I admit it. I’m a terrible friend to you. I’m sharing the following sample of London-based blogger Jean-Paul so that you’ll be snared like I am. Experience the same one-two-punch love-hate I have with his site. #1) I love that he’s so talented!!! (though I am jealous!), and #2) I hate that every time I visit, I can’t resist spending way more time there than I plan for — even his friends who comment are clever!! Read on, my forewarned friend…
“Who are you calling stupid?” by Jean-Paul
When it comes to math, I’ll admit I’m a complete dummy. At school, I understood a lot, but arithmetic? It was all mental to me. My husband, on the other hand, has a brain like a push button calculator.
“You’re not stupid,” said Guido after dinner last night, “you just need some math practice with imagination. I have an idea,” he said, “sit back right this second and imagine yourself in a farmyard.”
As you can see, we really do need to get out more.
This was worrying. I had a sneaking feeling I was going to be asked to talk algebra to a chicken. I’ve only ever visited a farm once in my entire life, and I seem to recall a pungent odour. It was strong enough to make me squeeze my nostrils all day long.
“Okay,” I said involuntarily pinching my nose, “what’s next?”
There was a pause.
“What are you doing?” Guido asked, eyebrow raised.
“I just think it’s important that I embrace this part of the exercise before we move on to any complex multiplications or differential equations. Though I’ll admit, I’m becoming anxious about whether I should go put on rubber boots?”
Take it from me, this was a totally bona fide concern. If you’ve ever walked around a farmyard, then you’ll know there are some big brown stinky things you really don’t want to stand in. Did I mention the flies?
“Don’t worry about that. This is the cleanest farm ever.”
This was reassuring, but I held onto my nostrils just in case of an unexpected whiff of ammonia. I couldn’t see any flies though. Which was even more re-assuring on account of my limited one arm swatting abilities.
“Now imagine there are 13 animal heads and 40 legs in front of you,” said Guido.
One moment I’m in a loft apartment eating a perfectly adequate mid-week lasagna and the next I’ve suddenly been put out to pasture herding a bunch of unidentifiable livestock. As you can tell, I like to take my visualisation pretty seriously. Which is more than I can say about the math. I mean, where was the straw?
“Now tell me,” said Guido, “how many sheep and how many ducks can you count?”
I closed my eyes. I could actually see the sheep just standing there staring at me. They seemed pretty friendly with only the occasional baa. The ducks, on the other hand, were all over the place quack quack quacking and waving their wings about. Anyone would think they’d just been told the hunting season had started.
There was another short pause.
“Well?” asked Guido.
“Hang on,” I said, “I’ve counted the sheep, but the ducks are proving problematic. Have you got any stale bread I could feed them?”
It was, I think, at that point, Guido began to understand the challenges my teachers had all those years ago.
“Hmm, I think we’ll leave this lesson for now,” said Guido wisely pouring me a glass of wine.
Back from the country, safely at our kitchen table, I let go of my nose. In the end, I couldn’t teach Guido that much about the sheep but what I did tell him was if something walks like a duck and talks like a duck then it’s usually a duck. And there’s nothing stupid about that.