Friday, 21 August 2009


Mes chers amis

How grateful I am to you all for your continued interest in my godson, Wulfric. I know that there is just one question on your lips tonight: what did he get? Well, you may all crack open a bouteille of Uerziger Wurzgarten 1961 and drink a deep draught, for the boy got straight As and is off to his reward. Let the toast be Rugby School, and let the response be Ed Balls God Bless Him. I like to think that I have played a vital role in the lad's success, although this may be met with scorn in some grittier quarters (Mr Beast of Bournemouth). The fact is, although relentlessly loaded and repeatedly wrecked, I know my maths, which comes as a vile shock to some ingrates (Mr Inky Inkermann: I once trounced him with my take on Kronecker's work) who can't believe that it sits comfortably with my glamorous life. To them I say this: it is all in the genes, and there is nothing to be done about it; like maternal-pattern baldness, for example.

My dear old father died in February, and I am still clearing a mountain of paperwork. I have mentioned his journals before, I know, particularly his Restaurant Reviews ("The Americans Paid!" ..... "...the worst escalope di vitello farcita I have ever eaten ...", ..."pantouffle Perigourdine in Abergavenny ...", ......"A 1945 ch. Croizet Bages didn't disappoint ..." etc. etc ....) and also his archive of arithmetic. He was a man of parts, my father. He loved football and rugby, Mahler, Joseph Conrad and Kim Novak, but mainly he loved maths. It was his hobby. He was a General Practitioner of the old school, with a surgery in a Thameside village and a private practice in London (now don't get snotty - they ALL did in those days) but he couldn't do a crossword puzzle to save his life. I will never forget how he tore his hair out over one clue: Sloppy Onward Address (4). The harridan and I got it immediately*. He gave up without a fight. He found his relaxation in numbers and, like his friend Lancelot Hogben, filled his journals with his thoughts. I found this today, dated November 1959:

"De Moivre discovered a new field of calculating devices by using the mathematical gerund i as Diophantus had used the mathematical gerund "-a". What is called de Moivre's theorem started a new chapter in modern algebra just as the law of signs started a new chapter in the algebra of antiquity. de Moivre's theorem, like the binomial theorem of Omar Khayyam is a rule for raising a quantity to some power represented by the operator n written in the top left hand corner".

He then gives an example with which I won't bore you. The point is that he was attempting to say something powerful. Namely, don't bother about the meaning of this, because a rule in mathematics is either a statement about its consistency with with other rules, or a statement about how it can be used. First of all, you should satisfy yourself that it is consistent with what you know already about sines, cosines, negative quantities, square roots and powers. I hope I haven't lost you. He then goes onto some theorising about vector analysis and finally uses a word I have never seen before: mantissa (the positive fractional part of the logarithm). The irony isn't lost on me. I'm sure this word will come up in a crossword. Probably this week.

Forgive me, I am a bit maudlin and a bit pissed. What a combination! However, I quite like it. It is the end of a working week and, ever since I came out to you as a member of the real economy with a real job, my inbox has been becrammed with bleatings. Mrs Pouncer! (they say) Are you really a woman of commerce? And to this I say, yes, I am, and I Kick Ass on the High Street. For those who still languish in the mire of disbelief, I give my Glossary of Commercial Terms.

An AGENT is a person who transacts business for another. His CHARGE or FEE is usually so much percent of the value of the business carried out. This is called COMMISSION. An agent who buys and sells shares is called a BROKER and his charge is called BROKERAGE. The term DISCOUNT is used to mean a percentage taken off amount payable. DEPRECIATION is noted as a stocktaking percentage written off each year to meet decrease in value - generally quoted at 1% on buildings, 5% on stock and 10% on machinery. All debts a man owes are his LIABILITIES. All his possessions are his ASSETS. If his liabilities are greater than his assets, he is INSOLVENT. To whom he owes money are called his CREDITORS. The term DISCOUNT is also used in buying and selling to mean a percentage off an amount payable. This is known as TRADE DISCOUNT. Yes, I am JEWISH. Try these handy problems to see if you've kept up:

1. A bankrupt owes £73,5000 and his assets realise £11,630. What can he pay per £1?
2. A bill of £400 drawn 1 August at 6 months was discounted 4 August at 8 per cent. What amount of discount was deducted?
3. How much is written off for depreciation in three years at 5% on plant originally worth £3500?
4. A,B & C each contribute £680 to a business capital. A's lies all year, ~B's for 10 months and C's for 8 months. If the profit is £412 how much should each receive?
5. If 12 oxen and 35 sheep eat 12 tons 12 cwts of hay in 8 days, how much will it cost to feed 9 oxen and 12 sheep for 14 days, the price of hay being £4 per ton and 3 oxen eating as much as 7 sheep?

My godson, bound as he is for Peterhouse to read Maths, looked blank. I was appalled and gratified. You see, we ARE cleverer, no matter what Mr A. Salmond, finder of lost children and truly my brother's keeper, may think, and thank heavens for that.

