Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Bikes, snowdrifts and procrastination

It's been ages since the last time I tried to write a novel. With everything going on in my life - first a baby, now another one on the way - I usually just stick to short stories because I can finish them in a timely manner before something breaks the thread of my concentration.

I'm going to try though, mainly because writing short stories feels like playing in the fun pool to me: satisfying, but all the important stuff is happening in the big pool.

The last time I tried writing something it was for National Novel Writing Month a few years back: a novel called "Nine Apple Pips". 


Ungerminated seeds, unfinished novel

It was kind of climate dystopia/detective story that I'd been kicking around for a few years. It was a bad time to try: I'd just been promoted and we were waiting on baby number one. I was also a lot, lot less experienced that I am now and I didn't appreciate two important things:


1) Writing to the clock like NaNoWriMo asks you to do isn't me. It probably works really well for some people, but I find that stories sit in the back of my head as I slowly write them and make much more interesting connections as I go. Racing forward eliminates that and encourages some of my most annoying faults like overusing semicolons. If I'm not concentrating, then my dialogue suffers and, it being against the clock, there's no time to fix it before going on to the next bit. I went through the old files - about 20k worth before I gave up - and spent a good solid hour editing the first page.


Not conducive to grammar; not fun either


2) Proper preparation before starting is everything. The novel was way too dark and bleak (tells you how easy the promotion was going!) and without forward planning and a little tonal balancing, it was turning into an interesting but not fun read. Again, grimdark novels have their place and their audience, but it doesn't really work for me.


Just an occasional ray of sunshine...



Anyway, I've just realised that, in writing this blog post, that I'm procrastinating again. The planning's done: the stage is set and the actors, while not knowing every line, are ready. Time to get started I think.



One last procrastination: Thanks for all the kind feedback about "The Biking Man" story. For some reason, posting it lead to a doubling of page views for the day, so clearly there was something about it that people really liked. Bikes, perhaps? Perhaps "Nine Apple Pips" would've been better with bikes. Perhaps the current effort would be!

Monday, 30 May 2016

Careful...careful...

This afternoon's challenge is to swap Celeste's dirty dolly for the clean (secret) doppleganger without waking her and revealing that there are actually two of them.


Wish me luck.



The Biking Man

A few years ago, I wrote a story called "The Biking Man" for a popular podcast. Every month, in between the interviews and other segments, they'd have a short story, performed by a voice actor. Unfortunately, the parent company cut the funding before it got to my piece so it never got performed. I'm not really sure where that leaves the publishing rights - whether it could ever be submitted to anyone else again - but I can definitely put it up here for people to read. Happy Bank Holiday!



