When Malcon Jones woke up last Monday, he heard the birds singing. Not remarkable, you might think, especially given that he lives near forest. But birdsong in the Jones household is usually drowned by a tidal wave of electronic music crashing around the house as soon as his four children wake up.
This is a family who have choosen to fill their home with every conceivable gadget. They have nine television sets, including one in each bedroom and in the kitchen. All the children have their own personal computer and cd players. Of course, there are all the usual appliances we all take for granted, such as the washing machine, tumble drier, dishwasher, deep freeze, microwave oven, and video recorder, but they also have an electric trouser press, two power showers, an Olympic-sized spa bath and jacuzzi, free cars, and a music system which plays throughtout the world house.
What happens if all the props of modern living are removed?
To help us find out, we asked the Joneses to turn back the clock fifty years and to swich off all their labour-saving gadgets and push-button entertainment for three days. We also wanted them to stop using their cars. The family, comprising Malcom, 48,Carol,43, and their four children Emma,17,Richard,14,Tamsin,9,and Tom,7, were not enthusiastic, but everyone, except for Emma, agreed to try. (She couldn’t stand the thought of being without the telephone and her car, which she had only just learnt to drive, so she refused point-blank to join in). The other three children werw not allowed to use their computers or watch tv. They were banned from opening the freezer to get out fish fingers and oven chips. Malcom was forbidden to use his electric razor and mobile phone, but allowed to use his car for work. Carol was ecouraged to go everywhere on foot or by bicycle (woman rarely drove 50 years ago),told to ignore the washing machine and dishwasher, and she was discouraged from using the telephone.
did they cope?
The much-dreaded three days got under way!
Old-fashioned meals, games, and entertainment were planned far the evenings. After eating together at the kitchen table, they sat playing cards, putting off doing the washing-up because they all hated doing that.
Carol was surprised at how long everything took. ‘By the time I had washed up the breakfast things and got back from walking the children to school, it was nearly lunchtime. Getting to the shops, which normally takes five minutes in the car, took at least an hour, so it was impossible just to pop out for a loaf of bread. It was strange having to wait until the washing dried in the garden before getting the ironing done, instead of simply using the drier.’
Although Carol found it quite difficult to get used to the length of time it took to do things, she enjoyed having a slower, more relaxed pace of life. Also, the lack of electronic entertainment, particularly the TV, had a dramatic effect on the children. They got on much better together and seemed to enjoy each other’s company more, although they clearly believed that they were suffering. Tamsin even spent some time gazing at the blank TV screen in her bedroom.
‘All sorts of things that we had put off doing got done,’ said Carol. ‘Bikes got mended, rooms tidied, bookshelves sorted, hamsters cleaned out. Tamsin and Tom started to play games together and even read stories to each other.’
What did they think?
What Malcolm liked most was tne peace. ‘I usually start the day by watching the business news on TV from bed.