14/08/2014 16:56 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

The Reluctant House Dad: The Kids Who Think Egypt Is Part Of The UK

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school children looking at globe

When I was primary school age, my favourite Christmas present was a globe. I'd study it for hours, spinning and stopping it with the flat of my hand, landing on a country, learning its capital city (marked by a little square on the country), then spinning again.

I'd boast that I knew every capital of every country on the planet, though my so-called worldliness was exposed when an uncle asked me what colour India was, and I'd replied, 'Purple', truly believing it was, because it was one of those political globes where the countries are colour-coded!

I'd dream about going to those countries and with my brother would gaze out of our bedroom window, past the petrol station, to where the street lights faded to black, and tell my little bruv stories about the places we'd visit when we grew up.

These stories were called 'Swinging on the lights' because in my imagination, we'd hang from the light above our beds and then swing on it to propel us through the window, and then swing on the street lights – like spider monkeys in the jungle canopy - to take us to lands far, far away.

I'd tell him about the longest rivers, the highest mountains, the Mariana Trench, the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia and of giraffes, rhinos and lions in the Great Rift Valley.

And then we'd fall asleep in our freezing cold bedroom in our isolated council house at the side of a permanently busy A-road and I'd dream about heading south, crossing the Channel, travelling through France to get to Switzerland, then climbing the Alps.

Where other boys had posters of footballers and super-heroes on their walls, mine were decorated with photos pulled from magazines and calendars of mountains and valleys and waterfalls.

And in time, I'd get to see some of those places I'd dreamed of, although I'd have to wait until I was 17 to venture overseas for the first time.

During my childhood years, though, I had to settle for Blackpool, Southport, Conwy and Llandudno. We didn't have a car, and the motorway infrastructure was in its infancy (this was the 'Seventies) so we'd get a bus to Victoria coach station in Manchester, then board a coach to whichever destination we were headed.

I'd sit at the back with a road map, and tick off the towns as we travelled through them. Yes, 'Nerd' doesn't quite do justice to the kind of boy I was!

Today's kids are very different. They fly abroad every year, sometimes twice a year, sometimes before they're even aware of their own fingers and toes. But they don't know where they're going and they don't know where they've been.

A neighbour's 11-year-old has just come back from Goa.

"Where's that then?" I asked, teasing.

He just shrugged a 'Dunno'.

Another kid I know went ski-ing earlier this year, to Andorra.

"Where's that then?" I asked, teasing.

"In the mountains," he replied.

And when another told me she was going to Africa for her holidays, I asked: "Which country?"

To which she replied, looking at me in the way that Tweens do: "Er, Africa. Durr!"

It seems to be a general malaise, for a new survey of 1,500 children aged from five and 14, found that many children struggle to grasp basic geography.

Some believe the English Channel separates Britain and America; one in 14 think Australia is part of the UK, and one in 20 said Brazil and Egypt were part of the British Isles, too.

One in five children didn't know the Pyramids are in Egypt and nearly a quarter were stumped when asked: "What is Niagara Falls?"


One in 20 children believe Mount Everest is a theme park ride.


A third thought the Pacific was one of the seven continents; a fifth thought The Channel was one of the five oceans; 18Slideshow-84731VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%