*The answer is MUSH.


  1. Oooooo! Thanks for the crossword answer. I can only do American crosswords. The Brit ones are entirely beyond me.

    Now at least I have one clue and one answer. Perhaps this will come in handy one day.

  2. Rugby School? Must he too be forced to habit within that industrial dump of a town.

    I'm moving back there next month. Sigh...

  3. Of course maths goes with glamour, it never went anywhere else. News though that the rag trade does too.

  4. Maths is a mystery to me - although I do like what they call Mathrock, though I don't know why it's called such - I lost it at intergration and never went back. Glad to hear more of your accommplishments, and indeed of young Wulfrun - a fine name.
    Although I remain a stubbournly ex-intoxicantist, I still know, as any fool does, that drinkers are by far the best people.
    I must be off for my constitutional now, as the children of Cardiff are commencing their morning frolic and it is too noisy to remain in the house.
    Best regards,
    The Drinker.

  5. I once knew a Wolfy. He had a very cold nose and could just about count to ten.

  6. Oh Pouncer, you're always there to teach me something new. Thank-you. One of my friends went bankrupt by lashing it up non stop for 3 years. His old man found out in the pages of the Echo.

  7. Ah... the perfect mathematical logic of the trade.

    Local government arithmetic is tricky as it depends almost entirely on irrational numbers and imaginary operators.

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  9. Now I really do believe that you are Dr Maroon in drag, Mrs P. But I'm sure the spell will pass.

  10. Very good to hear from you again Ms P. As you are aware I enjoy your musing greatly.
    Woof x

  11. As always, your posts are an education. In what I have yet to establish, but undoubtedly an education for which I am entirely grateful.

  12. I am so delighted to find you well and in fine form. While I do have an appreciation figures..especially a nice set of rounded-off whole numbers, I purposely avoid all mental contact with the "Maths" and treat such as the sum of all fears.

    Having served my sentence in the moral wasteland of Commercial Real Estate I no longer need to deal with depreciating the welfare and needs of the citizenry in order to capitalize on the tax advantages of some inbred ninny who wants to let the interest in his Trust accrue and remain stirred/not shaken and his cousin the Banker bends over and whispers "Why the hell not Teddy! How's my favorite Aunt? How much do you want?"

    I hate to Pyth on Pythagoras but numerology has yet to let me win the Lotto and become a full time ninny with interest accruing in my trust.

    Like Bogie said, "It just doesn't add up to a hill of beans."

  13. Mrs Boyo's mother is a mathematician, and her opening gambit to me when we had our first family dinner was to show me how to work out which month has how many days by some calculation using your knuckles. This ruined masturbation for weeks.

    Hogben's Loom of Language is one of my favourite books. Largely barking and therefore most edjucational. His artificial language Interglossa was an exquisite parody of Esperanto, as if one were ever needed.

  14. I got a credit in School Cert in maths. Gawd knows how.

  15. Congratulations On The Exam News!
    Your Dad was a lucky man to feel the Beauty of Number.When you get into it, a certain Warmth & Surrender results.

  16. Well, THIS is a nice discovery - nothing about Wulfric, I'm afraid. Last time I visited, you were disbanding whatever you'd banded about the blog, promising/threatening to never return.

    I am THRILLED you did anyway.

  17. So where are you? Wassssssssssssssssup?

  18. There is a rumour that she is the subject of a brass-rubbing activity in Taplow.

  19. Well I suppose she could be described as one of the monumental brasses of England.

  20. Brass rubbing? It's fairly malleable, no more than two fingers are necessary.

  21. I apologise to one and all for this tardy response. I have been in Eze with a vile man; truly of the worst type. Impecunious, not to mention penniless, obstreperous in drink, foul-mouthed and impotent. Yes, I really do think I have found Mr Right at long last. I hope you are glad for me.

    Expateek, hello and what kept you? Americans doing crosswords? Good heavens! Don't you just kick back and whittle something?

    Fammy are you really coming to Rugby? Please let me know with all available haste. I am well known at the Silver Mulberry, Warwick. We could cut a rug as dawn breaks.

    Inky, as ever I greet your comment with the special tinkly silvern laugh that I reserve for such ill-informed flimflam. I am currently working on my one-woman show for Edinburgh next year, working title Cheap Dresses For Fat Women. It promises to lay the rag trade bare. I will put you on the guest list.

    Dear The Drinker, of course you are gratified to hear of my accomplishments, although you are a late arrival at my discourse. I am forwarding a copy of my cv, plus some candid snaps taken in Livorno on April Fool's Day 2001. I am the one wearing bunny ears.

    Scarlet, as usual you drag the discourse to the gutter with vile reminiscences of the Norbury Neanderthal. My moral compass is on a hair-trigger; please don't monkey around with the settings.

  22. Thankfully, accomplished Mrs Pouncer, your promised missive has not yet arrived. As well as a rabid indifference to mathematics I have a morbid fear of bunnies.