Coming of Age

When I turned 18 (oh so long ago), I got extraordinarily drunk whilst at college. I spewed copious amounts of vomit around the girl’s toilets and had to be taken home by a member of staff and a student. My mother was confused – she did not recognise drunkenness when she saw it, my father thought it quite funny. I was ill for about three days. When I turned 21, my parents turned up at my university digs with a cake, my two main childhood toys (Tiny Tears and Teddy) and a bottle of champagne.

Fairly typical for Many UK young people on the cusp of adulthood; most people I know of my age, also got ridiculously drunk on their eighteenth birthdays. It seems to be the norm here. Celebrations dropped down to 16 after a while, so massive parties and lots of alcohol consumed, usually in the celebrants family home, but more and more people are hiring halls, or restaurants or clubs these days.

So when do we become an adult? What do we do to celebrate and mark the transition from childhood to adulthood? And why are the laws and customs regarding what a teen can and cannot do not unequal throughout England? It seems like other cultures have a handle on this, traditions which continue over the generations and are acknowledged by the whole community. You can have a tooth filled in Bali, do a land-dive in Pacific island of Vanuatu, or be beaten and scarred with the Fulani of Western Africa. But what do we do in England and when do we do it?

For those of you who are not English, let me fill you in –

  • The legal age of consent (to have sexual intercourse), is 16 years.
  • You can drink a beer, wine, or cider with a meal in a pub or restaurant if you are with an adult, at 16 years.
  • You can get married with parental consent, at 16 years.
  • You can smoke, (but you cannot buy cigarettes or tobacco) at 16 years.
  • You can drive a vehicle ,at 17 years.
  • You can vote in Elections, at 18 years.
  • Now you can buy your own cigarettes, at 18 years.
  • The legal age to purchase and drink alcohol, 18 years.
  • The minimum age for enlisting in the UK armed forces is 16. Those who sign on when 16 or 17 must serve until they are 22.
  • Join the Royal Navy at 16 years; although that may vary for certain roles across the different branches. If you’re under the age of 18, you will need the consent of a parent or guardian.
  • Legally – in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – a minor is a person under 18 years of age.
  • In London, under 11’s travel free on most public transport.
  • On most public transport across the UK, adult fares begin at 16 years.
  • Blackpool Pleasure Beach, you’re paying for adult tickets from the age of, 12 years.
  • Kids go free at Legoland, up to and including the age of 15 years.
  • In England, you must stay in full-time education, for example at a college, start an apprenticeship or traineeship, or spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training, until you are 18 years.

 

So let’s have a quick re-cap. At 16 years of age you have to pay adult fares for theme parks and the like, you can smoke cigarettes, but NOT buy them. You can marry with parental consent (so presumably have children), you can join the military, which presumably involves in weapon training. BUT, you have to be with an adult to have a drink with a meal. You must remain in education and you cannot vote. Not forgetting, that legally, YOU ARE STILL REGARDED AS A MINOR. YOU ARE A CHILD! There is little, or no consistency.

Does this picture look skew-whiff to anyone else?! I have been boggled by the age issue since I was 13 years old and I was charged adult price for a ticket for Madame Tussauds Waxworks Museum. I argued for ages with the guy on the counter:

“I’m not an adult”

“It’s adult for 13 and over.”

“I’m a school kid!”

“It’s adult.”

“But I’m not responsible enough to be an adult!”

I paid anyway – wanted to see the wax heads on sticks.

Tussauds
Well it was scary then! Especially as I was alone, sans parents…

Can we not all agree on what age is the one true age of reaching adulthood? The complications are sometimes related to money. In the consumer age, corporations and conglomerates want your money, regardless of whether you earn any or not. This is a ludicrous situation. Not only can we not agree on set ages for ‘coming of age’, but we don’t now know when to celebrate. So, 16 years old’s celebrate that they have turned ‘Sweet 16’ (So What?! I cry), then 18 year old’s celebrate their ‘coming of age’ – as we have seen already, usually by getting very, very drunk.

