Written by Simon Renfrew

It’s been a long day. You were up before the jays started their God awful racket in the tree outside your bedroom window and it’s now nearly 8pm. The hens are still out, the dogs have their legs crossed in anticipation of a wander ‘round the fields and all you really crave is the opportunity to sit down and get something to eat. Then number 2 son remembers his homework and assures you that his teacher will kill him if it’s not finished – sounds severe, but there you are. So with a sigh you ferret about in his school bag and amongst the discarded juice cartons and biscuit wrappers find the appropriate book, open it at today’s page and see what the subject is. Science. Damn.

French primary school devoirs veer between re reading some ancient poem for the hundredth time (when it was tedious to start with), long division done in a peculiar continental way and other complicated stuff, viz tonight’s subject (classification of species). An instant read through and by the third paragraph you’re lost. Darwin et al had years to figure this out and now you need to do the same before your tea gets cold. And what the **** is ADN you think, but phrase rather differently. Your son looks briefly puzzled at your stupidity then neatly sketches out a double helix in the margin. Ah – that’ll be DNA then. For reasons that largely escape me (other than a slavish adherence by the authorities to classical French vocabulary), LPG and AIDS are similarly mangled into GPL and SIDA. You’ll find other examples amongst the multitudinous organisations you come across and can then make an excellent long distance car journey game crossing them out of your Observer’s Book of Acronyms (or A.B.O. if you want to enter into the spirit of things).

Anyway, back to the homework. Regretting that your child is now past the age where you can demonstrate the different strands of life with a few unconvincing animal impressions, you attempt to explain the last 65 million years as rapidly as possible and fail miserably. Consoling yourself that his teacher will make a better job of it (and being young and full of enthusiasm, she almost certainly can), you suggest a viewing of Jurassic Park at the weekend to fill in the yawning gaps you’ve left, then head out into the dusk to walk the dogs. And to find the hens before fantastic monsieur fox.

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