In Physics, nothingness has weight
Which leads to some disquiet
Among the more dense who debate:
So, why then do we diet?
In Physics, nothingness has weight
Which leads to some disquiet
Among the more dense who debate:
So, why then do we diet?
The push is on to get to Mars
Because down here we’ve blown it
I’m just not sure if Mars is ours
For who’s to say we own it?
Maybe its own inhabitants
Will greet us when we cruise in
In tiny, shiny disco pants
And shout We’re all called Susan!
We’ll tell them all about the Earth
Its sky, its seas, the land
How right from birth we know the worth
Of taking someone’s hand
Of running jumps into a lake
To beat the summer heat
And hopes that Grandma’s gonna bake
Our favourite thing to eat
The satisfaction we derive
From finding the right gift
And pulling over when we drive
To give a friend a lift
Why monkeys make us laugh out loud
While spiders make us shriek
How lovers can tune out a crowd
When dancing cheek to cheek.
Of course, they’ll think us all absurd
But why come here? Haven’t you heard?
We’ve only rocks and ice!
Dumbfounded we would roam so far
They’ll note down in their book:
Good Lord, these Earthlings really are as stupid as they look…
Randomly flicking through the TV channels I happened upon a show called Child Genius, a programme whose aim is to discover which children in Britain have never been allowed to climb a tree, drink Fanta and make friends their own age. Contestants range in age from 8 – 12 in Earth years and from what I gather there are only two eligibility requirements: they must dress like Puritans and manage their own hedge fund. As for the parents, alas, there are no rules otherwise these same kids would be attending birthday parties and dancing to K-pop.
One distinctive family comprised Calliope (the child genius), Octavia (her overbearing mother), Peregrine (her hipster father) and 4 year-old twin brothers, as yet unnamed.
“We’re waiting for a Labour government first because then the whole ordeal will be less traumatic for them,” Peregrine explained.
“Watch out for the fat one – he’s a biter. He ate three of the gerbils in my control group,” Calliope warned. “Octavia, it’s 3 o’clock.”
Interviewer: What happens at 3 o’clock?
“I give Calliope her feed.”
Interviewer: Her what?
“She’s still on breast milk,” Octavia stated matter-of-factly, now fumbling underneath her burka. “Excuse me for a minute. I’m afraid these are more form over function.”
Interviewer: I was going to ask you about that, actually. Isn’t that a Peperami in your bag?
“Oh, I’m not Muslim,” she grimaced. “I don’t even believe in God. It’s more of a statement.”
Interviewer: Got it, but getting back to the feed: are you telling us that Calliope has lived on nothing but breast milk since she was born?
“Oh, no. I add my own juices to it as well.”
[viewers stopped eating at this point]
Interviewer: Please, God, tell me we’re talking about lemon grass.
“I have a juicer for vegetables and fruit,” Octavia confirmed, “but I also have all their placentas in the freez-“”
It was a shame really because Calliope seemed like a nice kid who wasn’t bothered whether or not she won Child Genius. Octavia, however, was on a mission. After years of subjecting her first born to stem cell shakes and hyperbaric chambers, this TV programme would vindicate her once and for all. After all, it wasn’t about the children; she was the true genius and, by her own calculations, Calliope only needed to make it to Week 4 before TV producers and the viewing public realized this. After that it would be book deals, speaking tours and Oprah.
Interviewer: Calliope, do you have any regrets about coming onto the progreamme? Did you ask to come on it?
“To be honest, I’d rather be doing something else,” she wrinkled her nose.
Interviewer: Playing with your gerbils?
“Gambling online. Every minute I’m in this stupid studio I’m losing money.”
Interviewer: I beg your pardon?
“My game’s Poker. Last night I was about to beat the bubble until my Aces got cracked. I ended up folding faster than Superman on wash day. I looked like a total fish,” she rolled her eyes.
Interviewer: Uh, okay. So you won’t be going to Oxford then?
