It's a sad state of affairs when you realise that never again will children be more precocious than their whizzy gadgets. I heard a radio documentary about Mozart's early years recently and was hugely impressed by how the kid had managed to outwit and tame a piano before he was five. Nowadays you get the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world, who start writing code that even C-3PO wouldn't understand before they hit puberty.
Personally, I miss the clunkiness of retro, dial-up technology. During my teenage years, I knew that it took our Ark of the Covenant-era desktop computer the same amount of time to turn on as it did for me to boil the kettle or squeeze a spot. These days, I have an iPhone and I can't even go to buy milk without neurotically checking my emails, tweeting, Facebooking and texting as I walk to the shop. I'm too old to be precocious any more, but even if I wasn't, I wouldn't have time to be.
The new precocious is, in the case of the seven-year-old boy I saw playing on an iPad in a restaurant last week, nothing short of repugnant. It was reminiscent of those medieval woodcuts where children look like mini-adults – no roundness or pudgy health to distinguish them from the rest of us. This boy, as he prodded, swished and wiped his fat little fingers across the touchscreen of the world's most expensive toy, looked as though he had no idea that this wasn't entirely normal behaviour for his age bracket.
"Yeah, iPads are so intuitive that even really young children can use them," agreed my flatmate's tech-y boyfriend when I mentioned it. "It's amazing, really, that sort of intelligent technology." Hmmm, not quite the point I was making. "The flash gits of the family bought their twin five-year-olds iPads for Christmas," a colleague sighed to me as we recounted our present lists (mine included a toy otter; his, a pair of socks). "That's one for each twin. I felt like punching their heads." This was closer to what I was trying to express.
I'm no prudish idyll-monger; I'm not about to start complaining that pop music and videogames are turning our children into little Charles Mansons. But I'd draw a line at getting them a gadget targeted both function- and price-wise at men in suits and on micro-scooters. Gwyneth Paltrow, that paradigm of modern parenthood, recently blogged about how carefully she had to monitor the time her children spent on their iPads. There is, of course, another way of controlling this: don't buy them one. And if you're dead set on doing so, at least don't let them take it to a fancy restaurant – the likes of which they shouldn't be allowed into anyway – and play with it where scornful quasi-liberals can notice and despise you.
I am more downhearted than ever at the raft of new-season celebrity fashion collaborations on the high street. Normally I enjoy the potential for ridicule that they bring – Kate Moss looked good in this dress, here's a cheap copy and good luck to you, slightly older, fatter and uglier member of the British public. Or, Lily Allen likes to wear trainers with her prom dress; why don't you try it and see which side of the ragga girl/bag lady divide you fall? But this crop just makes me want to set fire to myself. First up, we have a range of lingerie designed by Gok Wan, next a line of swimwear with Geri Halliwell's name attached to it.
I have to credit the latter and admit that she does at least have experience of looking good in a bikini, which makes her almost qualified for the task. But quite what Mr Wan knows about the anatomical needs of women I'm unable to identify. Just because he's made women cry on TV doesn't mean he gets to snoop at our drawers, so to speak. There's a difference between styling someone (for this, read: snapping a belt around a turquoise cardigan and saying, "Voilà!") and revolutionising their most intimate apparel.
It's fair enough to trust the label when you're buying a sports bra with Steffi Graf's face on it, or a pepper mill signed off by Jamie Oliver. You get the impression that Graf has spent enough time strapping down her lovely Teutonic bust before a match to know what she's on about and Jamie – well, he just can't put a foot wrong, can he?
But what Geri and Gok have failed to realise is that they aren't specialists in either of their chosen areas, nor are we stupid enough to think that they are. The spin of fortune's wheel that landed them in our faces is all they have to back themselves up.
So knickers to you both, I say – Geri, get back to posing in your own bikini, and Gok, get your hands out of mine.Reuse content