Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Parents - make us who we are

My father was responsible for much of my education. He largely helped to form my ways of thinking and attitudes, and views on life the universe and everything. I don't always agree with him - but that's the point, he taught me to THINK and QUESTION and LEARN and how very enjoyable these activities can be.

I often remember him going off to work one day during the holidays and leaving me with a challenge, when I was about 6 or 7 years old -to tell him why I 'wouldn't be able to find a Unicorn in a zoo'. I spent most of the day mooching around and being 'bored', and then remembered the challenge and got out the Encyclopedia and looked up Unicorns. I remember not being able to contain myself and having to phone him at work 5 minutes later to give him the answer. :)

My dad taught me how to play chess (and lie dice!), to listen to classical music (I can name quite a few pieces), he took me to plays (like Sophia Town & Herman Charles Bosman's Sip of Jeripego) and Ballets, and to see movies like Jonathan Livingston Seagull (and the Exorcist - the original!). He taught me to eat Mussels (and snails), and drink good red wine. He introduced me to authors like Arthur C Clarke, Carl Sagan, Richard Bach, Kahlil Gibran, John Steinbeck etc etc, and the great Stephen Hawking. I had read (and understood and enjoyed) 'Brief History of Time' by the time I was 20!

I can debate with my dad about anything from the distance to the sun, the thickness of a piece of paper, whether Oscar Pretorius should be allowed to compete in the Olympics (I say YES!), right through to sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. I think we are a fine match, although he is usually more informed on most topics, but not always and I have a managed to change his a opinion a few times...

Anyway my dad is cool, in a an old school intellectual kind of way. My boys love seeing him, which sadly happens far too little. We generally see him 2 or 3 times a year - mostly when he pops into Cape Town for a day or 2 for work. Sometimes we are lucky and he gets to stay with us for a few days.

Quinn loves being able to dress up in his quite formal uniform complete with tie and blazer and show grandpa how smart he is. He plays chess against my dad (and VERY nearly beat him!) etc.

We saw him briefly last week-end when he was here and he gave Quinn his belated Birthday present. It is a beautiful book called George's Secret Key to the Universe. It is by Stephen, and his daughter Lucy, Hawking! How totally cool! We LOVE it.
Take a roller-coaster ride through the vastness of space and, in the midst of an exciting adventure, discover the mysteries of physics, science and the universe with George, his new friends next door - the scientist Eric and his daughter, Annie - and a super-intelligent computer called Cosmos, which can take them to the edge of a black hole and back again. Or can it? And who else would like to get their hands on Cosmos? This tale is a funny and hugely informative romp through space, time and the universe.
Quinn and I have started reading it together. He reads really well. I am very astounded by some of the words he knows, although he keeps insisting that 'Cosmos' is pronounced 'Cous-Cous' - but I know he is just being difficult and trying to save face after getting it wrong the first time ;)

World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy have finished a fictional tale that's aimed at the middle-school set but takes on grown-up topics ranging from black holes to the origins of the universe. Lucy Hawking says the book, should give kids a better grasp on the cosmic mysteries that are her father's specialties.

Among the themes covered in the book will be "black holes, obviously stellar formation, the formation of the solar system, our place in the solar system and the way that you as a child, or a human being on this planet, relate to the universe around us," she said.
Anyway we are now on page 41. When Quinn went to bed last night he was keen to read on. So I told him he could read a few more pages in bed. He thought about it, hesitated, and then said, 'No this can be our book that we read together'...

Oh my heart can melt! I hope he remembers these moments fondly when he is older, and that I am helping to mold and shape him in some kind of positive way that he will like as he grows up.


  1. Your father sounds like an amazing man Jane! It sounds like you have alot of good memories of him.

    I think it's a wonderful idea to have a book to read together. One of my most precious memories was my mom reading the Enchanted Forest to me while growing up :)

  2. Jane, I love that book! It's on my wishlist for Seb now. Your memories of your dad are wonderful. I wish mine had influenced me as much as yours has influenced you.

  3. What an interesting looking book. I must remember that one for Bradley. And these memories you're making for yourself and for Quinn are just so precious. He's such a special child.

  4. I loved reading this. Your dad sounds like a great guy. Isn't it amazing how important parents are in the shaping of our lives? Sounds like you are doing a great job with your boys too.

    And I simply must listen to the Parlotones!

  5. Your post is a lovely tribute to your Daddy and I am sure an inspiration for your husband. In an era when so many SA Dad's were so uninvolved, I think you were truly blessed.

  6. jane - your dad sounds like a wonderful person.
    you are truly blessed

  7. You have obviously learnt from your father how to be a good parent! Your boys are doubly lucky to have parents and a grand dad who are all so keen to give them the best start for their future. My Dad was similar, in that he taught me appreciation of good books and good music (but he never forgave me for being an Elvis fan, lol!)