Then along comes 21 years. This used to be the age recognised throughout the UK, when a child became an adult. This changed in 1970, in England (1969 in Wales and Scotland). It was a huge moment marked by celebrations, party, gifts and, a once well-known song.

Now we are being told that, mentally and emotionally, we are reaching adulthood around 25 years. So isn’t it about time to have parity across the board? If we are saying that people are minors/children until the age of 18, shouldn’t all laws and charges reflect this?

21today

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wx1D2asFSig

 

Having something definite to mark this passage provides us with a ‘mental landmark’, we all know where we stand. Make it a real celebration, something that is recognised by all, a ceremony of sorts. A Tradition.

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Princess Elizabeth on her 21st Birthday, choosing ‘one’s totty to take to the ball.

 

Jewish Coming of Age Tradition: Bar and Bat Mitzvah

Mazal Tov! Around the world, young Jewish boys and girls celebrate their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs at age 13 and 12 in order to demonstrate their commitment to their faith and recognize that they are now responsible for following Jewish law. After the religious ceremony, a reception  to celebrate the young person’s hard work and accomplishment takes place; as they have often spent weeks learning and preparing for this day.

bar-mitzvah-casino-party
Health and safety not an issue, as youngster is jiggled up and down in the air.

Amish Coming of Age Tradition: Rumspringa

In Amish tradition, Rumspringa marks the time when youth turn 16 and are finally able to enjoy unsupervised weekends away from family. During this time, they are encouraged to enjoy whatever pleasures they like, be that modern clothing or alcohol. The purpose of this period is to allow Amish youth the opportunity to see and experience the world beyond their culture and upbringing. It also recognises that youthful exuberance exists and needs to be allowed to happen. In this way, returning to their community and way of life thus is entirely their choice. Those who return are then baptized and become committed members of the Amish church and community, marking the end of Rumspringa (but they must do so before turning 26).

rumspringa-party-via-Fark
And you thought they were dull !

 

 Inuit Coming of Age Tradition: North Baffin Island

In North Baffin Island, Inuit boys have traditionally gone out to the wilderness with their fathers between the ages of 11 and 12 to test their hunting skills and acclimatise to the harsh arctic weather. As part of the tradition, a shaman would be called to open the lines of communication between men and animals. Nowadays, this tradition has been extended to young girls as well, as “out-camps” are established away from the community in order for traditional skills to be passed down and practiced by the young men and women.

650-inuit

 

 Khatam Al Koran Coming of Age Tradition: Malaysia

In Malaysia, 11 is a special birthday for some Muslim girls, as it marks the time when they can celebrate Khatam Al Koran, a prestigious ritual that demonstrates their growing maturity at their local mosque. Girls spend years preparing for this day, reviewing the Koran so they can recite the final chapter before friends and family at the ceremony.

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Maasai Coming of Age TraditionTanzania and Kenya

The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania have several rites of passage that carry boys into manhood. Boys between the ages of 10-20 come together to be initiated as the new “warrior class” of the tribe, placed in dozens of houses built for the occasion. The night before the ceremony the boys sleep outside in the forest, and at dawn they return for a day of singing and dancing. They drink a mixture of alcohol, cow’s blood, and milk, while also consuming large portions of meat. After these festivities they are ready to be circumcised, making the official transformation into a man, warrior, and protector. Similar to other rites of passage the boys cannot flinch, because doing so would shame their families and discount their bravery.

Rituals-of-the-Massai-Tribe-
Jumping for joy – literally!

 

Japanese Coming of Age Tradition: Seijin-no-Hi

In Japan, the second Monday of January marks a special day- the day in which 20 year olds get to dress up in their finest traditional attire, attend a ceremony in local city offices, receive gifts, and party to their hearts’ content amongst friends and family. It’s their Coming of Age Festival, otherwise known as Seijin-no-Hi. The tradition started nearly 1200 years ago and recognizes the age when the Japanese believe youth become mature, contributing members of society (it’s also the time when they get to vote and drink).

