Of all the surprise twists my life has taken living with a paleontologist has been the most unexpected. I think it's the TED-type lectures delivered to a full dining room of people, sometimes strangers, sometimes not, sometimes willing, sometimes not.
The lecturer in question is only six but his knowledge of the Jurassic Age is enclyopaedic and unforgiving. This is no kindly David Attenborough, he patronises grandmothers, scoffs at City fat cats, talks over inquiring teens with the quiet edge of fury which is his benchmark. I see the change in people as the lecture goes on, their faces metamorphosing from 'dinosaurs, how sweet,' to 'can he be serious?' to 'OK we've got a 'Curious Incident' situation here.' They leave the room, eyes glazed, shoulders sagging, self-esteem on the floor. Last weekend I listened in as he took it upon himself to teach a friend about the break up of Pangea, bouncing across other interesting facts along the way like a stone skimmed across water . Phrases drifted towards me in the mid afternoon sun 'the pentaceratops was a close cousin of the chasmosaurus'. I half wonder if he's making it up. The friend, ejected from the seminar 20 minutes later, returned to the table and reached, a little desperately I thought, for a bottle of rose. The family vernacular now includes diplodocus and spinosaurus in the same way Jammie Dodgers and Power Rangers used to roll off our tongues. We have learned, the hard way, not to dumb down with the T Rex, triceratops or brontosaurus - AKA dinosaurs for amateurs. We can spot a primate fossil from a hundred paces, we absolutely know our plant eaters from our carnivores (eye rolling emoticon). We are unanimously, unexpectedly, word perfect in the cretaceous period, early, mid and late. Yeah, life is full of surprises.