The Biking Man

Once upon a time, there was a man with a bike. This was no ordinary bike. This bike had no corporate logos, carbon-fibre suspension or tungsten brake blocks. It was simple, plain and utilitarian - uncomfortable undoubtedly, but superbly designed for the function of eventually transporting a man from point A to point B.
I first became aware of the Biking Man in January at around the same time as the global media did: when he began crossing the Sahara desert. At first, the news cameras boggled at the sight. The heavy frame of the bike had sunk into the loose sand, leaving the bottom curve of each wheel entirely concealed. Each turn of the pedals must have been a tremendous effort in such cloying terrain, although this never showed on the face of the cyclist. Each turn of the pedals slithered the bike a little further forwards into countless sand dunes and produced a distressing grinding noise as silicon crystals ground to dust in the primitive gears.
The man wouldn't talk to the cameras. When any questions were shouted at him, he would smile a little and continue exactly as before, grind after agonisingly slow grind. This vexed the reporters no end.
They showed his picture on the front of most of the world’s newspapers, especially after he continued cycling through the shifting sands for an entire week without stopping for sleep or rest. He was troublingly difficult to describe. He was dark-skinned, that was obvious, but everything else was less easy to define. He was oldishly young and beautifully ugly. His face bore both the simplicity of the idiot and the serene majesty of genius. His clothes, a t-shirt and shorts, were both slobbishly simple and the height of elegant simplicity. Cycling through the sand clearly required substantial effort, but little of that showed on his face. He was kind and stern and everything to all men.
No-one knew who he was.
This annoyed the media outlets intensely.
Enquiry having proved a dead end, they now switched to ridicule. Look at this man, they would say, what a pointless waste of time and effort cycling through the sand. What a fool this man must be. Let us all laugh at the foolish man.
Under the withering blaze of media attention, he was eventually recognised. A postman in Athens had ridden beside him some weeks before. She’d tried to engage this mysterious man in conversation, but he had remained politely taciturn. Eventually, they’d parted ways and he’d headed towards the port, obviously with the intention of securing a berth on a ship across the Mediterranean Sea.
The bombshell dropped when someone came forwards who recognised him from a cycling lane in Berlin. The media became frenzied. This man had cycled from Berlin to the Sahara desert. Why? He wasn't a celebrity, so it wasn't an effort to rekindle a dying career. No charity laid claim to his considerable efforts. Why else would someone attempt such a feat? Life changing rewards were available for anyone who provided information about his identity or his intentions.
The real global hysteria started when a rather hesitant report came from the Polar One research base at the North Pole. One of the researchers there had seen a man dressed in a t-shirt and shorts cycling past the base early one morning, but had never reported it for fear of ridicule by his colleagues. Appearing from the northern wastes in the middle of a snowstorm, the Biking Man had patiently cycled his bike, one pedal turn at a time, through deep drifts of snow without pause until he vanished into the white blankness to the south.
I think that might’ve been the month that someone started the Church of the Biking Man. His tireless exertions and his tolerance of suffering began to convince some that this was the second coming of Christ. When he serenely cycled out of a lethal sandstorm and into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Church of the Biking Man got another hundred thousand converts and became a loud voice in the international press.
One day, one of the hundreds strong band of reporters snapped and tried to confront him when he approached the suburbs of Cape Town in South Africa. The world held its breath as it watched on the television. To my shame, I thought that the Man would cycle straight through the reporter, turning him to dust.
Who are you? What are you doing? the reporter had screamed at him, inches from his face.
For the first time ever, the Biking Man stopped. He laid a weather-beaten hand on the reporter’s shoulder, smiled gently and looked into his eyes. The reporter’s shoulders slowly sank and he stepped to one side, gaze lowered. According to rumour, the reporter immediately quit his job and quickly returned home to tell his wife that he loved her and to spent time with his son, sailing toy boats on the local duck pond. The media suppressed that story as heavily as they could, but no-one ever stood in the Man’s way again.
I watched every television program about him, even the interview with the Church of the Biking Man's “Grand Axle” which revealed him as a total nutcase. The “Grand Axle” had tried to use the opportunity to attract more donations to his Church to “support his Holy Progress,” but a few eviscerating questions revealed the man as a total charlatan. Despite the deafening roar that his actions were producing around the world, the Man continued on regardless.
After Cape Town, some bright spark with a computer worked out that the Biking Man was heading, almost directly, for the South Pole. The world went completely crazy at that point. The internet, the radio, the newspapers and the television channels were totally consumed with speculation about the Man, the purpose for his journey and what would happen when he reached there. There was an unequal split of opinion: two-thirds of the Earth believed that his arrival at the South Pole would be the beginning of a time of enlightenment, a time where the greedy and evil would repent and all would join together in the Brotherhood of Man. The remaining third were convinced that the Biking Man was the embodiment of evil and that his arrival at his Polar destination would herald the End of All Time, but it is worth noting that no-one actually tried to stop him.
No-one saw him vanish from South Africa. A suspicious series of coincidences and mishaps happened to every news team tracking him. This team took the night off and that team decided to recharge all of their camera batteries at the same time. No-one was fooled by the unlikely coincidences, but no-one could convincingly explain why they’d followed the courses of action that they did.
Eventually, NATO retasked one of its surveillance satellites under considerable media criticism, spotted him in Antarctica, pedalling slowly across the ice and through the snow. Round and round the pedals squeaked. His progress was inexorable, like the slowly ticking heart of the universe. I knew people who left the live feed active overnight to comfort them as they slept. I knew others, who would watch the live feed of the Biking Man serenely cycling through Antarctica blizzards and confess their sins, asking for forgiveness and advice on how to be a better person.
As he neared his destination, the millennial mood at the Scott-Amundsen base became overwhelming. At unbelievable cost, hundreds of observers had been flown in to watch the Biking Man reach the exact South Pole. Some believed that his arrival there would signal the ultimate redemption of Man; some believed that the very Earth would split underfoot and hordes of demonic beasts would surge force and scourge the planet of unbelievers. One December morning, hundreds of observers sat in hastily constructed shelters waiting for his arrival. They were not disappointed. The simple bike and the simply dressed man squeaked into view across the ice, inching nearer and nearer to the Pole.
The tension as he approached was absolutely unbearable. Every television station in the world was showing a live feed of the hazy silhouette pedalling nearer and nearer.
In the strange distortion of time that happens when any event is keenly anticipated, he reached the Pole sooner than anyone expected and stopped suddenly on the exact spot. The world held its collective breath.
The Biking Man alighted from his simple bike and stepped onto the snow, controlling its slow descent on to the ice with a confident, strong arm. He took a little time stretching his arms. He took a little time stretching his legs. He smiled benevolently at the assembled hundreds and the viewing billions.
With a thoughtful look on his face, the Man turned to the assembled horde of cameras and raised his right arm to the heavens. With a warm grin, the Biking Man gave the viewing Earth a sincere thumbs-up.
The Biking Man picked up his bike, turned it around to aim it into the thin snowy valley he had carved on his journey to the Pole and rode off into the distance once more.