Japan

 

It is interesting to note, that whilst I was searching for images to represent each culture’s way of celebrating this rite of passage – I could not find anything to represent the UK. There were very mixed images of different types of parties, the odd one of teens drinking or smoking, but no consistency – because we have no recognisable, traditional way to share and enjoy. This will have to suffice…

francebooze-271671

 

 

EXAMS!!!!

Exams!

It’s that time of year again.

Exams!

The word can bring the usually stout of heart and joyous of personalities to a stuttering, heart-in-the-mouth, stomach-churning (occasionally pants-filling), halt.

exam Will

Thousands of young people across the UK will have sat, or be currently sitting these horrendous GCSE/A level/End of Year papers. My thoughts are with you guys.

But why do we do exams? For years I have gone along with the mentality that exams are there to assess how much we have learnt, to grade us for the next level of education, to see where our skills lie (academically) and so direct our employment options.

Imagine our ancient ancestors – ploughing the fields, milking the cows, thatching roofs, building homes, smithing your horse’s hooves, sewing your clothes, brewing ale, grinding corn and so on and so forth. Did they sit written exams? No. They didn’t, but managed to make, create, produce and thrive in a continuously moving environment.

SONY DSC
Er, obviously NOT going to be a bricklayer!

The problem lies with numbers; not those hated calculations involving equations and formulas – or that might just be me. I mean numbers of students. In the past, authentic assessment was the norm; we had apprenticeships; an expert would take on an apprentice, provide individualised training and constant feedback. Apprentices were evaluated on how well they applied the skills, not how well they answered a multiple-choice question. The tradition continues today; the construction industry being a point in question.

exams chinese outside
Chinese students had to sit outside – is this what we are heading towards???!!!

But as the population grew, we needed a way to assess huge numbers of potentials. And now we have a kind of production-line mentality to education and exams. We go in one end, age 5 years (3 ½ if you go to pre-school), and come out the other aged 18 years, having sat numerous tests along the way: IQ tests, 11Plus, Aptitude, End of Year, SAT’s (thanks America!) Mocks, GCSE’s (O Levels if your over 40 years), A Levels. THEN, you can go to Further or Higher Education where you do further exams – or retake those English and Maths GCSE’s you failed at school.

exam stress
And we start them so young!

And this in an age where we talk about the individual; about how we’re each different, how we have differing needs, how we learn at different rates. So why the rigid, one-size-fits-all attitude?

And what do exams do anyway, besides stress us out? So you happen to be able to remember a bunch of information that someone spewed out for 10 months, so what? Just because you can pass a written exam, does not mean you will be successful in life, as a person – you know, the REAL important stuff?!

Should we be looking at a new way to educate people? What should we be educated in?

We’re so busy stuffing our heads with dates and measurements and names and so forth, that we do not stop to think what we should be learning about.

Education, after all means – the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university, “a course of education” (OED) Origin – Word Root of educate

The Latin word ducere, meaning “to lead,” and its form ductus give us the roots duc and duct. Words from the Latin ducere have something to do with leading. A duct is a tube that leads from one place or organ to another. To educate, or teach, is to lead to knowledge. To induce is to lead into a particular state. (Merriam-Webster)

 

So, instead of stuffing words, dates and formulae in, we should be spending half the time, drawing out from the pupil.

And anyway, who decided that if you don’t get the grades then you’ll never ‘make it’ in life. Let’s have a look at how some well-known people fared in their school exams and ask ourselves, Do we really need exams in the form they currently are anymore?

Imagine if every student across the land – every single one – refused to do their exams. On the same day, at the same time, they all agreed to down pens and refuse to take part in this pointless ritual that measures nothing but an individuals ability to regurgitate information in a given time frame…I wonder what would happen?!

exam david
Failed his pasty eating exam…

 

Simon Cowell –Music Entrepreneur – left school with just 1 O Level.

