Monthly Archives: May 2014

The birth of all existence before 8.45am on a weekday

“Mummy, how did the earth start?”

Yes, why not deal with the birth of all existence before 8.45am on a weekday, when I am yet to have my first cup of coffee and I probably still have a bit of sleep in my eye? I mean, let’s not bother about the slightly simpler queries, such as what is my middle name, or even how many people there are in the world, which I stand half a chance of knowing. Or at least bullshitting convincingly enough that my five year old son is satisfied. Or failing that, finding the answer on the first page of Google.

His questions are becoming way, way too difficult. My intellectual capacity is far more suited to my two year old, who points at a random object and asks: “What’s that?” To which I reply: “A Hoover,” (yes, I know, he should know what a Hoover is by the age of two, but what can I say? Our Hoover is agoraphobic and doesn’t make many trips out from under the stairs). He will then repeat the word, and that is it, case closed. Another satisfied customer of the Parent Enquiry Line. Do call again.

It was only a week ago that I stumbled through an explanation of what an atom was, and how everything was made up of atoms, even humans, which as explanations go, would have attracted a D minus and an angrily scrawled comment in the margin of ‘See me after class’. E had trouble accepting that absolutely everything was made of atoms, which in turn made me think that perhaps I was wrong, but in the face of no better answer, I stuck to my guns which then prompted a long and somewhat arduous discussion about what he saw as the inevitable exceptions to this rule.

“Carpet?”

“No. Carpet has atoms.”

“Bread?”

“No.”

“Flies?”

“No. Seriously, everything is made of atoms. Everything.”

“Lego?”

“No. Made of atoms.”

“Glass?”

“Listen. You will not find anything that does NOT have atoms in it.” And right there, is the sound of a gauntlet being thrown down at a five year old’s feet.

In the bath: “Water?” “No.”

In bed: “Pillow?” “No.”

On the High Street: “Pavements?” “No.”

In the kitchen: “Light?” “N…oooh, hang on. Light. Does light have atoms in it?” I ask out loud, to no one in particular. What is light made of, I ponder, uselessly, as I know full well that when I pull open the drawer marked ‘physics’ in my brain, all I will find is a half eaten apple.

E is sensing victory is close at hand and grins.

We duly consult with Pops the day after, who is the font of all science-based knowledge, as opposed to myself, who is a font of all biscuit-based knowledge and little else at times. It turns out that E is right: there are no atoms in light. Damn him. I mean, well done him.  There was a slightly fuller explanation provided, but I somehow ended up thinking about chocolate Hob Nobs instead of listening.

What I actually need is to enrol on a Parenting Diploma. The first term could cover:

  • How they put the hole in Cheerios
  • All about atoms
  • What those green boxes full of wires on the pavement actually do
  • How glass is made
  • The name of different clouds (apparently, ‘Frank, Janine and Veronica’ was not a suitable response)

With a bonus module of how to tell a cracking good joke involving poo or blow offs.

And so here I am, confronted with answering the small matter of how the earth started. This is a subject we have talked about before, which to be fair, makes it tricky. What load of old tosh did I pass off as the truth last time as a poor substitute for actual knowledge?

“Well…” I take a deep breath. “It is called the Big Bang…”

“No, let me say. I know,” my son interjects. Ever since Atomgate, he has been a little over-confident in the I Know Everything department. (Little does he know that this department is situated right next door to the Bet You Didn’t Know That Though, Clever Clogs department).

“The earth was made, and a meteor hit Dinosaurland, and all the dinosaurs died, and then the monkeys turned into humans.

And there we go. From the inception of the Earth to the present day, including a bonus tour of the essentials of evolution in twenty-one words. What it lacks in accuracy it certainly makes up for in brevity. I think about how I can perhaps correct some of the more glaring issues and my brain creaks a little.

I open my mouth to speak. “Well done. That is absolutely right.”

