The Big Questions: 2013 365 Challenge #152

By NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team via Wikimedia Commons

By NASA, ESA, & Hubble Heritage Team via Wikimedia Commons

My daughter is struggling with one of life’s Big Questions (and I’m struggling with answering it!) I love that she is, though, because it shows how she thinks about the world. To me there are two or three Big Questions that are almost impossible to answer in a way that a four-year-old will understand (or a grown-up for that matter).

1. What happens when we die

2. What is outside Space

3. Evolution (it’s tough to put it into one question)

My ‘question’ is number two: I was (and still am) fascinated by what is outside Space. As a child I imagined space as a room and wondered what was outside the room. I couldn’t get my head around a concept such as a void or infinity. There had to be something outside the infinity, outside the void.

I studied Astronomy and Cosmology for Arts Students at University (a great course that must have driven any scientists present completely nuts). The tutor was amazing, using baking and fruit to try to explain the expansion of the universe. I’m not sure I ever really understood it, but I remember some analogy about us being a raisin on the expanding fruit cake in the Universe’s oven. (Apologies, the course was 15 years ago and I didn’t understand it then!)

By Tkgd2007 via Wikimedia Commons

By Tkgd2007 via Wikimedia Commons

My daughter’s ‘question’ is about Evolution. She says things like, “Before there were deserts, or trees, or anything, how were there people?”  Or “How did camels grow, before there was sand and grass?” It doesn’t matter how often you explain Survival of the Fittest or Darwinism, when you reduce it to the level of a four-year-old, it’s a theory that’s full of holes.

Now, we’re not a religious family (apologies to anyone reading who is) and, even though our daughter will go to a Christian school, she will still learn about evolution and Big Bang (I think; I hope!) There is part of me, though, that thinks all these Big Questions probably need an element of faith to understand them. The Universe is too amazing to be explained by numbers.

I told my daughter today that we were once all stars (my science is sketchy, but I do remember something like that). I think that’s a beautiful idea. It might not be very scientific, or explain her Big Question, but it’s a lovely image to hold on to. Her reaction was to dance a twirling pattern across the floor like a twinkling star.

I’m now off to find the Idiot’s Guide to Science and the Universe. I hope there is one.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


Claire sat, cradling her phone, and stared at the scuffed vinyl floor. She waited for relief to come, but it didn’t. I have a place to stay until my wrist gets better, why doesn’t that make me feel better?

Her mind churned with turbulent thoughts, until she couldn’t distinguish which was most urgent. How am I going to get to Kim’s? I need to collect my things from the Snow dome and the hostel, collect my car – assuming it hasn’t been towed – and get to Cambridgeshire. All I want to do is sleep.

Aware that the helpful nurse was watching her from behind the reception desk, Claire raised her phone and pretended to read messages. It was amazing how easy it was to look busy, holding a phone. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the nurse turn away to deal with a new arrival.

Solutions refused to surface from the choppy sea in her head, and Claire was about to admit defeat when the phone began to vibrate. Startled, she looked at the screen, wondering who would be calling late on a Friday afternoon.

Kim? Please don’t let her be ringing to tell me I can’t stay. Claire swallowed, aware of the dryness of her throat, and put the phone to her ear.

“Hi, Kim, what’s up?”

“It’s not Kim, it’s Jeff.”

“Jeff? Why are you calling? Is Kim okay? I only spoke to her a minute ago.”

“Whoa, steady.” Jeff’s deep voice exuded calm. “Kim’s fine. She says you’re coming to visit. I’m glad she’ll have company while I’m away this weekend.”

“I hope that’s okay? I don’t want to intrude.”

“Don’t be silly.” Jeff chuckled, an unnervingly sexy sound. “Kim was worried that you’d try to drive the Skoda, when the docs have told you not to. I called to ask if you have Breakdown Cover?”

“Er, sure, yes. Since the Skoda overheated. I don’t think it covers injury though.”

