‘meVo-deVo’ #1

Posted: July 15, 2013 in Humour, meVolution, Science
Tags: , , ,
‘meVo-deVo’  #1 – ‘Learn Something New Every Day’.
Change must come…

Good to be here even though I’m not really here at all. Well, I am at the moment, here I mean, writing this, tapping away at the keyboard, but by the time the photons begin their short voyage from this screen to their ultimate destruction on the retina of your eyes, I won’t be – here, that is. I’ll probably be out walking the dog or washing the dishes, or, quite possibly I could be dead. The one thing that is certain is that I’ll have changed. I won’t be the same person I was when I left this trail of ordered letters for you to find. I will have evolved in many ways – some more than others. My physical evolution will include mutations at the cellular level, most of which will be harmless, some of which may well be deadly. My fate possibly sealed in the short white moment between this paragraph and the next.

I will have changed personally, too. I will have learned a few things, and forgotten a few others, but hopefully the ledger of functioning neurons will remain steadily in the black, at least for a while yet.

Most of this newly accrued knowledge will be small stuff, not quite the detritus of learning but supporting stuff – additions to the scaffolding of my world-view. Occasionally though, something moves our comprehension along so significantly that it remains seared into the mind as datum points in our understanding of things. I’ve had this experience closing the last page of a Steinbeck novel, or reading Darwin’s insightful prose, or proving Young’s wave-theory of light to myself with a shoe-box and a light bulb, at night, alone, under the quilt, in the dark.

Similar to the way evolutionary biologists can trace the mutations in mitochondrial DNA to a single African female living approximately two hundred millennia ago, I can follow these datum points back through time to a specific moment in my life. A point of infinite density. A point of ignorance one might say. It was fourteen years ago, but as we’ve just qualified this post to be categorised and tagged under Science, as well as Humour, let’s call it ‘T=Zero hours’. A nano-second following ‘T=Zero hours’ I’d reached an event horizon – a point of no-return. A prime mover, the significance of which, though hardly in the league of Steinbeck, Darwin, or Young, was far from the mundane, for it was to totter a giant domino that, as it fell, would knock a switch that would release a steel ball that would run down a slope which would connect an electrical circuit that would roll the opening credits of a brand new story with the words: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

Okay, it didn’t do that, but it did herald an expansion of my own, admittedly insignificant universe. A new chapter in the scheme of all things me.

I recall it like it was yesterday – which it wasn’t, it was twelve hours before ‘T=Zero hrs’. Technically it was ‘T minus 00:12:00hrs’ or so, and I was in the kitchen Frontlining™ the kids – two girls, Seven and Eleven. I’m aware of the controversy surrounding the application of flea and tick treatments to young children, or indeed, naming them after prime numbers – and will attempt to tackle both issues in another article – for now suffice it to say it was approaching summer, there was a hosepipe ban, and they’d just been dropped off from a sleepover in Sunderland.

Sometimes as Parents we are left with little choice.

Once bitten…

So there I was, in the kitchen, Frontlining™ the kids when one of our dogs – a border collie called Molly – popped her head through the door, and, seeing the Frontline Pipette®™ went to do a quick One-Eighty – she hated being Frontlined, she still does – it gives her a rash similar to the one it gave to Seven and Eleven.

However, before she could complete her escape I grabbed her and, pulling her face close to mine, said, in that kinda’ friendly aggressive sort of a way, “Your next Bitch!

Seven and Eleven laughed.

Molly bit me. On the nose. Badly.

Being due on stage at Newcastle’s ‘Chirpy Chappies Comedy Café’ in less than two hours, I ran to the hallway mirror to conduct triage and assess the damage. There was blood everywhere. My jugular, in an opposite manner to scrotal matter, had apparently migrated north over the years, up from my neck to my nose, and was now lying open, severed – the Cab’ Sauv’ of life pumping freely from between my fingers onto our hallway full-length-going-out-mirror. I looked like a cross between Coco the Clown and a Halal meat factory.

I panicked. I have a tendency to panic in such panicky situations. I envisaged having to wear a silver prosthetic nose like the 16thcentury astronomer Tycho Brahe, or Lee Marvin’s alter-character in the film Cat Balou. The panic subsided for a second as both pictures floated slowly, Homer Simpson like, through my mind. Lee Marvin, ‘hmmm, cool’. Tycho Brahe, ‘hmmm’, cooler’. He lost his nose in a duel to decide a question of science (if only he’d read Popper). He even had a pet Elk which died after falling down a flight of stairs, drunk – how cool is that! And it is suspected that he himself died from poisoning due to the mercury content of his false nose – proof in the maxim, if it was ever needed, that ‘all that glitters is not necessarily gold’ – or, indeed, silver, eh, Tycho?

My moment of anaesthetic reverie was ripped aside in an instant (“doh!) by my partner Jane, who was approaching rapidly, towel in hand, screaming, “Oh, my God? Oh my God? What have you done?” Indeed. What had I done.

Much less than I’d initially thought, apparently.

We stopped the blood-flow, and the panic, and Jane assured me that it wasn’t half as bad as it looked and that I wouldn’t have to endure the teasing and the finger-pointing that would accompany the joy of wearing a silver prosthetic nose and, still further, I wouldn’t even have to beg off work that evening?

“What? I can’t go to work looking like this! Are you mad, Woman?”

She grabbed her bag and five minutes later passed me a mirror.

Witch!