Sunday, 29 May 2016

Festival (Part Two)!

LeeStock festival 2016 Part Two: So after Celeste's mammoth sleep, we managed to rush back for a last little bit of festival. Celly insisted that we bring along her 'instunents' - her word - so that she could play along with the people on stage. She tried singing "Baa Baa Black Sheep" along with the musicians too, but it turned out that none of them were doing a nursery rhymes set. Celeste and Lyn shared their first ever waffle on a stick, which Celly gobbled most of before escaping under the table. I just carried on my one man mission to empty the beer tent of all cider and cider-like products.




 (Lyn and I worked out that she's been to more 'Eels' gigs than I've been to gigs total. I'm such a dweeb!)

Festival!

LeeStock Festival 2106 Part One:
So far this morning, we've been at LeeStock 2106 (Celeste's asleep right now so part two will be later). It's been marvellous so far - the music's very good and the cider's coma strength - and as soon as Celly wakes up, we're going right back. It's her very first festival, which gives her an average of one festival every two years - not bad. I, on the other hand, have gone to 3 festivals in 33 years, which averages 1 festival per 11 years. Conclusion: Celeste is cooler than me. Further conclusion: Maths is not my friend.




Lyn has been to dozens more than me, so I know that she's cooler than me and, thinking about it, even the baby on the way has averaged 1 festival in -3 months. I am actually the least cool of my family :'(

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Champion!

After months of trying, our wobbly-legged heroine can finally do the park's climbing frame with no help at all, not even a reassuring finger to hold on to. Champion!

video


Considering I gave up on the last PC game I bought after fifteen minutes, she clearly doesn't get her tenacity from me!

Points for trying

My efforts from a whole morning doing arts and crafts with Celeste. Even she looked unimpressed!


#universitygraduate
#wortheverypenny
#alltheskillsallthetime

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Jurassic Lark

So this week, Celeste's grandparents have been away on holiday. Usually she's with them a few days a week while her Mum and I are both at work, so she's missing them terribly. The biggest confusion for her is why they've gone on holiday. Explaining this to a little person to whom going to a new shop is a holiday was tricky.

