I’m not very well.
I’m stuck to my bed and bored after a horrible night failing to sleep. After a couple of days fighting off a bad cold, the bugs in my body decided to wait until today (which is the only day off in the week in Bangladesh) to really let rip and go to work on my immune system.
I just could not sleep during the night despite being incredibly tired until, eventually, the lovely wifey got up and fed me some drugs to help me sleep. After a short and broken sleep just before dawn, I awoke to find I had a lovely little temperature going and so I was fed a few more drugs and have continued this way all day. My body alternates from shivering with cold to feeling like it is burning up and, whilst I am enjoying periods of time where I can read a book or two, for much of the time I feel too nauseous or too sleepy to do anything. Just to get this far with this post, for instance, has taken nearly three hours – in between sleeps and the popping of more pills, of course.
The worst part last night was the hallucinations as I continuously slipped in and out of reality and the dream world. I spent most of my time in a panic about being on board a Roman slave ship and just could not shake this feeling of dread at all. I knew it was stupid but the night terrors kept making themselves felt all to convincingly so that every few minutes I would startle awake, gasping for air and feeling terribly foolish; I knew exactly why I was on board a Roman slave ship.
I, like most of the older students at LAMB too – including my daughter, Thing I – have got hooked with a series of books called “The Roman Mysteries” by Caroline Lawrence. The school library has got about a dozen or so of these but there are many more and the series was televised some time ago, if I recall. Not new books then, but absolutely brilliant.
As an educator and academic I am very jealous of Ms Lawrence as she is incredibly learned and yet communicates Roman history in a very detailed way which never once becomes boring, dry or feels like lecturing. No wonder she was awarded the Classics Association Prize in 2009 for “a significant contribution to the public understanding of Classics”. A clever weaving of very real people of the time around AD 80 and her own fictional characters, mixed with mythology, history, literature and archaeology makes for fast-paced and action-packed stories.
As a writer and fellow ‘Young Adult’ novelist, I am even more jealous of how she knits short-term and long-term plots together along with good old tried and tested mystery plot lines where the kids solve the problems adults can’t get to just like Enid Blyton was doing many decades ago with her Famous Five et al. Except that these stories, post Harry Potter as they are, give us much greater depth to the characters themselves and the plot lines revolve around these characters rather than the other way around. Even where, as an adult, you can guess what is coming next, the level of historical detail and accuracy is so astounding that you just enjoy coming along for the ride.
They’re easy books to read and last night I started IX The Colossus of Rhodes which sees our young heroes on board a former slave ship trying to save children from dreaded slavers operating out of Rhodes. Such was the power of imagination of Caroline Lawrence along with her eye for detail that in my fevered struggle to sleep last night all I could dream of was being on that damned boat! As soon as I came round I felt such a fool knowing just why I was dreaming about it and trying to shake myself out of it but to no avail. I’d immediately shiver back to sleep and back on board that boat with terror in my eyes as an “evil is on board”…
The drugs, helpfully supplied by wifey did help free me, and though I’ve felt like a rag doll all day, I have had the opportunity to go check out something I read with the kids yesterday about floating frogs.
You may have gathered, from previous posts, that despite doing post-graduate research and being used to finding the most academic of information sources, I am no snob about using educational materials meant for kids. I think the great Richard Feynman once said something about ‘if you can’t teach something really complicated to kids then you don’t really understand it yourself’ or something like that. Maybe you can find the exact quote? Anyway, I’m happy to use material written for kids for myself.
This sheet I was reading with Thing I and Thing II was on the apparent magnetism of birds, fish and other creatures. The ones that migrate thousands of miles and can do so, it would seem, because they can sense the Earth’s magnetic field. All very interesting and stuff I’ve heard before. Then it said that scientists have even managed to put frogs in a magnetic field and make them float!
That was new!
It was only in the evening when I mentioned this ‘fact’ to some friends of mine who are doctors and saw the frowns on these very clever intellectuals that I began to doubt the veracity of my source.
So, today, in between popping pills, sleeping, reading books (I finished book IX and now I’m on book X) and generally trying not to throw up, I researched floating frogs. Guess what? My children’s resources didn’t let me down:
Scientists really have made frogs float. And not just used amphibians either: plants, grasshoppers, fish, strawberries and tomatoes have all been made to float. Apparently, given a strong enough magnetic field, they could make people float too. All of this does no harm to the frog (or, thankfully, the strawberry) and all seems to happen because the magnetic field causes the electrons in the atoms of the frog to re-align themselves so the frog becomes, effectively, magnetically repulsed by the field and so floats up and away from it (or at least, it appears, until the frog has had enough and leaps out of the way).
So, let’s hear it for the stuff kids read today, how accurate and educational it can be and for the weird and wonderful world we live in. With Frog-floating scientists and Roman historians writing mystery stories, do we really need to take drugs and alcohol to get our kicks? I think not.
However, that said, I need some right now. I’m just a paracetamol junkie: I can’t help it.