Lost Lego: The agony and glee of tripping up and ice creams

Written very late with gravel eyes and tired fingers and mind, expect crazed errors.

Staring upwards on the up escalator into Euston station, I caught sight of something that almost broke my heart. An escaped helium Santa Claus, now trapped on the station ceiling, beyond a giant’s reach. I was tired enough to experience a pang of melancholy, that tiredness that can make cheap ballads potent, where even the most clearly factory made lyric can somehow become personal, when Another Level become Auden (I have no idea what that means really). 

I have an annoying emotional recall for childhood traumas. I am slapped by empathy when I think of the child whose day had been topped by being given a Santa Claus balloon and, in the rush for the train, a momentary loss of grip and concentration, had meant it would be lost forever. Perhaps I should have been more moved by the pointless waste of helium, an element becoming increasingly sparse on this planet with our desire to use up all our resources for cheap novelty and hasty gratification, but that’s not what first came to mind.

I thought of that horror of childhood where any mislaid toy or broken figurine seems to mean that life will never be the same again. Our emotional range is limited then, the joy is gigantic, the misery is eternal (I say ‘then’). It is soon forgotten, but in those moments of pain, it is everything and your life becomes nothing. It is the speed that giddy happiness can switch to despair. Running along with my son, on the way back from a fireworks display, he is excited by his imagined double light sabre. The glee as he charges ahead, miming his battle with Darth Maul or some Boba I’ve never heard of, the camaraderie of playing games with your dad, then the sudden fall and slide on your knees, the viciousness of the pavement, the shock and the tears. It is all so fast. The tears seem so round. How terrible are the knees? A bump to the head too. The hug and the carrying into the light. The grazes revealed, the rationalising begins, and soon, all is happy.

“it’s alright isn’t it”

“yes, it’s alright”

“we were silly weren’t we”

“yes, of course we were, we nearly always are”

“Can I watch the hairy biker on Strictly?”

“Okay, just for ten minutes. To help the healing process”

We recently recorded an episode of the Infinite Monkey cage about time, and I think of the slowest that time can pass. I can think of few loner seconds than when you can see an imminent accident with your child. The slowness of your heart when you think they have not noticed the road ahead of them as they scoot down the pavement. 

The worst one I recall was waving through the letterbox after a few days away at my excited son, and seeing him dancing backwards to the top of the stairs. The crashing sound, my fingers going into a pointless overdrive of clumsiness attempting to turn the lock, the boy no longer dancing, but screaming at the bottom of the stairs. I was surplus to requirement as my wife took over and gave me that look that said, “did you never see all those 1970s public information films warning you of the melodramatic consequences of waving at a toddler through a letterbox?” 

I did all I could, walked to the garage to pick up an ice cream to do the confectionery test. Will something cold, sugary and delicious be a cure for the shock, if the pain persists even when a Fab is present, then medical assistance would be required. Fortunately, he was still at that malleable age. 

Ice cream placebo effective. 

I think of my childhood days when all was lost. That cocksure confidence and failure of foresight that goes with the adventuresome mind of children.

“don’t take your new toy pistol on the walk, you’ll lose it”

“no I won’t. No such thing could happen. I have wracked my imagination and that scenario does not even exist”

An hour later, scouring the thick clods of a ploughed field for lost toy parts, the sadness of a new toy ruined, the fury of father, the stomach pain of failure because you were told this would happened but your stupid brain had failed to offer you all the possibilities. 

The relief to be older now, to know the consequences, to never make such mistakes again or feel such sharp pain and frustration when things go awry or flap about pointlessly looking for someone or something else to blame, if only. 

Ross Noble, Billy Bragg, Ben Goldacre are just 3 of the 25 acts joining Brian Cox and I on 12th December at our Compendium of Reason. Tickets HERE (tip top secret guests will be there)

Plus final year of Nine Lessons and carols for Godless people, great big heap of guests there too HERE

New show on the human brain comes to Bristol, Sheffield, Norwich, Nottingham and plenty more HERE

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3 Responses to Lost Lego: The agony and glee of tripping up and ice creams

  1. CELKali says:

    My mom never stops telling the story about the time I made her stop traffic to get a plastic pterodactyl I had dropped out of the window onto the highway. I’ve given her many horrific anecdotes, though.
    I climbed out the window and onto the roof once when I was a year old; nearly did it again a year later. I’d sneak out and go to the neighbor’s house, which is scarier when there’s an in-use railroad literally 20 feet outside the front door. Got lost on the beach when I was 2 (my mom just loves telling the part where she was ‘feeling for my body’ in the water- I was in a dune half a mile down the coast scolding a kid for fishing)…. Climbed numerous trees and wouldn’t answer when called.
    It’s safe to say nothing scares my mom anymore, her early onset of grey hairs attest to that. You may be wondering where my dad was, but, well, he had a lot of business trips. So my mom was left home with me and my three siblings (who made prank calls to the police a lot, so when my mom would call 911 they wouldn’t believe that her youngest daughter was crawling around on the roof).
    The worst thing that ever happened was when I fell down some brick steps. Our front porch in our house in Maryland had three or four brick steps, and I was playing around them. My mom had to go inside to answer the phone, and so my sister was left in charge. Well, she didn’t do too well, even if she was only four, and I slowly but surely made my way to the steps. I guess I tried to stand upright or something, but I tumbled down, knocking my head on the edge of the last step.
    I only needed three stitches, but I remember it being much worse. First there was the blood in my eyes (everything was filtered through a bubbly, red color), followed by water and soap, finally ending up with a dark blue sanitary sheet over my face.
    I also managed to cut part of my kneecap off climbing a metal fence. I don’t remember it hurting, just being scared of my parents being angry with me because I couldn’t find the missing piece.

  2. willshome says:

    “I can think of few loner seconds than when you can see an imminent accident with your child.” If that was a typo for “longer”, it was a very poetic one.

  3. lanceleuven says:

    “did you never see all those 1970s public information films warning you of the melodramatic consequences of waving at a toddler through a letterbox?”

    You’ve got to hand it to those 1970s public information films. They covered everything, didn’t they? 😉

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