Sunday 5 June 2011

1969 and all that

Another natural mystery to me is why the tide is so rarely in on this little beach that's on my daily walk route. I would have thought, with two high tides a day, and my passing by here at roughly the same time most days, it would be less of a novelty. As it is, I'm resigned to seeing the much less attractive muddy sand with its sprinkling of mangrove roots, and react to actual water with surprised delight like that character in Christopher Hampton's The Philanthropist: "Oh look! The tide's in!"

I'm horribly aware that there'll be a formula for it. I was last week thrust in front of a Year 10 maths class (fortunately of low ability) by a harried teacher who pushed a textbook at me saying, "Do this with them. It's just substitutions." I last did maths over 40 years ago, and even then didn't rub up against anything called substitutions - in netball, yes; maths, no - so it was a sweaty and confused lesson, where the girls and I puzzled over the method for working out an algebraic formula to predict sequences. I had nanomoments of clarity when I understood - and then it would be gone again, poof. That was the most welcome bell I've ever hung out for.

I actually scored better in School Certificate maths than I did in history which, again, I instantly dropped - but ironically now have much more interest in, and find myself learning about all the time. When you travel, you're always having history pushed in your face - whose statue that is, why that castle's a ruin, who wore that crown, why they speak French here, how old that cathedral is - and the more you find out, the more connections you make and the more interesting it all is. People who just lie on foreign beaches have no idea what they're missing.

Mind you, there's so much of it that it can be a bit daunting at times. Having so little basic knowledge, I was scrabbling in Germany to keep up with the references to French invasions of Prussia - and a bit surprised, to tell the truth. France invading Germany: who knew?

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