While the photos are being sorted out, here are some miscellaneous musings from my trip…
I had always assumed one of the drawbacks to city living in somewhere like London was the background noise — an incessant din which prevails throughout the night. Imagine my surprise to find that the comparably insignificant town of Natchez (and even Baton Rouge on some nights) was far louder outside, with a near deafening roar from cicadas in particular, as well as creatures of that ilk. Cicadas are particularly loud insects since their “singing” is not produced by rubbing parts of their body, but rather through clicking “timbals” in their exoskeleton, the sound being amplified by using their body as a resonance chamber.
The Coca Cola issue has become more severe now that I drink it more regularly in the UK, to the point where I actually have to avoid it in the States. Most Americans are sadly (blissfully?) unaware that they are given worse Coke than anywhere else in the world. In fairness, regular travellers aside, the rest of the world is largely unaware that US Coke is so bad either. The reason is that proper Coca Cola is sugar based, but the US variety is made with cheaper corn syrup instead. This actually spans to most soft drinks there, but the flavour is particularly noticeable in cola. You have been warned. And Americans, come try the good stuff!
Jenna and I share similar views when it comes to children’s books, both disliking the majority of modern drivel which is thrown at kids on the basis that so long as they are reading it’s a good thing. In fact bad books can even stifle their imaginations. For example Karleigh produces all sorts of stories when playing with her toy ponies but in the bookstore, were one to cave to her whims and buy the branded tie-in pony books, she tends towards reproducing the basic stories within rather than inventing her own adventures for them.
Personally there are two things I expect from a good children’s book: inventive originality to develop imagination and avoiding talking down to children. The latter means a decent vocabulary in order to expand the child’s, as well as content with some sort of depth, which sort of ties into the first part. There is a strange idea that children’s stories need to be obvious when in fact children are often more open to parallel imagery than adults. Neil Gaiman’s books for children have always appealed to me since, as an author of adult fiction too, he does not sit down with the goal of just producing a children’s book. Rather he has various ideas some of which suit novels or comics while others work best as children’s books. I was glad to be able to buy a copy of The Wolves in the Walls, a personal favourite, for Karleigh.
On a related note, all parents should carry around notebooks to jot down those wonderful things their child comes out with (and an adult never could). I heard several Karleighisms during my trip that I’ve already forgotten and wish I had written here or elsewhere. The alternative is to attach a dictaphone to your child but that might be considered expensive, time consuming and also slightly creepy.