Sums

I used to enjoy Maths. At school, it was my favourite subject. I was not the greatest at it, but it made sense to me.

Partly, i suppose, I got it from my dad, who had that kind of mind and was good with numbers. I had some great teachers. But mainly, it was logical, more so than History, for example, which was all about learning unrelated facts, something I can never do. I mean, look at the dates of Kings and Queens of England and tell me the logic behind it. None, of course. Chemistry was similar. Possibly there was some kind of logical system in naming organic and inorganic compounds, but it was never explained to me.

We didn’t have calculators in my day. We used books of tables, and great fun it was. You really understood sines and cosines, and could do logarithms like nobody’s business.

I taught Maths in school for a lot of years, and enjoyed it when apparently unrelated topics finally came together and the pupils could see links between, say, trigonometry, complex numbers and hyperbolic functions.

When I would go out, people would often ask ‘what do you do?’ and I told them. Usually you would get ‘I hated Maths’. Sometimes ‘when do I ever need to calculate the area of a parallelogram?’ I do understand that not every person enjoys every subject, and that is fine. But studying Maths helps you think rationally and logically. When presented right it can be really fascinating.

I am sure Stephen Hawking would have agreed.

Sleepers

I don’t go into central London very often, certainly much less than I used to. So, I notice changes when you do.

There are many places where you will see people sleeping rough. Lots of shop entrances, especially in the evenings. The Strand is always a bad place, theatre district, but there are many others. Under dark bridges, down back alleys, in railway stations for example.

It has always been pretty bad in London, possibly more than in many other cities as very little is actually done to deal with it. There are charities and institutions who provide hot food, and some beds are available, but it is still a bad problem. Bad, and seems to be getting worse.

Rough sleepers seem to be getting more persistent and are, in some cases, rather aggressive. Some seem to have rather ferocious dogs too.

Buskers, too, seem to be more prevalent.

If you are a visitor to London, then there are places where street performers are welcomed, Covent Garden for example. If you stop to watch them, it’s right to give them some money. But if you are walking down the street and someone comes up to you just begging, then don’t give them anything, however loud and aggressive they may be. Not even a coffee.

I was waiting in line for a concert a few weeks ago, and a very smart lady in an evening dress approached me. She asked if I could help. She wanted money, and I refused. The swearing was most un-ladylike. Maybe she had a genuine need, I don’t know, but I was not interested to find out. Giving money just makes it worse.

 

Maths

I used to love Maths…

I am going to stop there. Maths, short for Mathematics, plural, like Physics.

I don’t know why Americans call it ‘Math’, like there is just one, except possibly laziness.

What annoys me even more is when they add an S to a word that is patently singular.

Suppose you buy a car. It’s up for £10,000 but you buy it for £9,000. That’s a reduced price. You have saved money, made a saving. Singular. Not “a savings”.

Guns and stuff

There has been another terrible shooting at a school in the USA, with 17 people dead (so far) and very many more traumatised, families destroyed and lives unfulfilled. According to the statistics, there has been a shooting at a school every other day so far this year, 2018.

There have been calls for gun controls in the USA, the President says no, it’s a mental health thing, many other Republicans say it is not the time to talk about these things, it goes on. You know nothing will be done.

But there is one thing I can tell you – here in the UK we just don’t get it, the fascination with guns, the fact that more than 40% of the American population owns one or more firearms. I don’t. I don’t believe I have ever seen a gun in real life except in a policeman’s holster, and that was not in this country. It’s not any part of our lives for nearly all of us.

So, here are a few UK myths dispelled:

– you can’t get a firearm, no-one has firearms: not true of course, there are plenty of people who have a genuine need for guns, gamekeepers for example. You can get firearms but it is very hard. There are interviews, tests, background checks and so on. You can’t just walk into a shop and buy a gun.

– police are not armed in the UK – not true. It certainly used to be true, but with increased terrorism, you do see armed police at sensitive places, airports, parliament and so on.

– people don’t get murdered in the UK – not true. There is gun crime in this country (I’m sure you can get a gun by some illegal method if you really try) but it is very small. And there are other methods of killing people, including bombs and cars. Sadly, it is not very hard to kill a number of people with a car

In this country, and probably most others, guns are not any part of our culture. Schools and hospitals may have some kind of security (the school I worked at had some security, mainly to stop odd folk wandering in off the street), but no metal detectors. We don’t want to arm teachers. We just want kids to go to school, learn, enjoy their lessons, be safe.

We can’t understand why Americans think it is a human right to carry guns. The Trump attitude of “everyone should carry guns” just mystifies us, except of course, then the gun companies will make even more profit. It’s not the wild west. America is a violent and intolerant country. It seems that you can simply shoot anyone you like, or don’t like, for any or no reason, and nothing happens.