In the end, I decided to explain that her Nanny and Grandad wanted to explore somewhere new. This seemed to work for a while, because there was a long pause.

"Looking for dinosaurs, maybe?" came the answer



Majorca, today


Further questioning of my little person revealed a concern that her beloved Nanny and Grandad might be eaten by dinosaurs on their holiday. To allay those fears, I showed her a picture of the lovely villa they're staying at.

Infested with dinosaurs

"Black dinosaurs in the trees!" she said, pointing at nothing in particular. Nothing I said would convince her otherwise.

"Little black dinosaurs babies, friendly," she explained. "Big black dinosaurs scary."

I nodded.

"Eat Nanny 'n' 'Dandad?" she asked, worry crossing her face for the first time.

"No, I'm sure they'll be fine," I reassured her.

"Why?" came the inevitable reply.

"Because they'll be really brave and..." I started before starting to founder. "And run away!"

Celeste nodded sagely, satisfied with that contradiction.



Rude, takes up all the space in the swimming pool, carnivorous


Lesson learned: Big black dinosaurs are dangerous, but the little black ones are fine.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

I'm funny (opinion defeated in household vote)

SCENE JUST NOW: LYN and CELESTE are reading a spelling book about circuses

MIKE (interrupting): "'Acrobats' starts with an 'A' and often ends with an "Aaaaaaaaaaaa!' too".

LYN has a BLANK look on her face

CELESTE has a BLANK look on her face

MIKE: "That's funny, dammit!"

MIKE stomps off to do the washing-up.

#LegendinOwnLifetime

Future me

Note to myself:

Hi Mike - how are you? I'm hoping by the time you read this again, you've actually bothered editing all the long stuff you've written and sent it to someone, rather than endlessly writing new short stories. Yes, I know you get bored editing, but it's really important so just shut up and do it.

Anyway, now that the pleasantries are over, the advice: don't let Celeste (or the new one on the way) wander around without a nappy after consuming a heroic volume of fruit juice. If there is an accident, don't assume that it can't immediately happen again. And again. And again. And again. Don't let your wife know that you're slower at learning negative consequences than a lab rat.

If you do ignore this advice (as I think you might), make sure that you're better stocked with kitchen towel and disinfectant spray next time.


Yours,

Damp Mike

Monday, 9 May 2016

Married to a grammar assassin

Done. 650 words cut out so that the story now just limbos under the 1700 word limit for the competition. Now to worry about if the story’s actually any good!

Extraneous words removed, but does it still work?

When I first started writing, I didn't really believe in editing. I corrected spellings and grammar – that kind of thing – but I naively assumed that every word I wrote was vital to the plot or the atmosphere of the piece somehow. Experience has taught me differently: that words can sometimes get in the way of a story, rather than build it. The fact that I could safely remove a quarter of the words from this short story and it still works is just the most recent proof.

Now though, it goes through the most fearsome part of the process. Not submitting it to an editor, but letting my wife – a woman who studied English at St Andrews University and has more letters after her name than I have letters in my entire name – read it. She is the most sweet-natured person I know, but she can smell flabby prose from a mile away.


Where grammar assassins are trained

If I get it past her without it drowning in red ink, then I’ll have done well.


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Last push on the short story edit

1700 word target.

550 words removed so far.

76 words to go.

The tension is killing me.


Saturday, 7 May 2016

Shell Game

A few years ago, I won a Waterstones Crime Writing Competition with a story called "Tomb Town": a published author had picked it out as the best of the bunch. Unfortunately, the magazine it was scheduled to be published in (Suffolk and Norfolk Life) felt that it was too dark and asked me to write something new. In 48 hours.

Two very busy days later, I submitted "Shell Game" and it got published in the September of that year. I've included it below and I'll stick "Tomb Town" up later. It's still my favourite of the two, dark or not.


