Monday, 30 April 2012

Do androids dream of electric baristas?

10 and a half years ago I was dressed in red and black in the middle of Sheffield at Gatecrasher, most likely holding a glow stick or a cigarette. I was surrounded by similarly dressed folk, all of whom were grinning and waving their arms in the air and occasionally shouting Whoop or Whatsyournamewhereyoufrom? The room was full of smoke machine atmosphere and lasers. My knuckles were swelling up from clutching my glow stick and I have vague memories of trying to work out the entire London Underground route map as a mathematical equation while I was dancing to one tune or another, as far as I recall the answer I reached was my phone number which I thought was a wonderful coincidence and which made me smile for hours. I'm sure that was my last club night, shortly thereafter me wife flew (on angels wings) from Hanging Rock and my life took the left spur to foreign adventure, migration, parenthood and learning to make pasta from scratch.

Yesterday I took my kids to an indoor play warehouse in Sydney, a place full of padded climbing frames, machine guns that fire sponge balls, slides, swings and germs. They climbed, swung, tumbled and shot each other pretty happily while I looked out the window and saw a stage and sound system. There was loud music playing of the kind that never really changes - regular beat, some kind of electric squealing, regular beat, female singing - and I recognised the logo by the stage as an event I'd attended a few times in the UK.

In warehouse there was a musical soundtrack as well but it was interspersed with adverts for Botox (safe, quick and rewarding, don't let life make changes you don't want) and hair salons. I sat and had my "free" coffee as Bear threw himself down an intimidating slide and Toes gathered balls for him to fire at toddlers.

I saw a man in baby blue striped shorts and a pastel pink shirt. He had close clipped hair that was teased into a little mohawk and small glasses. He wore trainer socks and slip on white boat shoes. I was in an unironed flannel shirt and torn jeans (not a fashion statement), my hair hasn't had a cut for a while as nits keep floating around the kids schools and I don't want to go to the barber and be exposed an a nit nest. As I sipped my overly milky coffee I heard Mr Blue Shorts call to his wife

I'll fetch Trixie and Bluebell, can you order me a latte?

His partner, who seemed entirely constructed of balsa wood, slipped her iPhone into a soft seal skin leather sleeve and then into her bag and ordered the coffees through the art of waving, she appeared to say nothing but her gestures implied My Male Life Partner and I Wish To Imbibe Lattes, Make Them Black Clad Man. She dropped a note on the counter and seemed reluctant to collect her change, sliding it with the back of her hand into her bag.

I looked back outside at the now gathering crowds of people waiting for the gig to start. They were bouncing up and down, occasionally waving their hands in the air. They were finding friends in the crowd and hugging. They were pressing forward in anticipation.

Blue shorts got his latte and wrinkled his nose at it, putting it aside after one sip. His partner flicked her iPhone and scrolled through images of coffee tables and horses. Their children, Trixe and Bluebell, punched each other repeatedly in the face.

I poured my coffee in the bin, being quietly happy about the idea that one of the black clad warehouse ninjas would lift the bag and get washed in cold coffee. I jumped on the bouncy castle with Toes and smiled at the idea of her spreading impetigo with each jump. I passed Bear sponge ammunition and tried to send him mental images of shooting Mr Blue Shorts. I wanted to see Mr Blue Shorts head go back and to the left, back and to the left.
Toes needed the bathroom and refused to let me take her.

I go to the girls room Dad, not the boys.

I sat nervously outside hoping she'd made it in, not been pushed aside by some bigger kid or had an accident with gravity and timing. She walked out chatting with an adult and ran back over to me.

Outside a horn sounded and the crowd surged into the field, the stage was pulsing with light and sound and giant inflatable's were bopping in the wind.

Dad, can we go play in there?

No my darlin' Toes, that's for much bigger kids

I am bigger look

She  climbed on the table and showed me how tall she is, then she stared at the crowd who were beginning to dance and started bouncing on her heels.
Bear barrelled over to us


Yes mate?


Yes mate?


Yes mate?

I forgot what I wanted

He tore off again and vanished.

We stuck around for another half hour and then left, walking through crowds of furry, glowing, grinning, pierced, perfumed dancing folk. Toes waved at them and they waved back, Bear most likely didn't notice them. I tried not to look at them being too aware that 10 and a half years ago I didn't have my winter coat of stomach fat or the silver in my hair. 10 and a half years ago the last thing I would have wanted was my future to wave at me and point to its pot belly and offspring.

