It’s the summer holidays and most of us are looking to do days out to see things we haven’t seen before, perhaps learn something new or just have a really good fun day out. We like to go to places we’ve been before as well as investigating new ones too. So far we’ve been to the Natural History Museum, Bekonscott Model Village and today we went to Hampton Court palace.
So, picture this. We arrive, we’re all excited, the children see/do whatever we came to do, we all say what a great place this is and that we’ll come again and booooom! Before the exit, cleverly put you’ll know, is the souvenir shop. This, I thought, was the place where you could buy a pencil, maybe a postcard or a rubber that would cost no more than a couple of pounds to remember the day. A useful, though tacky sometimes, item that you would use and chuckle at the memory of the day little Johnny fell in the water fountain or when Little Davey had a bought of diaherrea that stained his shorts you had to carry him out underneath his arms, dangling from your hands as their shorts were so stained….
Maybe that’s just my memories then!
We’ve always had the unwritten rule that we buy a pencil from wherever we go. This meant that a) the boys always knew what they were going to get before we even went into the shop so it eliminated any whining or moaning and b) it meant that we always had a pencil to hand at home. I jest but a pencil is at least useful and something you will actually use and so did the boys when they became old enough. Their memories came back too of wonderful jousting tournaments, beautiful painted ceilings, rides that mummy screamed her head off on (oh how they laughed!) and yes, the occasional ‘wasn’t that the time Tobes threw up out of the car window…?’
Souvenirs in our house did their job; they were inexpensive things that reminded us of the day we’d had.
Now, however, I find myself negotiating the ever growing ‘strange item that has nothing absolutely to do with the day we’ve just had’ kind of souvenir shop. This week we’ve been to a model village that was built around the ’30’s. You would think a train? (there was a fab train there) a kit to make your own house? Well, yes they had these but a whole lot more of items such as –army tanks, purses, pretend mobile phones and all manner of cheap plastic tat that children really love but will break as soon as we leave the shop ensuring that the boys will wail at their lost toy that they can no longer play all the imagined games they had going in in their heads. They’re left with nothing but a broken toy and I’m left with a bitter taste in my mouth…
The model village had the most wonderful souvenir building; a converted railway carriage that the boys were desperate to go into so we did. But because of the utter rubbish they were selling we left not buying anything, and I noticed other parents were doing the same. The boys asked why and I told them that they would be unhappy when their toy broke and also, the toy (tank) they wanted was nothing to do with the day out and would really just be another form of toy shopping. They kind of got it and accepted it but they weren’t happy. They even missed out on the usual pencil.
I think there used to be a kind of trade-off between us and the day out of choice. We would pay the entrance fee, say ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ in the right places, not drop litter and make sure our children didn’t break anything and the day out of choice would provide a fabulous experience and a day out to remember. For this we would also agree to visit the shop and buy a little something to boost the coffers of the day out of choice and we would all be happy (supposing no-one had been sick or had an attack of the runny tummys).
I no longer feel this is the case. I feel that the day out of choice charges, more often than not, an extortionate amount of money to see/experience what they have to offer and I also feel that they think filling their shops with utter rubbish plastic tat is absolutely fine because we, the consumer, cannot control our children and would give them anything. You can image the stock meeting for the Model Village to decide what they are going to sell; ‘oh, don’t worry how cheap and plastic it is –they’ll buy anything!
Well. I’m boycotting these shops. I’m not going into them unless they sell items that are totally to do with what we have just seen. I am going to put a price limit on what they children can have so they will have to work out what they can have balanced with what they want and can afford.
It will be tough on them at first. But I will win the fight and one day they will thank me for teaching them the value of not giving in to random consumerism. To say ‘NO!’ to patronising shop stock choices.
Yes, I know, there will be much whining and moaning and I will have to reign Hubbie in from just saying ‘oh just buy them the bloody plastic laptop for £2.99!!!’ as they know he is a particularly soft touch. I will make him stand firm and we will get back to the time where we would come across random, small reminders of days out and chuckle at the memory of ‘that picnic in the rain’ or seeing that wonderful painting rather than mopping up the tears of 3 upset boys as their rubbish plastic souvenir fell apart 2 mins after we left the shop.