Thursday, November 04, 2010


When I was about six our class at school didn't have a proper classroom for a while (I don't know why - maybe it was being rebuilt or something) so our tables and chairs were moved into a corridor and we had all our lessons there. Just to add to the strangeness of the situation the corridor actually sloped downhill from the cloakroom at one end to whatever was at the bottom end - I can't remember. One afternoon when the teacher had presumably run out of steam coming up with 'proper' lessons that you could do in such an odd shaped space (or maybe inspired by the linearity of our temporary classroom) she handed out strips of paper a metre long each divided into a hundred centimetre sections. We were to occupy ourselves by writing in the numbers from 1 to 100 in the spaces. When we completed this task we should take the completed rule to the teacher who would check it and give us another strip for 101 to 200. Some of the girls who always were best at everything got to four or five hundred, but I kept going. When I got onto my sixth or seventh strip most of the teacher's supply had run out and most of the class had stopped (we were probably told to read quietly or something but I wasn't a keen reader at that age). Luckily a friend of mine had a strip he hadn't started and was only too glad to give it to me. Now the goal of my reaching a thousand caught the collective imagination of the class and people started hunting out new strips for me to complete. It got to tidying up time but the teacher, sensing maybe, a sense of purpose and focus in a child prone to hiding rather than joining in, let me continue - my classmates supported the quest by doing my part of whatever chore we were supposed to do - pencils in jars, books on shelves or whatever. Finally to my own astonishment I wrote in the final four digits and, clutching my achievement, proudly went out to meet my mum. I later sellotaped the ten strips together into one ten metre long ribbon and it remained, wound in a roll about two inches across with an elastic band round it in the desk drawer in our room for the rest of my childhood.


Blogger Rowan said...

I remember at primary school spending my break times counting: quietly, but out loud. I'd try to remember where I'd got to each time, and carry on the next day. When people asked me what I was counting, I would simply answer "numbers".

I have no idea what this was all about - maybe a psychoanalyst could have a guess - and sadly I can't remember what number I eventually reached. Perhaps there's an elemental curiosity about the nature of numbers - the idea that you can just carry on, and there's always more numbers out there, ready to be counted...

11:23 AM  

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