Life lessons of the young

Daily Express - - TELEVISION EXPRESS - Matt Baylis

I’LL tell you one thing that has changed over the years, the howlers. You see a lot of them on the in­ter­net, snap­shots of chil­dren’s home­work or test an­swers al­legedly posted by teach­ers or par­ents when chil­dren have an­swered a ques­tion in some uniquely cute, cheeky way at the same time as get­ting it wrong. For ex­am­ple, the his­tory ques­tion, ‘‘What ended in 1896?’’ gets the an­swer ‘‘1895’’.

When I was young, the ex­er­cise book howlers were quite dif­fer­ent and were shared as ev­i­dence of chil­dren be­ing pro­foundly dim, not canny and wise. We should trea­sure tele­vi­sion shows like THE SE­CRET LIFE OF 4 YEAR OLDS (C4) for show­ing us the un­doc­tored full pic­ture, some­times cute-ish, some­times brutish, quick-wit­ted and daft all at the same time and where four year olds are con­cerned, al­ways at high vol­ume too.

It was all about love at the se­cret nurs­ery yes­ter­day, or rather it was about war in dis­guise. Things seemed to be led to a great de­gree by a wee lad called Harper. There is a Harper in ev­ery class, though not nec­es­sar­ily called Harper. Cheeky, force­ful, the self-de­scribed ‘‘top geezer’’ started call­ing Ava his ‘‘gel-fwend’’ and soon every­one was on about love and mar­riage and kiss­ing.

Com­men­tat­ing in the ex­perts’ booth, Dr El­iz­a­beth Kil­bey and Pro­fes­sor Paul Howard-Jones said this was hu­man de­vel­op­ment in ac­tion, group changes led by the most force­ful per­son­al­i­ties.

How­ever as Harper found, the most force­ful per­son­al­i­ties of­ten dis­cover it all back­fires. His best friend Vinny (hands up if you thought peo­ple were only called Vinny in Martin Scors­ese films) took a girl­friend, rather putting his nose out of joint. Harper said Vinny did not have a girl­friend while Vinny, who must have stayed up late to watch The Ap­pren­tice, told Harper, ‘‘You’re fired!’’

It got quite vi­o­lent af­ter that and the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the boys pro­vided a re­veal­ing if de­press­ing con­trast to what was go­ing on with Ava and Rory, the shy lit­tle lad from the farm. She had spot­ted him for­lornly go­ing round ask­ing, ‘‘Do you want to play fire­mans?’’ But to no avail and she made it her mis­sion to cheer him up.

Know­ing how much Rory liked sheep, he lived next door to his gran­dad’s farm in Wales, she started play­ing with the toy sheep and mir­ror­ing his ac­cent.

All hu­man­ity was there, the drive to con­nect, the drive to bash each other’s brains out. The Devil has the best tunes – or at least the fun­ni­est lines – and when a teacher asked Vinny, ‘‘What could Harper do to make you not an­gry?’’, his re­ply was pure gold – ‘‘Die,’’ he said.

Two weeks in and RICK STEIN’S ROAD TO MEX­ICO (BBC2) still had not ac­tu­ally got as far as Mex­ico. To be fair, though, Cal­i­for­nia is a big place and there are a lot of nice things to eat in it.

Head­ing south to Los An­ge­les and San Diego, Rick met Amer­i­cans who were pas­sion­ate about pro­duce with­out some­how be­ing quite as po-faced as Bri­tish foodies man­age to be.

On Churchill Farm, Jim and Lisa grow pixie tan­ger­ines and they picked some for Rick as cold, wet weather blew into the groves from the ocean. ‘‘We wouldn’t nor­mally do a com­mer­cial har­vest in the rain,’’ said Jim.

Rick won­dered why, with all sorts of the­o­ries about fruit tem­per­a­ture, sugar con­tent and so on rat­tling through his brain.

‘‘No,’’ said Jim. ‘‘It’s just mis­er­able and you get soaked.’’

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