Treasure hunting in my local library in France, a great learning tool and loads of fun!

My local library here in rural France is lively and thriving; there is always something going on. Recently they ran an initiative to help older people in particular to learn about tablets. Not, of course, medication, but these weeny little computer things with touch-screens.

It was wonderfully done. A group of librarians in the area got together to prepare a whodunit, with all the clues stored within applications on the tablets available at the library. We had a couple of evenings when everyone got together to find out all about the challenge.

This being France, of course, the evening included wine, bread, cheese and charcuterie, cold meat selection

We formed ourselves into teams for mutual support and were given details of the alibis provided by the five prime suspects in a theft case. We then had to check their alibi against the information yielded by browsing the apps on the tablets.

I was particularly inept. Carpal tunnel syndrome means my fingertips are not all that sensitive for using a touch-screen. I also found it incredibly slow and laborious, compared to Google, for example

So I decided to go back to the library by myself one afternoon to see if I could manage a bit better without the distraction of my team members. I picked a Wednesday afternoon, and as French children currently don't go to school on Wednesdays (although that is under review) I was soon joined at the table by a young girl of about ten.

She chatted away to me quite happily, in the manner of most French schoolchildren. She could see I was totally hopeless, so every now and again she would kindly lean over, touch the screen or twirl some control or another to make the thing do what I needed it to do.

We all know the saying: 'If you need to programme your DVD, or change the ringtone on your mobile, ask a teenager.'

But it crossed my mind that if the girl and I went outside, would she be able to tell me the names of all the trees we could see? Or the birds? Or the plants? Would she know which plants were good to eat and which were poisonous?

Because I could tell her. In French, too. One of the first things I did after moving to live in France was get all the nature books I could find and learn such things. I'd been on guided walks with real 'hedge-witches' who taught us how to prepare an infusion from ash leaves for rheumatic conditions. It works, too, wonderfully.

I learned which of the snakes which live in the wild part of my garden in great number was venomous. I learned which of the many lizards I saw I could safely touch without harming either them or myself and which were likely to give me a nasty bite

Perhaps my new young friend has a grand-parent who still teaches her the old ways which are so important in this region. Which vegetables to plant on which phase of the moon for the best harvest. Which mushrooms from the woods are safe to eat. Which plants will give you a free and tasty meal when your budget is low.

Although she probably was only about ten, she could certainly show them what to do with modern technology, with her eyes closed. I just hope someone in her family is making sure there is still time in her young life to learn the old skills, before they are lost and gone to us all forever.

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