Sunday, 25 September 2011


It is a truth universally acknowledged that I am completely and utterly rubbish at maths. The innumerate gene has, through great luck, bypassed my first three children. Our son and daughter both got excellent GCSE results in the subject and the nine year old seems to ‘get it’ and is slowly and surely mastering her times tables – but my poor darling little Red-Head is as mystified by mathematics as her mother.
Just the other night, as I was patiently trying to show her how to do taking away on her fingers, she explained how she felt.
“My head feels like a waterfall inside Mummy”, she said, rubbing at her temples.
“How so darling?”, I asked her.
“Well you know how the water in a waterfall falls down?”, she continued.
“And it’s like the water is falling off?”
“Well, my inside my head feels like that. Like the information is falling out of my head like a waterfall and I can’t remember anything”. Luckily I was squeezing her so tightly that she didn’t see my tears fall into her hair. I had to pull myself together.
“That was beautifully explained sweetheart”, I said, wiping my nose on my sleeve, “In fact few people could be that creative when trying to describe how they are feeling. Perhaps you will be a writer and write wonderful stories?”
After some consideration she seemed happy enough with this idea and we returned to taking six grammes away from ten grammes. It took a while. I feel so sorry for her. No-one in the world can understand her bewilderment as much as me. All those bloody lessons and extra lessons and tutors that I’ve had. All of them to no avail, all of them resulting in making me feel thoroughly stupid, my self esteem plummeting through the floor. Well this is the 21st Century. She needn’t tolerate as I did, being kept in at play time because she is ‘slow’. She needn’t suffer the ignominy as I did, of seeing her friends go to art whilst she is left with, God bless them, the smelly kids and even more sums to do until we got it right. We never did. Nope, if she carries on in this vein I shall have her assessed and if she is, dyslexic and dyscalculic then everyone shall know and she will get all the support she needs. Hell, if The Fonz can receive an award from the Queen for raising awareness of these special educational needs then his hard work may as well go towards making her life mathematically speaking, a little sweeter. Anyway, no sooner had we done sums, then spellings then reading, I very quickly had to throw off the mantle of mother to adopt the role of Commanders wife. These two posts cannot be done simultaneously for fear of shaking hands with my children and wiping the gravy of the face of a Naval officer. I daren’t risk it. So, ensuring all children were fed and watered, I ran upstairs to chuck on my trademark look of pearls, posh frock and pashmina.
Hubby and I had been invited to Truro for HM Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall’s Annual awards ceremony. We got there by the skin of our teeth and took our seats, panting. Now my back, has, much like mathematics, been the bane of my life. At any given time, on a scale of 1-10 of pain, it is an 8. I look like a wizened old woman much of the time, especially getting my knickers on in the morning, getting out of the car and up from a chair. I have seen all manner of doctors, chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists and masseurs. Apart from having to be peeled from the ceiling at the end of my treatment, little else occurs and my back continues to hurt. Very much indeed.
As I sat there then, shifting my bottom from one cheek to the other and rubbing the small of my back and stretching my legs out in front of me and generally fidgeting to the point that at the same time the woman on one side of me tutted and Hubby hissed, “Keep still”, as one might to a child during a long sermon.
Don’t get me wrong, the ceremony was inspirational. It showcased the very best of our reservists and cadets from the South West; the young people’s achievements bringing a lump to the throat due to their terrific hard work and commitment they show both their detachment and community.
What struck me though and why I mention my back was the image of Lady Mary, who has for the last 17 years been Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for Cornwall, but who will be retiring next week. She, I sincerely hope wouldn’t mind my saying, is an indomitable figure. Tall, strong and stately. As she stood up to present the awards, a gentleman offered her a chair on the dais. One look from her made it immediately obvious that she had no truck with a chair whatsoever and stood resolute for over an hour handing out awards and shaking hands. I looked on in wonder.
Not only would I have needed a chair, but I would also have needed someone to help me out of it. On the journey home I had to recline my seat and, as I lay there looking up at the Cornish Night sky, I mulled.
“Penny for your thoughts?” said Hubby, yawning. He rarely demands conversation. It must have been a ploy. Not to fall asleep and crash.
“I was just wondering how my life would have turned out had I been more supple and better at maths”.
“That’s a mad combination of thoughts Alice”, he replied, the indicator was flashing, we were almost home, “Is there that much call for a numerate gymnast?”
“The sad thing is”, I replied as we pulled into our road, “Is that it’s too late to find out”.

1 comment:

DL said...

Your posts are like buses AB. We wait for what seems like an eternity then, Oh so many!

Sorry the maths is continuing to blight your life. As I've said before, if there's any way I can help, I'd be delighted to. It's sort of my thing. Not sure how might be best to span the distance, but may be worth a thought.

Keep smiling.