A lot of my key memories of my childhood aren’t really mine. They are of incidents that I don’t have my own memory of, but which I talked about and laughed about with my parents so many times that they have become canon. I suspect this is pretty common: most of the memories that most people have of their early childhood are not authentic.
But some are. And the reason I know this is because there are little incidents that I never told anyone else about — so there has never been this reinforcement that you get from do-you-remember-when and what-about-the-time-when. A trivial example: I remember stopping in a cafe with my mum when we were shopping, smelling real coffee for the first time, and being mesmerised by the tanks of juice with their paddles constantly churning. I would have been very young: maybe two, perhaps three years old.
To my complete astonishment, I am 49 years old today. If someone suddenly leaped out in front of me on the street and shouted “Quick! How old are you?” and I had no time to think, I’d probably say something like 27. It’s sobering to realise that’s not much more than half of my real age. Where did it all go?
Due to a miscommunication, Fiona bought me (among other things) 48 walnut whips — a box of 16 boxes, containing three each. This renders all the more relevant the card that Jonno (our youngest, at the bottom of the photo) gave me. As you can see in the picture, he modified the “DAD” on the front of it to read “FAT”. I certainly will be.
As an offshoot from my tweeting about a session at the AAAS meeting, I found myself challenged: “what are some practical things you did with your sons when they were young to nurture critical thinking?”
Given that I wrote some brief answers in response, I thought I might as well write them up here. This is by no means exhaustive, just a few thoughts and memories.
A few days ago, THINK! — a confusingly named education group at the UK Government’s Department for Transport — published this 46-second-long video aimed at cyclists:
Its message is — to quote the caption at the end — “Don’t get caught between a lorry and a left turn”.
Way back in 2011, a commenter on this blog asked “Where is this soul? If it can’t be measured, it is not real.”
Our lives are made up of a hundred things that are real but not measurable even in principle. The quality of sunlight that transforms your mood after a week of overcast days; the poignancy of Still Crazy After All These Years; the heart-swelling sense of honour and decency when Santos offers Vinick the post of Secretary of State; the piercing half-real clarity of Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte; love.
A week on from my declaration that I’m giving up politics, my mind has settled a little more, and I realise more fully what I meant by that. I remain interested — fascinated, even — by fundamentals: what you might call political philosophy. What I have no time for or patience with is current affairs: the specific set of events and personalities that are in the news right now. That stuff is both ephemeral and monumentally frustrating, so best ignored. But the core issues continue to exercise me.
So when should we use a nuclear deterrent?
I checked Twitter this morning, to find that the man who plunged the UK into its greatest international crisis since WW2 is now Foreign Secretary, and that a man who had to resign from Defence and was somehow not jailed for appalling leaking, is in charge of International Trade.
What both these appointment tell me is that for people in the game — and it is a game — nothing they do has consequences. Destroy our relationship with the continent? Never mind. Bring a mate along to top-secret meetings? Not to worry. Welcome back into the fold.