Saturday, 22nd May, 2021

[Day 432]

We are still in the phase of a whole succession of rainy days – in fact as last month (April) was the driest for 60 years then I think I have heard recently that this May is proving to be on the wettest on record. Today was a glowering kind of day with quite a lot of oppressive low hanging cloud but nonetheless, we decided to risk it and walk down for our newspapers and our park run. Meg and I went straight to the park this morning and it wasn’t too long before we got joined by our University of Birmingham friend. He is busy teaching himself some Spanish and I think he is doing an online course – in any event, he is more than happy to try out some phrases and short sentences with us. Needless to say, Meg and I are happy accomplices in this venture. I raided our bookshelves for some ‘Teach yourself Spanish‘ books of which we have accumulated quite a multitude over the years. After we had explained sone Spanish constructions we were joined by another park friend who, I think, is quite interested in mathematics and cosmology. I am not sure how we got onto the topic several days ago but I mentioned a short-cut way of multiplying by 25 (multiply by 100 and then divide by 4 or half and half again) In the course of our conversations, I mentioned the ‘Trachtenberg System of Speed Mathematics‘ or something similar. When I was a young civil servant in London and living in a civil service hostel (way back in 1964 i.e. 57 years go), I came across a battered old book (the Trachtenberg book mentioned before) and already I only read the first few chapters I remember being quite captivated by it. Our other park friend had also heard of the book or even come across it and the back story is quite interesting.The author who was Jewish was interned in a Nazi concentration camp and the book was devised in his mind as a way of passing the time and/or keeping hold of reality. I went onto Amazon and was amazed to discover that I could buy a recently re-issued version of the book for about £8.00 so I indulged myself and bought it. As soon as we have a moment, we are going to read the book and pass it around ourselves (the three of us) but we all have slightly different priorities at the moment. What I think is amazing is that I can remember the author and approximate title of a book I first came across 57 years ago. Whilst on the subject of mathematics, I remembered that the number 104348/33215 is an incredibly good approximation for ‘pi’. In practice, if you were to use this to help you in calculations for the circumference of the earth (24,900 miles) then with an error rate of 3 parts in 10 billion, an estimate of the circumference of the earth would only out by about ½” (not many people know that – or even care)

The weather forecast for tomorrow is pretty dire so I decided to push myself on and get our front and back lawns cut. Fortunately, we had some pale sunshine during the afternoon and the clouds seem to have rolled away.I must say that although it was six days ago that the lawns were last cut, the rapidly growing dandelions and dandelion-heads had made all the lawns look very tatty. So, I was very pleased for the lawns to get cut and then bathed in some late afternoon sunshine before we had to leave to go to church in the early evening. On our way as we parking the car, we bumped into our next door neighbour who is deep into quite elaborate preparations for his wife’s 70th birthday celebrations a week on Sunday. I was delighted to see our neighbour because I happened to see a certain ‘something’ when we were in Droitwich last Thursday. I checked out that this would be acceptable (which it certainly would be) as a birthday present so I am going to make a lightning visit into Droitwich next Monday morning to grab this particular item before it goes – at the same time, I can pop into my favourite hardware store (Wilko) where I am sure I will find lots of things that I really need to stock up on.

It looks as though the fallout from the Martin Bashir interview which is trashing the reputation of the BBC is continuing. To my mind, this situation is getting a little Kafka-esque – after all, Prince Charles and Princess Diana had both admitted adultery which must rank as being a lot more serious than an interview gained under false pretences, (although compounded by management failure to properly investigate) What is happening at the moment is that those on the right who absolute hate the BBC (i.e. many members of the present government) are now coming out of the woodwork and muttering all kinds of hard threats about how the BBC should be reformed (read emasculated, made into a pale imitation of a Russian/Chinese propaganda regime if the right had their way)