Shell Game



I don’t understand,” said Kelvin, staring up at the sculpture. “There’re no shells here, but there’re huge metal scallop shells sitting on the beach.”

We all have our crosses to bear: mine is my new superior officer, DCI Kelvin – crass, balding and fat.

I looked at him incredulously. London had sent him here a month ago, but he still knew nothing about the area.

The town has a long history…” I started but Kelvin walked away mid-sentence, crunching unsteadily across the loose shingle.

DC Guyton…are you coming?” he called back irritably. I smothered my sharp reply and followed, picking my way carefully around the clumps of leafy plants erupting through the stones. Kelvin showed no such consideration, crushing them underfoot obliviously.

Perhaps I was being unkind to him. It was still very early in the morning; I’d been awoken at 4am by my wife poking me in the ribs as the phone downstairs rang shrilly. A body had been found on the beach and my presence was required immediately. There’d been no time to make proper coffee; I’d settled for stale instant grains from a dusty jar. Even with that chemical fortification, I couldn't be cheerful this early. It was the height of summer, but even the sun hadn't fully risen yet and its pale radiance cast reaching shadows across the tall terraces of shingle.

The body had been found by the sculpture by a local resident out for an early morning constitutional. It still sat, propped up against the flat, rear scallop shell, serenely staring out at the sun rising over the ocean.

What do you think?” Kelvin asked, nodding down at it.

I didn't reply. The body was of a middle-aged woman, dark-haired but greying slightly, dressed casually under a thin beige jacket. There was no sign of a struggle and no obvious indicator of death. I would've ascribed it to a natural cause, if not for the shabby briefcase that yawned open beside her legs.

It was full of money but, more precisely, half-full of money: £50 notes bundled together by thick rubber bands. Scrupulously half-full, like some pedant had meticulously measured the case’s interior, before removing exactly half. I wondered what it meant. A death from natural causes would've left a full briefcase here; a robbery would've left no briefcase at all.

I was about to say as much to Kelvin, but the sounds of an argument interrupted me. Along the beach, near a cluster of weather-beaten fishing sheds, a few of the attending constables were engaged in fierce debate with a photographer and woman with a notebook.

The local press. It hadn't taken long for word to spread. I’d known they’d eventually arrive, but I’d been hoping for more time. As the sun rose higher, the constables would start fending off tourists, swimmers and interested locals. I wondered if we had enough uniforms with us to control the growing crowd.

I’ll talk to the press, Guyton,” Kelvin smiled. “It is my case after all.”

I didn't dignify that with an answer and turned back to the body as Kelvin crunched over to the peeling black paint and weather-warped wood of the fishing huts. I’d have to do the real work myself, obviously.

I pulled on some latex gloves from my coat pocket and crouched down by the body. From beneath her beige jacket’s zip, a smudge of dark discolouration on her t-shirt peeked out and, sure enough, when I twitched the material aside, a small bullet wound glared angrily out above a long bloody stain that stretched down her whole left side.

Murder, then, but there was no bullet hole through the jacket. Someone had walked right up to her, slipped the gun under her jacket and shot her, face-to-face, at point-blank range. Someone she knew and trusted.

The hairs on the back of my neck rose. In all the years I’d worked here, there’d never been a murder. It had always been a peaceful, beautiful seaside town; nothing ever cast a shadow over it. It was exactly the kind of shocking case that could develop a solid reputation for me.

I turned my attention to the briefcase and the cash which half-filled it. The case itself was unremarkable: some generic brand with imitation leather and cheap brass clasps. There were dozens like it. I’d had one as an unimaginative Christmas present years before. I gently picked up a bundle of money. The rubber band was worn; clearly it had been used many times before, but the bank notes were clean and unwrinkled. When I examined them more closely, a strong solvent smell assaulted my nostrils.

Could they be counterfeit?


