05 December, 2005

Ready salted

My walk to work takes me past two schools, one primary and one secondary. I've got pretty used to seeing all the typical displays of antics and bravado you'd expect from children intent on doing anything other than focus on the day ahead. I've also grown accustomed to weaving my way through any sudden outbreaks of whooping, fighting, namecalling or good old-fashioned casual swearing. One thing I've never got used to, however, is the sight of kids eating crisps first thing in the morning.

Even on the coldest of days, it seems the allure of potato-based snack treats is enough to make most of them through caution and gloves to the icy wind and tuck into bag after bag. It's a near-universal phenomenon, and it was one of the first things I remember realizing separated my generation from the next one down.

It is not my memory playing tricks, I'm sure, but when I was at school hardly anyone turned up having just filled their face with junk food (let alone still filling their face when they walked through the classroom door). Equally, and on this I'm also quite convinced, there were less fat children around when I was at school. It's a simple fact. There just weren't many of them about. Even those who ate a lot rarely did it ostentatiously, or to excess, and usually worked it all off through PE or playing football at breaktime.

Now, though, when I wander down the road to the shops during my lunch hour, I pass the same dozens and dozens of children who opened the day with a few bags of crisps now gobbling huge portions of chips down their throats. And most of them have the extra body weight to show for it.

I know this is a far from scientific survey, and my conclusions are based wholly on presumption (when are conclusions based otherwise?), but there seems to have been a whole psychological shift across generations about eating. Kids have always been, and always will, be lazy; but when I was younger the prevailing unspoken mentality was that you ate to live. Nowadays, the prevailing and very loudly spoken mentality appears to be you live to eat.

Is this a bad thing? After having been imprisoned in school all morning, the prospect of breaking free and going down the chip shop at lunchtime is obviously one of the best things in the world. And everybody I see who's eating junk food, whatever time of day, is clearly enjoying themselves. I wonder, though, what circumstances have led to some chips being the highlight in any kid's day, and what the kid will do when they've grown tired of them and will want something more.

Ah, everything's relative. After all, winning a free bag of crisps during a Walkers promotional campaign in 1993 was a talking point across my entire 6th form common room.


Post a Comment

<< Home