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When I grow up, I want to be…

A scientist's invention

“When I grow up, I want to be a scientist, mummy,” E informs me one morning recently as we walk to school. I say walk – he actually scoots, meaning that for the majority of time he is speeding ahead, making me mentally calculate how many imperceptible obstacles lie between him and his arrival at school with all limbs attached: a raised drain, a cracked paving stone, other pedestrians, all of which he is generally utterly unaware. I inadvertently run Casualty-like scenarios through my head: shots of speeding scooter wheels cutting to alarming images of  a large twig lying across his path. It is all way too much suspense for a morning, I can tell you.

If he is not in front, then he is scooting beside me, which means I am in mortal danger of losing a toe or at the very least having my ankle fractured as he veers ever closer to me.  I have banned him from scooting behind me, ever since the heel-ramming incident, involving much chewing of fist as I limped along, boot heel flapping like a grounded fish, desperately trying not to shout out the most heinous swear word that has ever made an unscheduled appearance in my throat.

“A scientist?” I reply. “That’s a good thing to be.” Well done me for that sparkling and informed answer. I do ponder about asking him to elaborate, but I doubt he has given it any further thought, seeing as he probably saw a scientist in a book and decided anything that involved blowing stuff up or chucking green slime in people’s faces was most definitely the career for him. Either that, or he just fancies wearing a white coat.

“Do you know what I am going to invent?” he asks.

“What?”

“A lot of pipes with windows and they go up and down and change the level of the water at different times and days.”

Right. I have absolutely no idea what he is talking about.

Let’s start by trying to narrow down the body of water we are dealing with here. “Is this for the sea, a lake or the bath?”

He rolls his eyes in a ‘for God’s sake, are you stupid or something?’ kind of way that I fear I will be seeing much more of as his gets older. “The sea. And it controls how hot or cold it is and it can take cold out.”

Okay. I am still none the wiser, but it sounds bloody marvellous. Now, I am no fan of swimming in the sea, because 1. It is too deep and 2. It is too cold. This invention sounds like the answer to my prayers, so I would definitely chuck a tenner in if it turned up on Kickstarter.

“You know what else I would invent?” he asks. Christ, there’s more.

“No?”

At this point, he spots a friend across the road. “Oh, there’s Henry. I have to stop thinking now.”

 

A week later, and we are eating lunch.

“I don’t want to be a scientist any more,” he informs me.

“Oh?”

“No. I am going to be a street dancer.”

And that, right there, is what happens when you take careers advice from CBBC.

 


An Ode to Play Mobil’s 40th Birthday

Rarely do I find myself in a sentimental mood, but this week I found out that Play Mobil was celebrating it’s 40th birthday, and quite frankly, I couldn’t help myself…

playmobil1

Happy birthday, Play Mobil

You’ve been here forty years.

I’ll raise a tiny plastic cup

To celebrate. So cheers!

 

Our house would just not look the same

Without your plastic toys

That infiltrate most every room

And bring joy to both my boys.

 

Fire engines, dustmen’s trucks,

A great big yellow digger,

Speedboats, trailers, motorbikes.

We need a house that’s bigger.

 

Knights of old with sturdy steeds

Warn dragons off with fires.

A jumbo jet with passengers

(Some are frequent flyers).

 

Pirates sporting salty scars

Cling tightly to the rigging

Whilst men in hi-vis jackets

Are busy perpetually digging.

 

It’s true, they don’t quite stay as new

There may be deviation.

A farmer holds a fireman’s hose

To solve a livestock conflagration.

 

A pirate wears a spaceman’s hat,

He dreams of lunar travel.

Alas, he’s tethered to a pig

With rope we can’t unravel.

 

Pirate coins are piglet feed,

A ladder is a sword.

But one this stays consistent:

My boys are never bored.

 

So, my little straight-armed friends

With those little dots for eyes

An ability to grip on tight

To things of a certain size.

 

Let’s raise a cheer to celebrate

An amazing forty years.

Shame that you won’t hear us

As you’ve got no flipping ears.