“I wouldn’t be so certain. Some policies cover you for illness, if you’re unable to drive. And you’re only coming fifty miles. If not, I can talk you through disabling the car so that the breakdown guys won’t be able to get it going. You have Relay, I take it?”

Claire tried to process Jeff’s words. He sounded so assured and in control that she didn’t want to question what he was saying. Something niggled at her, though.

“Isn’t that fraud?”

Jeff laughed, a deep, rolling sound, like a timpani drum. “Yes, I suppose so. But you’ve paid for your cover, and you are stranded, even if it’s you that’s broken rather than the car.”

“Well, when you put it like that…” Claire tried to think through the pounding in her skull. She wished she had someone smart and competent to sort out her problems. As the thought drifted traitorously through her mind, another yelled out, Don’t be so pathetic. You’re a Twenty-First Century Gal. You don’t need a man to bail you out. A third voice – quieter, more thoughtful – said, Need, no. Want, yes.

Claire murmured her thanks to Jeff and promised to call if she needed to resort to disabling the Skoda. She hung up the phone and flicked through her emails until she found the Breakdown policy. A quick scan lifted her spirits, and she called the helpline number.

“Yes, Ms Carleton, we do offer Compassionate Relay, in some circumstances. Can you explain why you are too ill to drive?”

“I’m currently sat in A&E, my car is on the other side of town and my clothes in a third location. I have a sprained wrist, wrapped in heavy bandaging, and I’ve been informed I am not allowed to drive for 48 hours at least.”

There was silence as the Customer Advisor processed Claire’s impassioned words.

“I see. Please wait.”

Claire ran her hand through her hair and yearned for coffee. Her breathing felt shallow as if there was insufficient oxygen in the room. Eventually the phone clicked and she heard the sound of the line reconnecting.

“Ms Carleton? I’ve checked with my supervisor and we are prepared to offer assistance. We’re not able to help you collect your possessions, but if you can gather them and wait with your vehicle, someone will arrive to take you to your destination within the hour.”

Claire hung up, and surged into action. She felt like Annika Rice with a new challenge. I’ll get a taxi to run me to the hostel and back to the snow dome. Carl will have to just suck up my expenses this month.

With a fresh lease of life, Claire strode from A&E and flagged down a vacant taxi.


6 thoughts on “The Big Questions: 2013 365 Challenge #152

  1. At three and four my daughter watched ‘The Birth of the Universe’ and ‘The Birth of the Earth’, over and over and over and over, until she knew them off by heart. They’re not kid documentaries, but that didn’t stop her. She also loved all the ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ series, and ‘Walking with Monsters’ that looks at evolution before the dinosaurs. I guess she was grappling with some of the same questions.

    • They sound like excellent documentaries, Rinelle. I’ll have to see if I can get them on the iPad, as she’s taken to watching things on the iPad with headphones while the littlest Martin watches Peppa Pig!

  2. I just stumbled on your blog. Phew, you’re writing a lot of stuff! I liked this: “I told my daughter today that we were once all stars (my science is sketchy, but I do remember something like that). I think that’s a beautiful idea. It might not be very scientific, or explain her Big Question, but it’s a lovely image to hold on to. Her reaction was to dance a twirling pattern across the floor like a twinkling star”

    For me, as a theoretician and scientist, I tell my daughter the Truth, albeit incompatible with much of what is taught in the classroom. I tell her that she is all of the stars in the night sky, nay the universe; that she is responsible for creating them, keeping them there, and moving them all. A little difficult to swallow, the Truth is. But I keep telling her, because then, eventually, she’ll understand the nature of her immortality, eternity, and omnipresence.

    • Thank you for stopping by. Yes, the daily blog is generating a lot of words – I estimate 200,000 since the beginning of the year!
      I think it’s important to tell our children our beliefs, even if they don’t necessarily agree with what is taught in school. The best thing we can give our children is an open mind.

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