In 1962 Arthur C Clarke penned the axiom that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. What I saw in that mirror was without doubt indistinguishable from magic. Gone was the blood, the welt, the wound. Gone. All gone. Totally, utterly, and absolutely gone. I would have bellowed the word ‘Witch!’ had I not suddenly remembered the continued presence of the couple from Sunderland who’d dropped off Seven and Eleven – they’d been sat in the living room throughout the screaming and the blood and the snot and the tears – no doubt awkwardly, and, by us, completely forgotten. They left at the same time as I left for work. I’d offered them comps’ on the door for ‘Chirpie Chappies’, but they’d shuffled and politely declined – preferring to return home to Sunderland. I’ve no idea why? I think of it as a form of Stockholm syndrome. They had that look of Christianity about them, and that’s a form of Stockholm syndrome, too.

Anyway, back to the magic. What got me on stage that night was something hitherto unknown, both to me, and, according to research done since by myself, to the heterosexual male population of the United Kingdom. This something, this alchemical substance that had taken nearly forty three trips around the Sun for me to discover, is known to its initiates – who are apparently legion – as ‘Concealer’.

Yeah, so, and?

Yes, yes, but how, I hear you ask, does my belated discovery of the magic of Concealer manage to gain ranking alongside those provided by Steinbeck and Darwin et al as pivotal moments in my understanding of things?

The simple answer is that it didn’t, it doesn’t, it wouldn’t, it couldn’t, it can’t and it won’t.

Let me be clear, I have no wish or desire to push the merits of Concealer, numerous though these are, above and beyond its actual value as a product that successfully hides or masks dermatological abnormalities or blemishes. I relate the above merely to describe the events just prior to ‘T=Zero hrs’.

T=Zero hrs

I awoke the following morning at exactly ‘T=Zero hrs’. I know this as I recall glancing at the bedside clock as two excited children bounced into the room and then onto the bed – it said ‘T=0:00:00hrs’.

They cleaned, rather lovingly I might add, a rather sore parental nose, utilising a large bowl of exceptionally cold water and at least half a ton of cotton-wool balls before gently re-applying the magic of Concealer.

Seven and Eleven inspected the treated nasal area. Satisfied, they looked at one another, “What did Daddy learn today?” asked Eleven, “Daddy learned something new!” retorted Seven, before both chorusing loudly, “Learn Something New, Ev-er-ree Day. Young or Old, in Ev-er-ree Way, Learn Something New,  Ev-er-ree Day!”  They then ‘high-fived’ each other in that rather annoying affectation of American imperialism, before running off, giggling.

‘Learn something new, every day. Young or Old, in every way, learn something new, every day!’

I’d taught them that.

I found myself smiling, somewhat proudly.

Learn something new every day of your life. I’d inherited the phrase from my Granddad. It’s what he used to say to me when I was a kid: “Learn something new every day” he’d say. Not that he ever took his own advice, mind – he was eighty seven when he died – knew absolutely everything about nothing – or should that be nothing about everything? Either way he was a prime example of the Dunning Kruger effect whereby the exceptionally stupid not only fail to recognize their own incompetence, but suffer from an illusion of intellectual superiority. Think Sarah Palin, George ‘Dubya’ Bush, and the entire UK Cabinet. My Granddad, though poor and only just removed from Irish peasantry, was up there with the best of them. I once asked him what made the wind. “Where does the wind come from Granddad?” He thought about it for no more than a moment and said, quite confidently: “It’s the tree’s waving”.

The trees waving. It’s almost poetic, I know, but you wouldn’t want someone with this much cognitive bias to be operating on the tonsils of your youngest child, would you? We all regret that, now, of course.

I never corrected his nonsense, ever, even when I knew him to be wrong – not once, for he was a nice old man, really, and I loved him dearly. I suppose he was just one of these people who like dishing out advice that doesn’t really apply to them?

He’s in good company, of course; I saw the Queen of England do exactly this a few months back at the opening of the British parliament. She spoke about austerity and belt-tightening, cut-backs, and working harder for longer for less – all the while, on her head a hat worth three quarters of a billion quid. One diamond in it, the Cullinan II – two hundred million pounds sterling.

Still, some people are in a position to do more damage than others with their ignorance, and when all said and done it’s not a bad motto to live your life by, is it, ‘Learn something new every day’?  I found myself repeating it to my own kids fairly early on, like when they took their first faltering step from their mother’s arms into mine, or put the square peg in the square hole, or came home from their first day at school: “Learn something new every day”.  I’d been saying it to them ever since – hence their unadulterated glee at throwing it back at me.

I smiled again, but just briefly for it was then the epiphany hit me – ‘Shit! What if they ask me where the fucking wind comes from?

My smile subsided into almost instant melancholia. A rapidly deepening depression that had little to do with the encroaching chill from the water bowl they’d upset upon their retreat from the bedroom. No, this descent into the dark depths was due to the realization that this constant invocation to learning, so well parroted minutes before by Seven and Eleven, had been all but ignored by the very person demanding it – me.

I wasn’t following my own advice.  And it wasn’t just that I’d settled into adulthood, parenthood and middle-age, as one does, before becoming more and more right-wing whilst slowly turning into ones’ Dad – No. here I was, dishing out advice that I obviously felt didn’t apply to me.

I’d leapfrogged a whole generation, completely by-passing my Dad – whoever he was – and was turning directly into my Granddad.

I felt suddenly colder. Shameful. Sad. A solitary tear drove down my cheek only to hang precariously from my jaw line. It waited for the rest of itself to catch up until, heavy enough with sorrow, and guilt, it fell. As it fell I heard a loud, slow, booming tick – a tick so loud it shook the bed… then another, ‘BOOM’

I looked at the clock – it read, ‘T+0:00:02hrs’

TO BE CONTINUED…

Stay tuned for the next installment of ‘eVo deVo’ in:

‘eVo deVo’  #2  ‘The Wrath of Can – or was it Can’t?’.

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