Throughout the day as they kept dancing I made strawberry iced baby cup cakes.

As they Whooped each new tune I put Winne The Pooh on for the kids to watch.

As they swigged water I took the kids to another park and bumped into other parents I know and talked about ethical shopping and sustainability.

At bed time I wondered about baby blue shorts and how I would look were I to buy some. Would my wife like me more if I moisturised? Should I clip my beard and rub olive oil through it? Do androids dream of electric baristas?

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Your Mum is not a Monkey

Conversations from Toes (my 4 year old daughter) and Bear (my 6 year old son)


Yes mate? 

I am OK at looking after myself you know? 

What do you mean? 

I mean I can look after myself. I know what I can eat and I can put on a DVD 


So when you are dead I'll be OK. Don't worry.


Yes mate? 

Josh's Dad doesn't live with him 

I know that


Yes mate? 

It might be fun if you didn't live with us 

Toes  - That would be horrible. Dad lives with us. My biggest Daddy

I know that. I just mean we could have more bedrooms and watch movies at Dad's house

Toes - Wow - that would be so cool


Yes mate?

Can we watch movies at your house?

I don't have a house, I live at home with you

I know that, but when you don't can we watch movies at your house?

When am I going to die then Bear?

I don't know. Maybe when I am a bit bigger?

How much bigger?

Maybe when I am 10?


Maybe 20?

Mate Granddad is still alive and mum is 38. Do you think I might make it beyond when you are 20?

Can I have an ice cream?

Bear and a friend were shouting in the front room.


Yes mate

We’re arguing about God

Wouldn't you be better arguing about other things? Like who can do the smelliest f-rts?

You can. I know that.

OK, so what is the argument?

He says God does exist but I know he doesn't

That's ok. If he believes God does then there is nothing wrong with that

But you and Mum -

Mum and I don't believe in God.

The Friend  - I am not sure about God but where did Bear’s Grandfathers Grandfathers Grandfather come from?

Do you mean where did the first person come from?

The Friend - Yes

Well we believe people came from monkeys a long time ago

Bear  - Yeah. I cam from a monkey

The Friend - You did not. I know your mum and she is not a monkey



Yes my darlin' Toes

You're my best Dad

I'm you're only Dad

I know that, and you're the best Dad

That means I am also the worst

No you're the best

You're my only daughter, which makes you the best, the worst, the stinkiest and the loveliest

Bear  - Then what am I?

You're my son

You're being mean saying Toes is the best

No, I said she was my best daughter; you're not a daughter are you?

Toes  - Bear’s not a daughter. He's a stinky boy

Me - So what about mum?

Toes - She's the best

Bear - And she's the oldest person I know

What about Grandmother?

Oh yeah, Grandmother's older than Mum

Toes  - So much older

Bear  - Not that much, Mum is really old

Toes  - Mum - you look like a clown. Dad - you look like my biggest hero

Monday, 16 April 2012

Vampire Physics Vs Faith

My 6 year old son(who we’ll call Bear) found a game on the web called Vampire Physics, it’s a series of puzzles where you use gravity to turn humans into vampires. It's simple fun and as there is a vampire there are the standard vampire pitfalls - garlic and crosses. Bear asked why the crosses caused the vampires to catch fire which lead to religion and the following several days of discussion.

Vampires are just stories

Cool stories!

Yes, cool stories. But they are just stories.

Like zombies?


Like dancing zombies?

Well, that was Michael Jackson

Like werewolves?

Yes. Like werewolves and zombies. Now these stories were written long ago. And a long time ago people believed in God. They built churches for God and wore crosses.


Well they had the cross as a symbol of God. They believed God made the world, and they believed that God could destroy anything evil, like Vampires.

By making them catch fire?

Yes. Now since then we've learnt more about the world. We can pretty much explain most thiungs. So where people used to think God made the Earth, we know that it came to be naturally.


Well, there was a big explosion - a long time ago in a galaxy far far away -

and I lost him - he ran off shouting to a tree that he was Indiana Jones and I wondered if this topic would come up again - three weeks later Bear told my wife on the way to school -

I believe in God

She stopped. His school has Scripture classes, which some of his friends attend but which he doesn't. The alternative to Scripture should be Ethics classes, but there aren't enough Ethics teachers at the moment so for that period the non Scripture kids doodle and draw and head butt things.