Jon Snow– journalist/News Presenter – Grade C in English.

Lord Alan Sugar – Business Entrepreneur – 1 GCSE.

Sarah Millican – Comedian – D and E in her A Levels.

Jeremy Clarkson – TV Host – “If your A-level results aren’t joyous, take comfort from the fact I got a C and two Us. And I have a Mercedes Benz.”

 

…and extracts from some school reports of the good and the average:

 

“This boy will never get anywhere in life.”  Eric Morecombe, Comedian.

“Judi would be a very good pupil if she lived in this world.” Judi Dench, Actor.

“Certainly on the road to failure…hopeless…rather a clown in class…wasting other pupils’ time.” John Lennon, Musician.

“Inclined to dream. Could do better if he tried.” Nick Park, Animator.

“Jilly has set herself an extremely low standard which she has failed to maintain.” Jilly Cooper, Author.

“Constantly late for school, losing his books and papers….regular in his irregularity….” Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister 1940-1945/1951-1955

So you see, if at first you don’t succeed; become an entrepreneur, a comedian or a politician, can’t go wrong!

 

Oh, And

Good Luck! 

Feast of Words

In the light of recent cultural divisions, that have been happening across the world by various means, I decided to write of something that we all have in common – FOOD.

We all consume food, we even share similar palettes to people’s and cultures we may know little about, or think we have in common. Lemons, for example, are thought to originate in India and yet are eaten all over the world today. The pomegranate started out in Iran, and yet I can get them from my local supermarket. And oranges; one of my favourite fruits and bits of knowledge – Did you know – oranges come from South East Asia, they were first cultivated in China. The colour orange come from the fruit not the other way around. And why do we say, “Can I have an orange?” ? Because the fruit was originally called narange, a Sanskrit word for “orange tree” (नारङ्ग nāraṅga). As with many words, it became Anglicized, so from “Can I have a nāraṅge?” it morphed into ‘an orange’. How cool is that?!

feast of words 0
N.B: Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. (See what I did there?!)

 

How are we divided? Tonnes has been said on that – let’s focus on what we ALL have in common; the need to consume, the joy of eating, the love of specific treats and delicacies. And what a culture does not/may not eat due to spiritual concerns can also show our similarities – Tim Minchin, comedian, wrote a song (He’s written quite a number of songs actually), about the similarity, rather than differences amongst the Muslim and Jewish folks called ‘Peace Anthem For Palestine’ – about how they both do not eat pork!

Sure, it’s a light-hearted, comedic foray into international politics (!!) BUT, essentially, he is talking about commonality through food.

Food really can bring people together. Hear the one about the Palestinian and the Israeli who used Hummus to aid refugees?                                   https://munchies.vice.com/en_us/article/how-hummus-brought-a-palestinian-and-an-israeli-together-to-help-refugees-in-berlin

I thought then;  writers have used food and drink in their stories over and over, to help develop plots, bring characters to life and give a sense of place. What is sense of place? Wiki tells us – Cultural geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners study why certain places hold special meaning to particular people or animals. Places said to have a strong “sense of place” have a strong identity and character that is deeply felt by local inhabitants and by many visitors.

We all have used the phrase at some time or another. However, if a fresh, tall glass of orange juice conjures up images of Californian sunshine and groves of fruiting trees sparkling in the morning dew – what of the origins of the orange? Doesn’t consuming food from across the globe begin to distort our idea of sense of place?! And maybe, rightly so.

I say embrace the commonalities. Drink French wine, whilst eating American raisins and roasting English lamb, followed by Iranian pomegranates and Italian ice-cream. Cue the extracts, oh, first let me say, ***SPOILER ALERT – after the Shakespeare quote, the passage selected from Patrick Suskind’s Perfume is the ending of the novel. So avoid if you have not read it. And if you have not read it – please do – a hideously delightful story, redolent with humans. Enjoy:-

 

  • “Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
  • “I went to sit in the bus station and think this over. I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that’s practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious.”

― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

feastofwords

 

  • “Happiness. Simple as a glass of chocolate or tortuous as the heart. Bitter. Sweet. Alive.”
  • “I sell dreams, small comforts, sweet harmless temptations to bring down a multitude of saints crashing among the hazels and nougatines.”
  • “The air is hot and rich with the scent of chocolate. Quite unlike the white powdery chocolate I knew as a boy, this has a throaty richness like the perfumed beans from the coffee stall on the market, a redolence of amaretto and tiramisù, a smoky, burned flavor that enters my mouth somehow and makes it water. There is a silver jug of the stuff on the counter, from which a vapor rises. I recall that I have not breakfasted this morning.”

              ― Joanne Harris, Chocolat

feast of words 2

 

  • “Waiter: Would you like to hear today’s specials?

Patrick Bateman: Not if you want to keep your spleen.”

  • Our pasta this evening… is squid ravioli in a lemon grass broth… with goat cheese profiteroles, and I also have an arugula Caesar salad. For entrees this evening, I have swordfish meatloaf with onion marmalade, rare roasted partridge breast in raspberry coulis with a sorrel timbale…and grilled free-range rabbit with herbed french fries. Our pasta tonight is a squid ravioli in a lemon grass broth.

God, I hate this place. It’s a chick’s restaurant. Why aren’t we at Dorsia ?”

― Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho

feast of words 3

 

  • “I saw her in the back-kitchen which opened on to the courtyard, in process of killing a chicken; by its desperate and quite natural resistance . . . it made the saintly kindness and unction of our servant rather less prominent than it would do, next day at dinner, when it made its appearance in a skin gold-embroidered like a chasuble, and its precious juice was poured out drop by drop as from a pyx.”

― Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

feast of words 4

 

  • The meal consists of limpid turtle soup laced with Madeira, blinis Demidoff with caviar, quails en sarcophage (stuffed with foie gras and truffles in puff-pastry cases), a salad, cheeses, tropical fruits and a glistening baba au rhum, all accompanied by Champagne and fine wines.

― Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), Babette’s Feast

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  • ‘Once upon a time there were three little sisters,’ the Dormouse began in a great hurry; ‘and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well — ‘

‘What did they live on?’ said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking.

‘They lived on treacle,’ said the Dormouse, after thinking a minute or two.

‘They couldn’t have done that, you know,’ Alice gently remarked; ‘they’d have been ill.’

‘So they were,’ said the Dormouse; very ill.’

Alice tried to fancy to herself what such an extraordinary ways of living would be like, but it puzzled her too much, so she went on: ‘But why did they live at the bottom of a well?’

‘Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

‘I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone, ‘so I can’t take more.’

― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

feast of words 6

 

  • “The moment Scrooge’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed. It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation… Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam…”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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  • “Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.” (shinny, is booze.)

―Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

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  • ” “Queequeg,” said I, “do you think that we can make a supper for us both on one clam?” However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh! sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits, and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey’s clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment. Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word “cod” with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.”

―Herman Melville, Moby Dick

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  • “He is a heavy eater of beef. Me thinks it doth harm to his wit.”

―William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

 feats of words 10

 

***

  • * “But to eat a human being? They would never, so they thought, have been capable of anything that horrible. And they were amazed that it had been so very easy for them and that, embarrassed as they were, they did not feel the tiniest bite of conscience. On the contrary! Though the meal lay rather heavy on their stomachs, their hearts were definitely light. All of a sudden there were delightful, bright flutterings in their dark souls. And on their faces was a delicate, virginal glow of happiness. Perhaps that was why they were shy about looking up and gazing into one another’s eyes. When they finally did dare it, at first with stolen glances and then candid ones, they had to smile. They were uncommonly proud. For the first time they had done something out of love.”
  • Patrick Süskind, Perfume