At not quite two years old, Offspring#1 knew the names of at least ten dinosaurs and could say words such as ‘tyrannosaurus’ and even ‘parasaurolophus’. This should not be a surprise. Most parents rapidly become familiar with palaeontology for the pre-potty-trained (it has to be said, though, that Offspring#2 managed to reach adulthood without ever going through a dinosaur phase).
At six years of age, Offspring#1 went on a primary school trip to a museum, where the curators were putting on a special Victorian Experience for the young visitors. That evening I asked Offspring#1 about their day at school, as I usually did, expecting the usual mumbled response of ‘boring’ or ‘I’ve forgotten’ before a change of subject. Not this time. Offspring#1 lit up, offering a breathless account of the desks that Victorian children had at school, what Victorian children wore, what they ate for lunch, the toys with which they passed their idle hours, and much more. The seemingly endless tale, however, came to an abrupt halt. ‘Dad,’ asked Offspring#1, ‘were the Victorians before or after the dinosaurs?’
To a young child, the past is timeless. Events in the past have no relationship to one another, and very little to the present day. And yet, as everyone knows, the innocent statements of children are often more profound than they at first appear. When I recounted the whole