“Oh, I’ll be going to Oxford,” she arched an eyebrow, “but it won’t be Flash Cards I’ll be playing with, if you catch my drift.”
Interviewer: How will you balance gambling with your studies? And is it even legal? You’re too young to gamble, aren’t you?
Calliope discreetly opened her Frozen II pencil case to reveal a wad of crisp one-hundred dollar bills. Drawing one out, she folded it expertly with one hand until she’d fashioned a small fish, which she handed to me.
“Why don’t you go buy yourself something pretty and leave the legal stuff to me? After all, who’s the genius here?” she asked, morphing from Girl Guide to Al Capone before my eyes.
Interviewer: What about your mother’s plans for you?
“Octavia’s seeking validation but it can’t come through me. Her insecurities stem from a lifetime’s inability to rise above her own mediocrity. The whole breastfeeding thing’s a manifestation of it: she believes she’s passing on matriarchal wisdom when she pumps that junk which, for the record, I pour straight down the drain. I prefer a single malt – it keeps me clear-headed.”
Interviewer: Won’t she be disappointed though?
“When isn’t she? Look, do you want me to wrap this up nice and neatly for your viewers at home? Give them my take on life?”
Interviewer: Please, do.
“Okay, here we go… in life, you need to play the hand you’re dealt. If you don’t like the dealer, switch tables and if you don’t like the odds, switch games. Then again…” she said coyly, throwing a piece of popcorn into the air and catching it in her mouth, “I’m just a kid, so what do I know?”
Those folks who claim the Earth is flat
Can’t tell us where the edge is at
Perhaps a flat brain can’t absorb
As much as one shaped like an orb
Imagine sitting by a lake
And wondering what it would take
To calculate its area
The formula would scare ya.
Or fancy while beneath a tree
You’re struck by thoughts of gravity
Quite tough with which to grapple
Whilst snacking on an apple.
Or say you’re watching tortoises
When what you start to notice is
Through lack of adaptation
They face annihilation.
Imagine peering into space
Amazed how it all hangs in place
Then arguing dark matter
Might make the cosmos scatter.
Great minds considered these and more
From ancient Greece to Ecuador
This group of geeks is quite well-versed
At sorting out our universe.
What theorem might I devise?
Am I not wise? There is some doubt
For I’ve just only realised
You close the fridge, the light goes out…
“I think my dry cleaner’s been wearing my clothes at weekends,” Laverne announced.
“How do you know?”
“Last night she posted a picture of herself in a dress identical to one I dropped off two days ago.”
“How’d she look in it?” I asked tentatively.
“Want me to cut her?”
“We’ll swing by on the way home. On Saturdays, the old man leaves around noon so she’ll be on her own,” she gave it some thought, “but right now I need something to eat.”
We’d journeyed into Manchester for lunch due to a lockdown in our own town. Nacho Daddy was a tapas bar in the student quarter where, upon entry, all diners were required to sign in and leave a contact phone number. Reaching for the clipboard Laverne hesitated, her hand hovering over the sign-in sheet. Upon reflection, she dropped a business card and ordered me not to touch anything.
“Him over there,” she gestured towards a table of businessmen as we sat down, “the fat one. He was the last person to touch the pen.”
“How do you know?” I was intrigued.
“Because his food hasn’t arrived yet and the ink was smudged.”
“Are you saying he licked the sign-in sheet?”
“I’m saying fat people sweat more than normal people.”
“Normal people?” I balked.
“Sure. Ever stood behind one waiting to buy an ice cream?”
“Babies are born fat and they’re normal.”
“Some babies are born fat; the greedy ones. The rest of us come out as nature intended. All I’m saying is, he was the last person to touch that pen and there isn’t enough hand sanitizer in the world-”
“-you should have been a spy.”
“How do you know I’m not?” she countered, now scrutinizing the cutlery. “For all you know I might be in the Secret Service.”
“Which would mean that’s not a real watch.”
“Well spotted, my friend. This gizmo’s actually a teeny, tiny voting machine.”
“And the brooch?”
