In the year 480 BC Athens was in trouble. Xerxes I had defeated the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae and had turned his attention to the next obstacle, the men of Athens. In response to this threat the Athenians did the only thing a Classical Greek person would do. No, not run, or fly the white flag, they turned to the Oracle at Delphi. When the envoys had arrived and as they walked in, they would have read the words inscribed in the wall of the fore court, ‘γνῶθι σεαυτόν,’ gnothi seauton, which would have commanded them, before they went in, to ‘Know yourself.’
This phrase was debated endlessly by men in antiquity, even Socrates weighed in on what he thought it meant, but basically it seems to have been an injunction to understand your own limitations in the face of the god Apollo, the god who was the power behind the Delphic oracle, and to accept his words without question. Those of you who have read any of this blog before, particularly the DIY parts, or who have read the ‘About me’ page (go and have a quick look now if you want, I won’t go anywhere), will know that I am quite familiar with a number of my limitations, mostly because they are illuminated on a daily basis by my wife and my daughter, mostly my daughter. Such an illumination took place today when N and I went shopping.
The shopping itself went off without a hitch, although please don’t tell my wife but I think I forgot to buy ribena, in my defence though that is mostly because I had foolishly entrusted the list to N, which meant that by the time I had got to the ribena aisle the list was no longer fit for purpose having been torn into a number of small pieces, which were then scattered throughout the store for me to try to find, much like the plot of every single computer RPG in the last twenty years. Sadly, the piece with ‘ribena’ written on it was nestled joyfully in the cooked meat section striking up a lasting friendship with some slices of roast beef. A rookie error by me I realise, but one whose consequences are not really that serious. So all in all a successful little expedition. Which meant that I had let my guard slip and was just congratulating myself as we sauntered out of the shop. A saunter which was brought to a crashing halt by the little, yet quite strident, voice of my daughter declaring to anyone who would listen, I think she realises when she’s just out with me that she needs to get as much help as possible, that she needed a wee wee.
That this need occurred just as we strode past the toilet was not enough to tip me off, neither was the fact that N wasn’t prepared to wait until we had got home, which ordinarily she would have been quite happy to do. Not even the fact that N knew exactly which door to go through to get to the children’s toilet. No, these things caused not a single alarm bell to ring as I ushered the little girl into the toilet. It took very little time before it became clear that the toilet was not N’s primary objective. That, it transpired, was the children’s height sink with children’s height tap which N gleefully applied her full weight to in an attempt to soak me completely. This caused great merriment from N and great speed from me as I leapt across the room to stop the gushing. Having managed to do that we then applied ourselves to the task of alleviating the minor flood which was building up, although when I say ‘we’ and ‘ourselves’ I really mean ‘I’ and ‘myself’ whilst N stood back and cackled at me.
Eventually the situation was resolved, a state of dryness was achieved and we emerged back into the store to make our escape with N rejoicing over the fun she had just had, and me rueing my wet socks and wondering exactly when my daughter had become so devious. It turns out, despite what the Delphians might want you to think, knowing yourself is only half the battle.