Inquisitive apes – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

When I was growing up we lived on a new estate in the suburbs. There were lots of vacant plots and areas of woodland, green fields, ditches, ponds and trees. The road was untarmacked and cars were few and far between. From an early age, I was allowed out to play in the street. My little friend Jeff and I trundled our trikes up and down the concrete road as toddlers. Later we’d roller-skate and play tennis. We were entrusted to the older boys. Clive taught me how to ride a bike on his bike which was far too big and I could only just reach the pedals let alone the ground – although I did encounter the ground on many occasions during my long training.

One day, when I was about three, we were playing with the older boys down on the corner. There were no nicely manicured verges. The corner was a little expanse of land that had been left untouched. There were trees and bushes to hide in. Clive was twiddling about with a twig and it came to life in his hand and began looping its way up his arm. The twig was a heavily camouflaged stick caterpillar. It was huge. We were all greatly impressed and looked around but couldn’t find another. I wanted one. By tea-time, everyone started to disperse and Clive took his caterpillar home. I went home but I still wanted a caterpillar; a stick caterpillar like Clive’s.

When I got home I whined and wailed on at my mother. I wanted a stick caterpillar.

When my dad came home I whined and wailed at him. Eventually he picked me up in his arms and took me down the end of the road to the corner plot. He was an adult. He could do anything. I was confident that he would get me a stick caterpillar like Clive’s. We hunted and hunted until it started getting dark then, as we were giving up and I was preparing for the world’s first super-sulk, he found a stick caterpillar. It was only small but it was a stick caterpillar and it did loop its way up your arm. I was ecstatic. I knew he would sort it out. He was my dad.



Some people fill their time building models of old ships, doing jigsaws or playing computer games.



We humans are so very clever, probing matters of life and death, even analyzing eternity with the aid of our sophisticated thought and technology, our complex symbolic language and explanatory religions, but we’re really just inquisitive apes.


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