I smiled secretly at the irony. This poor woman hadn't got what she was expecting, but clearly neither had her killer…

Naughty Daddy

Celeste: Take Daddy's glasses away

Me: Why?

Celeste: Daddy naughty.

Me: Why? 

Celeste: Daddy move Dolly.

Me: Why?

Celeste: Don't know.


Lesson learned: Celeste isn't the only one who can keep asking why (this one's a victory! Or it will be once I get my glasses back!)

Editorial Jenga


312 words to eliminate...

Steady. Steady.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

A fool returns to his folly

Now that Hurricane Celeste is asleep, I can get back to editing my story. I must've gotten close to the word limit last night.

No. I'm still 700 words over a word limit of 1700.

How much more I've got to do :(

This feels like a game of Jenga except instead of wooden blocks, I'm easing whole sentences out and hoping the whole thing doesn't come crashing down.

630 words to go.

Steady hands.

Circular logic

So I'm trying to change Celeste's nappy this morning, when she snatches it out of my hands, runs off into another room and hides it. When she comes back:

Celly: Naughty for hiding nappy
Me: Why did you hide the nappy?
Celly: 'Cos I'm naughty.
Me: Why are you naughty sweetheart?
Celly: 'Cos hid nappy.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Okay...I give in!

Clearly my brain isn't going to leave me in peace until I edit this story.



Adverbs, here I come.

Life decisions

Celeste went to the zoo today with my Mum and Dad and saw lions and parrots and other animals that I can't understand when she says. She's had a picnic, a huge ice-cream and got to see the tortoises being fed. After that, she had a nap in the sunshine.

I spent today in a computer lab with the blinds drawn (because otherwise the screens are invisible in direct sunlight), listening to my students stress about their imminent exams. I am so very, very envious.

Lesson learned: Don't ever grow up.


On the writing front, I'm aiming to get something submitted for a competition on the 16th May, except that the word limit is 1700. My entry isn't finished yet and it's creeping north of 2000. I suspect that a heavy session with the editor's pen is in order.

Or I could play Battlefleet Gothic on my PC for a while.

Choices, choices.


Monday, 2 May 2016

"Bottom of the Barrel"

When I'm not dealing with Hurricane Celeste, I write fiction. It's been a hobby of mine for years, on and off. With Celeste down for the night (cross-fingers), I started thinking of the first story I ever got accepted by a magazine: "Bottom of the Barrel". It started just as a stab at humorous flash fiction, mainly to prove to my wife that I could write something that wasn't bleak. The real joke was that it got accepted straight away (by Lakeside Magazine) and all of the other stuff struggled through multiple rewrites.



It seemed to do quite well; they even described it as one of the most popular of that anthology. Despite my pretentious to being the next Steven King, my funny stuff always seems to go down better.

Anyway, for memory's sake, I've added it below (you can tell by reading it the sort of films I watched when I was little!)


***


Bottom of the Barrel”

Frankly, I don’t rate my chances very highly. Of all the people to try, I am probably the least worthy and the least likely to succeed. I suspect that I have less than thirty minutes until it all starts. My efforts, and most probably my life, will be over seconds after that.

It all started when Gigalith the Destroyer descended from the sky in a roar of violet flame into the heart of New York. I'm not going to pretend that I was there when it happened, like so many of my colleagues used to do. When that colossal machine arrived, I was presenting a rather derivative paper at an obscure conference, attended by three colleagues from my own laboratory and another scientist who showed no interest and just coughed loudly throughout my presentation. The first I knew of Gigalith’s visitation was on my hotel room's television when I saw the hundred foot tall robot standing in Central Park, gleaming imperiously in the early sunrise.

I even managed to miss it when the Destroyer rampaged through the city, destroying every structure with flashes of deadly energy that pulsed from its expressionless black eyes.