I want to go to Scripture Class.

He then went on to explain that I’d told him all about God and how God made the world with a spaceship and can how God can destroy vampires. Oops!

Later that day I picked Bear up from school and as we walked he told me he'd seen a real ghost earlier that day.


Yeah, a really real one.

Where did you see it?

He frowned and smacked his head.

I didn't SEE it, I heard it


At school.

And what did you hear?

He stopped and hid behind a tree and howled WoooooooOOOOOOO.

And that was a ghost?

Yeah, it really was!

It wasn't the wind?


So that noise is always a ghost?


We hear that sound at home don't we?

He nodded.

And what is that sound at home?

Uhm - the wind blowing outside.

We reached the service station and he pulled his Ice Cream face.

So was it a ghost?

It really was.

It's more fun to say Ghost then to call it the Wind isn't it?


He dug an Ice Cream out of the freezer and handed me one.

God is really real though Dad, even if ghosts are wind.


Because - if he isn't then who made the first children when there weren't any Mums and Dads?

Brilliant question, I was chuffed with that.

Why does it have to be God who made the first child?

No one else could have made it.

The first child wasn't made, people come from nature. Same as birds, germs, horses and dogs.

But God made the planet.

Did he?

Who else could have?

Which God?

He stopped and sat on a wall, savaging his ice cream.

What do you mean?

Well in China some people believe in a god called Buddha. In India some people believe in a god called Vishnu. In Egypt they used to have a god with a dogs head.

Well - the Buddha god made China, the India god made India and the dog god made Egypt.

Which one made the Earth?

He jumped across a gap in the wall and shouted Indiana Jones.

God is real.

Is Thomas the Tank Engine real?

Yes, I've really been on Thomas, you remember at the mountains?

So that wasn't a pretend Thomas?


OK, what about Bob the Builder?

I saw Bob at the shops once, he's real.


I've never seen them in real life. They're not real.


But I've seen the Bunny in the Moon, he's real.

In Australia the moon is the other way up, the kids have picked out the shape of a rabbits head on the moon.

People have been to the moon haven't they?

He nodded. We have a moon landing popup book at home.

So people have seen the Bunny in the Moon up close haven't they?

He nodded again.

Do you think it looked like a bunny there? Or just from a distance?

I pointed at a cloud.

That cloud looks a bit like a car.

It looks like a fat car.

Is it a car?

No, it's a cloud.

Is there really a Bunny in the Moon?

He chewed his ice cream stick.

It looks like there is, but there isn't.

Have you seen God?


So why do you think he's real?

He paused and frowned.
What is God?

Deep breath and here we go.

He's a story. Before people knew how things worked they thought maybe there was magic behind it all. They thought the stars were where God lived. They liked the idea that he was looking down watching us. God made thunder, God made fire, God made earthquakes. All the things we didn't understand.

Didn't he?

Mum and I don't believe so, no.

You believe he's a story?

Yep. An old story that some people still believe.

God didn't make people?

Nope, people came from monkeys. They grew over a long long time.


Why not? Monkeys look like us.


He swung from a branch and shouted Indiana Jones again.

But God made cars.


He did, he really did.

God made cars? You sure about that?


People make cars Bear.


They learnt. Once there weren't cars. People rode horses. Then someone invented an engine and invented a car. Same with planes. There weren't planes, then someone invented them.

And rockets?


And boats?


And helicopters?



He landed and saw a friend in the distance.

So where did the sun come from?

You'll learn as you get older.


When I have time to Google it, I thought

When you are bigger. Whatever you want to learn, you'll be able to. When you're bigger you'll learn about the stars and the sun and moon.

God didn't make them?

Nope, but if you don't know how they were made it's easy to say that God did. Any time you think the answer to something is God Did It tell me and we'll work out another answer.

His friend turned and saw us and started doing Pokémon power poses. Bear took off running and God went to bed for a while. I told his friends mum about the conversation and she laughed and nodded at her son.

Last night he asked how the boss earns any money when he is the boss? Since the boss pays the people who work for him who pays the boss?

Her husband had ended up drawing him a diagram to demonstrate economics.
I think I’d rather theology, there are less monkeys and vampires in economics.