“Emergency filler for Melania.”
“There’s not much of it,” I queried.
“Slovenians are notoriously small-boned.”
“Hey, you said Melania. I thought spies used code names while working in the field.”
“She goes by Lady Penelope because she starts every day with a bowl of Ferrero Roche cereal. Pure class.”
“And what’s his code name?”
“This month he’s Mr Whippy.”
“And last month?”
“The Mean Tangerine. He lets me choose them.”
“I love it. Got any survival tips?”
“Stay low and move fast. Oh, and stop chatting to strangers; it unnerves them,” Laverne chided. “Have you seen a waiter anywhere?”
“Right here,” a young man appeared. “What may I get you to drink?”
“Dark rum and Coke, please,” Laverne ordered. “Excuse me, but are you Portuguese?”
“I’m impressed,” he lit up. “Yes, I’m from Lisbon.”
“I’ve been to Lisbon. It’s beautiful.”
“I grew up there but my parents retired to The Algarve.”
“Can’t blame them. I wouldn’t want Madonna for a neighbour either,” I winced. “Crotchless panties flapping away on a clothes line just over the fence? No thank you.”
“The devil’s bunting,” Laverne’s eyes narrowed. “You weren’t warned about that in Fatima.”
“No, we weren’t,” our waiter laughed. “I did see her coming out of City Hall once. She looked straight at me.”
“Well, you be very careful because you’re just her type,” Laverne warned. “And while we’re on the subject: why are Iberian men so good looking anyway?”
“Because our mothers are all beautiful,” the waiter replied.
“Aww…” Laverne melted. “I’ll bet you go to church as well, don’t you?”
“St Joseph’s. I’ll bring your drinks over in a minute.”
“He seems like a nice guy,” I decided, watching as he made his way over to the bar.
“And that’s exactly what gets an agent killed on his first day. You’re too trusting.”
“What should I do?”
“I’ll taste-test your food before you eat it,” Laverne insisted.
“The last time you did that I hardly had any dessert left.”
“Rice pudding’s tricky. There’s a whole chapter on it.”
“So what are you going to do about your dry cleaner then?” I returned to matters.
“Mess with her head. I’m going to start dropping off dresses which are a size too small for me, but before I do I’ll change the labels.”
“Why bother going to all that trouble with the labels if she won’t be able to fit into them?”
“Because she’ll think she’s putting on weight and she won’t know why.”
“Whoa!” I sucked in my breath at the evil genius of it. “Most guys would just throw a punch and that would be the end of it.”
“Now where’s the fun in that?” Laverne purred. “Wouldn’t you rather watch your enemy slowly go mad?”
“Hey, would you ever mess with my head?”
“You’re not a Size 10.”
“Neither are you but answer the question.”
“What do you think?” she raised an eyebrow.
“I think you’re smart but I’m smart too.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yep,” I was adamant.
“So then, let me put this to you: have you ever ordered a dessert you know I don’t like?”
While teaching a class of 12 year olds, one student asked about the origins of life.
[For the record, she was supposed to be conjugating the present tense of avoir]
“Can you narrow it down a bit for me?”
“Well, something had to start something so what started everything?” Lucy wondered.
“It’s a kind of Chicken & Egg Theory question, that one.”
“What do you mean, sir?” she persisted.
“Whenever we contemplate the origin of anything we often ask Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Some questions we just can’t answer. Well, not yet anyway but I think we’re getting closer.”
Lucy stared at nothing in particular but I could see her wheels were turning.
“And now I’ve confused you,” I laughed.
“Only because you’re confused, sir,” she stated, as respectfully as possible. “The answer to the Chicken & Egg Theory is easy. Chickens are birds. Birds are descendants of dinosaurs. Dinosaurs didn’t give birth to live young but laid eggs, therefore the eggs some dinosaurs laid eventually evolved into chickens through a process called speciation.“
A colleague once told me, “The best thing about being a teacher is that we are, indeed, the smartest people in the room.”
Some days I’m not so sure.