Of course, the military fought back – furiously and skilfully, it must be said. Gigalith shrugged off every shell, rocket and bullet without pause and used the flame jets to leap through the atmosphere to Chicago. Again it stood silent and motionlessly for a whole day, weathering the pounding explosions of increasingly desperate military forces, before rampaging unchecked through the evacuated buildings of the Windy City.

The nuclear warhead that they dropped on Chicago didn't even scuff the shiny metal shell. It was insulting how little attention the robot paid to the glowing mushroom cloud as it strode casually through its incandescent heart.
#
Step forwards Doctor Richard Stanhauser – one of the greatest scientific minds of our generation. Volunteering immediately after Chicago’s incineration, he and his team were put to work in a military lab and rapidly produced a powerful multi-spectrum laser capable of reducing a Main Battle Tank to glowing slag in seconds. The Destroyer had reached Toyko by that point and Doctor Stanhauser raced ahead of it to set up his laser in its path. I'm told that the battle itself was both terrible and wonderful. When the gigantic laser powered up, Toyko’s neon lights dimmed in a disturbing ripples of darkness and, when the weapon fired, the air along the laser’s path ionised into a bewildering spectrum of colours. It’s just a pity that it didn't work and Gigalith the Destroyer stamped Stanhauser, his support team and the multi-spectrum laser into the asphalt.

I think that’s when the military really started to panic. They called a huge conference whilst Gigalith was busy destroying Mexico City and ordered “all scientists” to attend it. Geology is a fine field of study, but generating useful ideas on combating monsters from outer space is probably outside of their normal remit. It was during either this conference or the next that Professor Karen Douglas, the eminent chemist, was chosen to find a way to defeat the robot.

Her plan to use a top secret gaseous compound that rapidly corroded metal was ingenious. The “Formula X” gas reduced Mexico City’s abandoned cars to scattered atoms in seconds, but did nothing at all to the towering machine. Rumour said that there wasn't enough of her ashes left to fill a matchbox.
#
Since then, increasingly panicked global conferences have selected particle physicists (proton beams don’t work), volcanologists (neither do erupting volcanoes) and mathematicians (the Destroyer is uninterested in devious paradoxes or logic puzzles) and none of them have had any success whatsoever. It’s been two years now. I’d say that we were scraping the bottom of the barrel, but we went past that point some time ago. We’re now at the point where even an unattractive, unsuccessful scientist like me can seem appealing.

Obviously, someone has been reading a little too much War of the Worlds, because it’s been decided that a microbiologist would be just the ticket to defeat an extra-terrestrial enemy. It’s a pity that no-one bothered to ask me what sort of microbe I worked with before they abandoned me in the path of the Destroyer.

I really hope that Gigalith has an allergy to brewer’s yeast, otherwise I'm in a lot of trouble.

Toddler Inflation Case Study 1: Nap time requirements

January: Goodnight kiss
February: Goodnight kiss and a story
March: Goodnight kiss, a story and a song
April: Goodnight kiss, a story and two songs
Today: Goodnight kiss, two stories and two songs
Projection for December: Full Broadway extravaganza

Lesson learned: Never offer optional extras

Complacency

I'm not really new to parenting. I've got a daughter of two and another on the way, so compared to where I was two years ago, I'm much more experienced. I've learned everything I need to know.

Complacency is dangerous with toddlers.



The "Whys" have started this week. This is especially bad because I'm a science teacher which practically means I've got a Hypocratic Oath to answer "Why" questions. Even if they're presented every thirty seconds day after day after day. With a toddler, it can get deep too quickly.


Me: "Celeste, eat your dinner sweetheart"


Celeste: "Why?"

Me: "Because it give you energy to play"

Celeste: "Why?"

Me: "Because your body uses the goodness in food to make energy"

Celeste: "Why?"

Me: "Because your cells use complicated biochemical reactions to..."

Celeste: "Why?"

Me: "Because that's how life evolved"

Celeste: "Why?"

Me: "I don't know"

...

...

...

Celeste: "Why?"



Lesson learned: Sometimes questions don't need an answer.