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.


Someone once told me, quite genuinely, that I ask stupid questions.

Now, as a teacher, or ex teacher, there is no such thing as a stupid question. There are things you probably should know, but at least you are showing inquisitiveness about something, and if I can explain I will. If you still don’t understand, I will try a different approach.

So, one question I asked was “what would the world look like if no-one had invented glass?” Given that pretty much every building ever built, almost every vehicle, mobile phones… the list is pretty much endless, rely on glass for a variety of things, including for looking through, if it didn’t exist, how would we cope?

We rely on glass for drinking vessels, but we could easily find something else for that, but glass is such an important product for so many things. For example, how would aeroplane pilots cope without glass windows?

Now, you could say that we can always find an alternative, perspex or something.

A more deeply philosophical answer is that someone always would have discovered glass, or invented it. All life on all planets similar to ours would at some point have found something similar to glass. It’s fundamental, like the wheel and fire. Without it, civilisation cannot progress, or will progress slowly or differently.

Or maybe the answer is that we wouldn’t have, for example, planes if we did not have glass. Buildings would be different. Glass keeps heat in. We could live with holes in building walls, but not in cold climates.

I do wonder if there are things not discovered or invented that are so simple, or fundamental perhaps, that life on Earth might have been very different, hopefully better, with it than it is now.

Where in the world?

There are several YouTube videos, usually done by Americans (sorry, but that’s the truth) and usually with a title like “London place names everyone says wrong, even people who have lived in London for years”. Examples given include Holborn (Ho Born), Greenwich (Gren Itch) and Leicester Square (Less Ter Square).

So, let’s just discuss this for a second.

Just to point out, there are thousands upon thousands of place names that people don’t get wrong. I know sometimes people who do not speak English may have trouble with relatively simple things, like “Oxford”, but they get close enough to be understood.

It’s not true to say that no-one, even people who have lived here for years, gets them right. We are not stupid people. We learn.

It’s not a problem, not in London, England of the UK. And, of course, there are places in other countries, eg the USA, where the pronunciation is not obvious, so singling out London is unfair. La Jolla, Des Moines, Puyallup, Arkansas.

Also, we Londoners are reasonably helpful folk. Ask someone where a place is, and we will tell you if we can. Mispronounce a name and we won’t laugh at you, shame you or condemn you to hell. We may ask you to repeat it, simply because we are trying to understand exactly what you want. And we will correct you to be helpful.

I find videos like this to be unhelpful. They paint a picture of people that is unfair. We come over as stupid and intolerant, unhelpful and rude.