start with a week or so of further cruel and unusual punishment. Wind, rain, insect bites, poor sleep. It is madness done on a yearly basis.


Camping means my wife packs every conceivable item we need to survive 24 hours away from home. In other words, she packs almost everything we own. There are lists to prove it. As a result, we need to stay away a tad more than 24 hours to justify the effort. Perhaps a year would do.

On the other hand, I have forgotten to put in the caravan the one thing she asked me to pack. Whatever this item is, it is the first thing we will need.

If it's hay fever tablets, my eldest boy will have his yearly attack somewhere between home and the campground.

If it's a spade, torrential rain will fall the moment the caravan awning goes up. My wife will tell me she told me to pack the spade and I'll be on my hands and knees saying "yes dear" and digging trenches with the extra knife and fork she packed.

Whatever I forget, we will need. Murphy loves a camping holiday. Me, I'm not so sure.

For our family, camping means the river, bush and bike experience at Quinneys early in January. This last week, it's been sand, sea and estuary at Kaiteriteri. Another generation of traditions and habits are beginning to set.

There are friends and family to reconnect with. Card games to be played. Tall tales to be told. There are late nights and early morning starts to be shared. And, perhaps, good times to be had with the kids.

Any hardships endured will only make the comforts of home more comfortable. We all need to miss our beds once in a while. We are, of course, feeding our children's expectations by going camping each year. And a fed expectation only develops a hunger.

Just like our parents fed our expectations, we are breeding yet another generation who will expect good times ahead of them. I sense disappointment.

This sense of disappointment can be found in Gordon McLauchlan's latest book The Passionless People Revisited. It's a good wet holiday read. There's much in it to passionately agree with.

Because of the vast ground he covers in just more than 200 pages, there are also many generalisations to passionately disagree with.

It's a follow on from his 1976 best-selling social commentary The Passionless People. Once again he gives New Zealanders a good kick up the bum. It's hard to argue with him.

McLauchlan questions our nation's passive expectations. His view is for 40 years politicians have given us our medicine and we have meekly accepted it. The medicine has cured little and it's left McLauchlan with a sour taste.

This is the taste many of today's young adults must also have in their mouths. Long-term unemployment seems their inheritance. I bet they didn't grow up expecting this.

In Europe, youth unemployment is at more than 20 per cent. In Greece and Spain, they say the figure is more than 50 per cent. And remember the term "youth" now applies to anyone 25 and under. Why not just call anyone under 30 a "youth"? That'll lower the figure.

The statistics don't include those further delaying their lives with yet more training. If you do, the United States is seen to have even worse youth unemployment than Europe.

These "youths" aren't thick. They aren't unemployable. I'll bet they'll be smarter than any generation before them. Whether jobs exist for them or whether they have appropriate skills is another matter.

As those in employment work harder and harder, clocking up longer and longer hours, employment for the next generation just doesn't seem to be a priority.

I was interested to hear on the radio an interview with a Chatham Islander the other week. She was lamenting the loss of young people from the island, but was saying many didn't have the skills for "island life".

She said we are teaching our kids to use their fingers, but to live on the Chatham Islands they needed people who can use their hands. It's an interesting observation.

These are the things you think about when you go camping with three young "youths" of the future. Camping in the mud, digging memories, yelling, reading books and contemplating.

With any luck, the pictures of bedraggled campers in the paper have been replaced with sun-kissed ones this last week.

But, as that famous camper Franz Kafka wrote, "In the fight between you and the world, back the world."