One Saturday afternoon, when all grown men should be watching sport or playing with electronic gadgets, Daughter number three, the one who would always choose different clothes than those that mother had selected for her, asked me for some help with her homework. Have you noticed that most Saturdays don’t follow the plan you had set out in your mind for them?
Being a good and committed father I told her to wait until the next advertisement break. This she duly did and once I had taken the time to nip to the loo, get a drink and a snack and check the scores on Teletext, I sat down to give her my full attention.
I always feel with children, and with the teachers who provide them with ammunition, that most conversation is a trap. No matter how easy the question sounds at the beginning, it always, and I mean always, ends up looking like a tool to get you to confess your complete and utter ignorance of the subject that you have fooled yourself into believing you were once good at.
Today’s question was no different; ‘How did the world begin?’ Oh yes, right. Now that is one I can answer; hopefully before the sports music begins again and reminds me to move my eyes towards the screen. NOT!
To be honest, it is not that I don’t know at least a few of the various theories available to any budding scientist. It’s not that I can’t talk about Primeval Soup as well as any top chef. The problem is that I am not sure that I really believe any of it. I know, I know, we live in a scientific rational age. Scientists have helped humanity travel to the moon, cure deadly diseases and build the distortion pedals for electric guitars (a singularly impressive feat if you ask me). Scientists also change their minds like the rest of us change our socks. And they disagree with each other all the time; there have been opposing views on nearly every subject you could name, apart from the distortion pedal that is.
Then there is the God factor. Now I am not saying that it is a big consideration in this modern rationalistic age but perhaps it is best to hedge your bets a little. I mean, what if you were to stake your soul on Darwinian’s theory of Origin of what ever it was. What if then you were to find that, when you fall of this mortal coil (I love that phrase), the Deity in question takes one look at you and says, “credit where, credits due – you gave me non, now there’s non available for you”. It’s a thought.
With all this in mind I plumped for offering her an answer with certainty. I said there are lots of theories and they could either all be right or all wrong. There was more than likely a big bang and God was involved in the detonation process, just in case he is listening, Now how was that for being a helpful and caring dad?
As I have already said it does seem to me that most things in life don’t end up how you planned them to be. Perhaps it is like that in a cosmic sense.
I remember one journey that didn’t end up as planned. We were on our way to a short holiday break in Norfolk. I thought, with some justification, that the journey would be fine because the roads through the fens are flat and straight. Daughter number four, the dramatic one, had a different take on things. Most people get sick when the car bumps up and down and turns from side to side; not she with the goodness to eat a whole large packet of chocolate just before we set off (kindly provided by an older sibling).
After a number of complaints of nausea she was allowed to sit in the front passenger seat so that she could control the window herself. It wasn’t long before she was insisting that we stopped. I tried the “just another few seconds” trick that seems to work on all other occasions but I was foolish to even attempt it.
The noise, the sound, the smell, the feel; they are familiar to parents all over the world. Half digested sweets, milk and breakfast cereal had now joined our passenger list. I had done the caring thing and pusher her head downwards as she started to make her offering. This ensured that most of the fun was in the footwell and on the front seat. I pulled over and all the females disembarked to the side of the lay-by. I began the forensic process of cleaning up the car so that we could continue our journey.
Unfortunately there was a three-quarter empty lemonade bottle jammed under the front seat, in a half-in half-out fashion. It was covered in the stomach contents of my travel-sick offspring and I, of course was in a rush to get driving again.
As I pulled the bottle, in order to release it from being wedged under the seat, it cracked, twanged and popped like only top quality plastic is able to do. There was, and I do not exaggerate, an explosion of what I can only describe as primeval soup all over my face. Big bang – nothing compared to the force of this.
I carried on with the clean up process and did my best to make the journey as sweet smelling as I could. There was no time to ask whose fault it was. Who put the bottle under the seat or who gave the sweets to Mrs Molineaux’s youngest. Making the best of it was all that was needed. It is what a dad does best.
I wonder how many marks my daughter would have got in her homework if she had simply put it this way; How the world began? I don’t know whose fault it is; I just hope that there is someone who can clear up the mess we have made.