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Saturday, 17th May 2008

i maybe me but sometimes it seems things are meant to be difficult. Ogdens went through a stage of producing cut-out sets. The rectangular format was the same as always but there was a section in the centre of the card which were partially cut so gentle pressure on the reverse of the card would push the central subject out and the bottom of the card could be used as a base. Three dimensional if you will. The set, Children of all Nations has to be one of the more elaborate attempts with this format as each card has a different central shape cut-out of it, ie the representative of the nation. Issued in 1924 it is a mighty colourful and well produced set. Unfortunately the format is such that many of these sets are difficult to get in the sort of condition that you would like. They were made to be mangled these cards, the bottom of the card was intended to be creased. That is pretty much the end of them. Some collectors even require the cards were never actually pushed out, that's fine but imagine a bit of card with the word push written in the back of it surviving over 70 years without someone doing just that.

you have nothing to lose but your chains. Run, play in the sun, tomorrow there will be no jobs for anyone.

Children then were very much a different proposition to the sort of thing we think of as children nowadays. Today children are individuals with a different set of needs to an adult back then they were adults who just happened to still be growing. Ogdens rather typifies this concept by dressing the children in a sort of national costume. Both boys and girls are illustrated and a few which have yet to decide of they are boys or girls.

The reverse of the cards has a little central space with the word 'Push' written on it. Around this suggestion is the text of the card which gives a bit of information about how the child develops and spends his/her time.

A pleasing set it is not what could be considered a masterpiece of realism. All the little children have a very European face. Card Two, the Eskimo from Alaska has the most 'authentic' of the non-European faces. In fact the Aborigine looks like a brother I did not realise I had.

Quite why some of the children have happy smiling faces and others do not I could not say but the effect is quite striking. A number in the first ten cards are rather solemn children. The little fellow from the Belgian Congo looks quite miserable but reading the reverse this expression hides a chap that is 'very fond of games, and enjoy taking part in games which resemble those played in England.' According to the text Blind Man's Buff seems to be something of a favourite about the world with many countries playing it. However in the congo they play a game called gombe which is played with any round fruit and resembles lawn tennis. The mind fair boggles. It also notes the lad eats caterpillars perhaps it is this that keeps the smile off his face.

The Brazilian lad is also a little down in the mouth. The card explains the tribe takes education very seriously and goes onto explain the child is put on a strict diet for a year and then receives a thrashing from his grandfather after which his arms, breast and chin are cut and finally he must be bitten by ants without complaint. Well clearly some people have more things not to smile about than others.

And ants out there are no small thing. Just wait till I hear the next round of complaints about British education.

Just like that. Its like being in Turkey.

By card ten there is some observation that girls and boys have somewhat different roles in society. In Burma little boys are sent to school to learn religious stuff and the little girls stay at home and learn everything else. All very fair I'd say :-) Card 11, China notes that Western education techniques are just beginning to be introduced and girls are receiving an education as well. The child depicted is not my long lost brother, it is my brother. By card 20, India, things have got really rather bad for girls. The card states the birth of a girl is regarded as a calamity. It is considered retribution from any angry god, and given the number they have out there not surprising little girls are born quite frequently. Despite the children loving to play, the lack of a national game and the custom of early marriage puts paid to any ideas of fun. It does note that football and cricket is becoming popular 'among the educated youth.'

Anyway I am jumping ahead of myself and missed out England. Pictured is the very peaches and cream complexion of a young boy in school blazer and tie. England is the only country deemed civilised enough to be wearing a tie. It mentions children but I think it means boys as the games the children play are either football or cricket and are enjoyed at schools of every grade (notice in India it is only the education youth in England its everyone). It also notes the children are getting more freedom than a generation a go and seem to think this tendency will increase.

Well if they mean by that the children of England will have more time to play happily in the sunshine they were wrong. Fear of crimes against children have them driven back and forwards from school where they are kept in more secure buildings than some of our prisons. Home they come after being force fed a national syllabus the teachers barely know and will change before the first exam they take at seven. Fear of unemployment will dog the school years where pressure is put to bear on them constantly. Getting home is a matter of doing the homework and then watching soap-opera's on the television, numbing redundant minds all the more. Cricket is just a boring game we lose which gets thirty seconds on the news as the cable and satellite TV stations can buy it from profits created by showing Italian housewives bearing all in the name of not-a-lot.

If this is freedom children of England, revolt, you have nothing to lose but your chains. Run, play in the sun, tomorrow there will be no jobs for anyone. As long as the system keeps your nose to the grindstone you are no trouble, look up, see where you are going.

Phew! I feel a bit better know, I thought there was some pressure building up in my head then.

The next card is a little French boy. He is of the artisan class, flat cap, smock, and scarf. The card notes the children of this class are more natural than the precocious, extremely polite Parisian child. The French we can barely disquise our dislike of them even on the backs of cigarette cards about kids.

By card 21 the tables have turned and it is the little boys turn to suffer. In Ireland or at least, Connemara, where many of the little boys can be seen wearing petticoats which were originally adopted to stop bad fairies running off with them. The girls are left alone by these bad fairies, which I suppose is the way of things.

In Japan May 5th is a day set aside for the children of the nation. On this day gifts are bestowed upon them as part of a national festival for the children. Now this is more like it.

Skipping a few worthy countries (in Mexico they live in mud huts with a few pots and pans with a mat, or two, on the rough floor) we get to New Zealand. The Maoris being restricted to the North Island and the north of South Island seems content playing games such as cats-cradle, giants stride, skipping, hide and seek and many singing games. One of the pleasures of being an older youth or a maiden is the dance called the Haka which is accompanied by singing. The local dance must have been a rather frightening affair if that is the case.

Card 31 has the North American Indian. Boys play with bows and arrows and girls learn to cook when they are not playing with dolls.

Although the cards were printed in 1924 it is reasonably modern in tone. There are one or two cards which draw attention to skin colours which can make a modern reader squirm behind his politically correct veneer but card 38 really goes to town on the peoples of Rumania. It states that the girls and women of Rumania are pretty and sometimes even beautiful, with some pleasant features. Mind you it is the only card that makes this comment, could be the rest of the planet is pig-ugly.

The Russian's get it in the neck at card 39. They are just too kind to their children for their own good. For example the eldest child of a peasant family are often left to look after the other children. Spoilt rotten I'd say. Lets hope Uncle Joe does not pop in for a visit with his very own special brand of spoiling.

This little lady is from Denmark

Naming a child has always been a tricky one. What if the little tyke has a lisp, what might it rhyme with. Do the initials spell anything unhealthy. Let me tell you I used to go to school with a chap called Russell Bush and there was a Rose Twigs. My favourite name though was Jennifer Taylor, Jenny to her pals. Pa always swears his Commanding Officers daughter was called Nora Titsoff.

Anyway in Tibet things are done differently. The girls are given names such as Sunshine but the boys get to be called things like, The Thunderbolt of Long Life. Great fun in the playground.

The set also includes the children of the United States. Apparently well-educated, great pains are made to form the children as little individuals. To Brits the child might seem boisterous, aggressive and self-assertive. American boys like to play with mechanical toys. So there you go a blue-print for creating a global commercial empire. No wonder the Russian Empire collapsed, all those spoilt children rushing about in the food queues.