Jack's blog

It's a strain living with engineers for parents but the heat is off our teenager Jack this week. Mum's been to the beauty salon and discovered that beauticians can't think outside the box.

Mum wants to have a couple of words with you all.

Here we go:

"Beauticians! Aaargh! Fzlkmbrmghaaaargh!"

OK, I've sponged her down now. Again, Mum:

"If there are any teenage girls out there reading this..." (Yes there ARE Mum, chah, I do NOT just have nerdy male friends who, although they cannot afford the limited edition MB-1 Muse guitar sold only in one shop in Exeter, are still planning a 400-mile round trip to drool in front of it this Saturday. I'm still waiting for my female friends to respond to the invite. But they will. Just checking my mobile again... they will.)

Start again, Mum:

"Teenage girls - and middle-aged women who should know better - please, please don't be taken in by the utter nonsense they spout in beauty salons. These are seriously undereducated women who need to be strapped down and forced to sit GCSE science, preferably twice. Then they need to be fitted with a tiny little device behind their ears which will deliver tiny little electric shocks, nothing life-threatening or (God forbid) facially damaging, every time they think they're being scientific. This will remind them to stick to cleansing and toning, because if we're looking for a Nobel prize to come from the ranks of the white-coated ladies running the hot wax machine, then God help us all. Thank you. Lecture over."

Yes, she's off on one. This is what happened...

She went to a beautician's salon - don't know why, possibly feeling old, she's spending a lot of time in front of the mirror pushing wrinkles around her face and mouthing the word Botox at herself. Anyway, they did whatever they do in there - I don't know what! Face peeling or something medieval. And the beautician looked at her skin in that way women have and told her off for not using sunblock every day. I mean, we live in Manchester, if the Sun ever does get through then it's just about to dive beneath the horizon, because it's 4pm and we live in the dark for most of the year.

My Mum (the IT engineer) is freaked out by women who like prodding other women's flesh for a living and, even though she earns way more and has at least two degrees more than them, she goes fluffy. She can't help it. A little bit of her (and I know this because she's told me) thinks: "Maybe they're right. Maybe skin care really is that important. Maybe I need to get some more advice. And a pot of terribly expensive cream..."

So the beautician was bashing on about Sun damage and UV rays and ended up with: "...and, you know, you can get these UVA rays, the really damaging ones, right through your TV set. And your computer screen. And you can even get them through...." (pause for effect) "your TV remote!"

At this point Mum should have reared up and overturned the trolley with all the bottles and potions, thrown the foot spa through the window, and shouted: "I've never heard such rubbish in my life! That's not science, it's superstition!"

Instead she said: "Really? Are you sure? That does sound worrying," and inside a little bit of her died, because she had betrayed her engineering oath, which is to question everything until you've had a chance to look it up. Also, she had to sit through ten more minutes of why TV remotes may kill us with skin cancer.

And now she's back home, with lovely looking skin, I must admit, and she's on the warpath. Hold on, here she comes again:

"Yeah, blog this: all my employees have their skin peeling off because they sit at computer screens all day, and what I thought was harmless infrared radiation from the TV remote is actually deadly UVA stuff that seeps through that tiny loophole in the absorption spectrum of thick black polystyrene, and a few microns of oil and water emulsion are clearly going to block the hideous radiation coming through our thick glass TV screen.

"And blog about the astounding fact that the only people - not the government, not the EU, not the universities who do actually get paid for researching this stuff - who have noticed that a) IT workers are going to die in their millions and that b) the laws of physics have actually broken down, are women wearing far too much make up who think reading the packaging on beauty products entitles them to run Open University courses on micro-cellular mutation!"

Whoa, calm down, Mum. By this stage, the twins are in the room fanning her with a copy of Computer Weekly and Dad is shouting: "Windows 7 will kick Linux's butt!" in an effort to snap her out of it.

"But you must admit the incidence of skin cancer has gone up," says Alice who likes playing devil's avocado (it's a sort of vegetarian critic). It gives Mum the focus she needs.

"That is because people with fair skin and red hair - people who should know that the furthest south they can venture is Hadrian's Wall - are jetting off on package holidays and exposing themselves to about three years' worth of sun in two weeks," she says. She takes a deep breath. "And now I'm going to put some sunblock on. Because, apart from the TV remote stuff, I think they have a point."

We all do a double take.

"Well, I'm just murdering my epidermis otherwise," she says. "I may be an engineer, but don't I deserve the best-looking skin I can get?"

"Do you know," Dad says, "I'm fairly sure that's actually part of Google's mission statement."

"Yeah, we IT workers really do know it all," says Mum.


Jack's blog was translated by Jane Maltby (with thanks to Dr Alan Calverd)

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