Father's day

27th May 2005 at 01:00
Michael Cook to ground control: we've run out of silver foil

This morning I tackle outer space. It takes quite a while, but space is infinite, so I guess that's no surprise. The children have painted aliens, planets, stars and rockets on the windows and I dab a sponge around them, filling in the celestial void. It's not easy. Real space, after all, is stretch after stretch of inky-black nothingness and I am attempting to capture its essence with the last of the black poster paint, watered down to eke it out.

But then who is to say somewhere in space isn't a little on the grey side? That would fit with the general weirdness of the universe. If you care to read the relevant literature, you'll find all manner of crazy things up there: wormholes that loop instantaneously from one place to another; temporal distortions that disrupt our everyday understanding of time; vast galactic empires run by endless hordes of evil robots. (Some of the above may not be strictly scientifically accurate. I don't claim to have read all the astronomical journals myself. It takes most of my week working out how to Sky Plus the latest Doctor Who.) I'm surprised children are still excited about space. At least in my day, there were actually people up there. The only genuine space adventure of recent memory was the attempted activation of some flimsy, hand-made British techno-junk that looked futuristic but could never receive a signal. (Which reminds me, anybody want to buy a DAB digital radio, hardly used?) Later, we make toy walkie-talkies so we can play astronauts. But we run out of silver foil (and who would have expected that, when an infant school is in the middle of a space topic?) At the back of the art cupboard, all that's left is a small square of thick, spongy metallic fabric, and a roll of gold paper. The spongy stuff is awkward to cut, impossible to fold and doesn't like Sellotape. There's only enough to cover two walkie-talkies and, of course, everybody wants it on theirs.

I try my "special" parental strategy. I call the gold paper "special", as in "Who wants to make a special gold walkie-talkie?", but no one is fooled.

Note to Nokia: I have seen the future. Forget the Mp3 capability, or videoconferencing. The teenagers of the 2010s will fight to get hold of a mobile that will bounce when you drop it.

Michael Cook is a freelance copywriter and a parent helper at Ernehale infants school, Arnold, Nottingham, which his children, Alfie and Poppy, attend

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