This week, three American physicists were awarded with the Nobel Prize for their discovery of gravitational waves, wrinkles in the fabric of space-time produced by massive, fast-moving objects such as neutron stars or black holes first predicted by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity in 1916.
Unfortunately, my progress through the universe this week has been guided less by genius and excellence and more by another behaviour, also connected to the German physicist – namely the insanity of doing the same thing over and again and expecting different results.
Thick with a cold, running a fever and reeling from last weekend’s unexpected humidity – I had just returned from a pleasantly autumnal but flu-inducing France – I decided it was time to lower my temperature by doing what I always do in such situations. I left the house and took my children to the beach.
As soon as we arrived on Saadiyat Island, I realised this was a colossal mistake. Without adequate shade, a chilled pool and on-tap drinks, I was likely to poach, and a descent into sand-induced hysteria was not only likely, but inevitable.
With no consideration of cost, I quickly diverted my children’s attention away from Saadiyat’s gently-breaking waves to the more anodyne charms of one of its beachfront hotels, and with it an experience that I had not encountered since my early pre-parental days, when I first arrived in Abu Dhabi: the Friday brunch.
Committing another astronomical error, we delayed our entry into the frigid, double-height dining hall until my children were almost faint with hunger. It was clear that the afternoon was about to take a turn for the worse.
Not only was I the only delirious, unshaven and swimwear-clad parent present – crisp new polo shirts and white cocktail dresses were evidently order of the day – we were shepherded to an area discretely reserved for awkward, unsightly people with unruly kids.
As toddlers used their cutlery as impromptu drumsticks, and napkins and crockery flew through the air, I watched my knuckles whiten as I gripped our dining table, desperately trying to hold onto something, anything, as my delirium rose.
After almost eight years of brunch-free parenthood, how could I have got things so catastrophically wrong?
Seeing their father reel like a collapsing bovine with late-stage BSE, my 5- and 7-year-old children decided to remedy the situation by taking charge – something that they already do best.
Distracting me with a conversation about the cut and pattern of a woman’s sun dress, my youngest daughter – already a fashionista – made it clear that it was time to head back to the pool, while my eldest – already one of life’s carers – guided me back to my place in the shade.
As I laid, sweating, like a confused geriatric on a lounger, my children swam happily and perfected their aquatic gymnastics, content to let Daddy pass into a heat-induced daze.
This is what travelling through space-time must feel like, I realised, as I sensed the onset of my own gravitational forces, presented as I was with a terrifying vision of my impending old age.
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