Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Rod envy...........

I have spent all afternoon preparing to do the annual accounts, an endeavour which will probably take me till the end of the week.

The initial stages are fairly straightforward with interspersed with periods of intense frustration.
Firstly I have to clear the dining room table and prepare a 'working' area. This area must contain

  • One DAB radio
  • Paper shredder
  • Waste paper bin
  • Ruler
  • Sharp pencil
  • Pen
  • Calculator
  • Additional number pad to connect to laptop
  • 12 large envelopes
These items are all placed neatly in their allotted spaces and I can then move on to stage two, which involves a mini-mountaineering trip into the spare room to retrieve assorted boxes, carrier bags and envelopes containing all last year's bank statements, business credit card statements, receipts and related paperwork.

Then comes the frustrating bit........ sorting through each and every bit of paper and filing it in the appropriate envelope. So far I have 'lost' 3 bank statements and 2 credit card statements. I know they're there somewhere, which means I've mis-filed them. Which means going through all the envelopes again to see if they've inadvertently stowed away.

Assuming the missing statements come to light, I will then be in a position to move onto stage three.......working through each month's accounts using an Excel spreadsheet, in the vain hope that everything will tally.

I know that it is a vain hope, because I do it every year. The bank statement should tally with the receipts and payments, which in turn should tally with the credit card statements.
In theory it's simple.

In practice, after I've sorted through each month's receipts and payments there is almost always a discrepancy which has to be hunted down like a dog, dragged snapping and yelping back into line and forcibly subdued till all the numbers match and I can put a neat little tick in the 'correct' box.

The process is slow and painstaking and it makes me crabby and unpleasant to be around. I develop permanent frown lines and get repetitive strain injury from tapping away on the number pad.

Numbers dance before my eyes and decimal points weave backwards and forwards in wildly unpredictable patterns. Zeros multiply exponentially, then mysteriously disappear.

I can't remember exactly when I fell out of love with numbers. At primary school, at least in the very early years, I used to relish sums and doing the thing with the tens and units.

We all had a little cloth bag full of wooden rods which we'd use to help with simple arithmetical calculations and to enable us to see the relationships between numbers in a visual form.

I always kept my rods pristine, and loved the smooth, tactile feel of them. They even had a special smell. I loved the way they clicked together. How they made adding and taking away soooo easy. I was even inspired to experiment with three dimensional numbers, standing the rods up on end instead of laying them flat on my desk. When it all got too much I could make pleasing patterns with them, or make animals and houses.

To this day I still visualise the numbers up to ten in the colours of my cuisenaire rods.

I suppose when I moved up to the big school, rods were considered too childish, as they disappeared from our desks to be replaced with proper squared exercise books, in which we laboriously worked on devilishly hard sums. I remember sobbing with despair while struggling with long division, or dreadful 'problems'.

My heart would sink when confronted with

A man digs a hole 6 feet wide by 4 feet 8 inches wide by 3 yards deep. How many pitchers of water containing 5 4/9ths of a gallon will it take to fill it?

My mind would become an instant blank and I'd sit mute with misery, tears rolling down my cheeks to turn my exercise book into a sodden mess, full of 'rubbings out'.

The time before morning playtime could never come quickly enough as our days were regimented into sums first thing, then English after playtime. Except when the teacher would spring a surprise mental arithmetic test just before dinner time.

Oral mental arithmetic was a special level of hell reserved just for me. I would tremulously await my turn, stomach churning, mouth bone dry, my entire body flushing bright crimson, while all around me classmates fidgeted and sniggered at my inability to answer the question.

Any question.

I used to toy with the idea of feigning a fit, or dropping into a swoon. Even wetting myself would have been less embarrassing and it was a close run thing at times.

And so my brief but ecstatic love affair with numbers was cruelly cut short. Nowadays I do try to cultivate a reasonable relationship with Excel........after all it does all the calculations for me and presumably gets them right. Which is more than I can do.

But all the pleasure is gone. Never more will I experience the frisson of anticipation and excitement caused by the words

"Now children, we're going to do some sums. Take out your rods.........."


tattyhousehastings said...

Hmm, our rods were plastic - no wonder I didn't love them!
And so so agree with you about evil men in holes, oh, and digging them - simply could not understand them. Oh, and as an adult I have the dubious pleasure of being told I really can add up for a commissioner several times so can't have been very important anyway. Unless I was missing the point of them - which was???

Debbie said...

Sandra I hated Maths at school especially logarhythms What were they for and has any one every used them..

Sandra Morris said...

Strangely, I could do logarithms...I vaguely remember a little book of log tables. It was purely a mechanical process but I've no idea what they were for or if they had any practical application.
I still have nightmares about quadratic equations though...I'm always in a maths exam then find that every question is on algebra with really complex equations. Now what on earth is the point of them?!