HomeLifeFascinated by numbers? Then count your blessings

# Fascinated by numbers? Then count your blessings

I’ve always liked numbers. From a young age I used to sit on the brick letterbox at home and chant: ‘This old man he played one, he played knick-knack on my drum, with a knick-knack paddy-whack, give a dog a bone, this old man came rolling home.’

The aim, of course, was to count all the way up to 10 which, when you are only three, is quite an achievement.

Sesame Street had not been invented and television was not around in my street. Of course, I had no idea what the chant meant, and probably don’t even now. I also don’t want to know, in case another aspect of my childhood will be found to be politically incorrect, like that chant starting with ‘Eeny, meeny, miney, mo.’ But I was chuffed to be able to count.

Numbers then loomed large in primary school, mainly focused around ghastly sums involving pounds, shillings and pence multiplied by a prime number. I remember laborious columns of numbers written in pencil and sometimes smudged around the edges or rubbed out and rewritten. A mess. Surely this was a version of torture for a whole generation of school kids? Thank God that decimal currency was brought in and a sense of calm returned to my journey through numbers. Multiples of 10 are my friends.

Next came algebra in high school. I still adore finding the solution to simultaneous equations – a bit like solving the Wordle or the cryptic crossword in the newspaper. Then came log tables, those mysterious rows and rows of numbers that helped us through maths and physics calculations. Again, however, I thank a higher power for the invention of the calculator, a boon to the innumerate or the just plain lazy. It gave me back hours of my life and helped sustain an ongoing love of numbers.

Then I began to look forward to my own numbers – my 18th birthday with the possibility of a driver’s licence and then the usual parties celebrating our 21st, a handing over of a cardboard key (and sometimes a real key) to signify our new responsible self. These numbers were to be relished and savoured and seemed proof that we were finally grown up.

But as the years have flown by, my love affair with numbers has changed and morphed. The numbers came tinged with a desire for time to fly. I became obsessed about when the children would get out of nappies – aged two came my plea to heaven. Get dressed on their own? Aged five or six? Make their own breakfast while I lay in bed? Never? Pay for their own things and leave home? Possibly never too.

Why do we place so much importance on a number?

As I enter another decade of my life, one with a very large digit in front of it, I am forced to admit that the maths ultimately defeats us. No matter what we want and what we think, the passage of time, the entropy of our bodies is matched by the maths, by the number. So, my love affair is coming to an end.

I can’t change my number but I can give it a damn good run and hope it gets even bigger!

Do you have a fascination with numbers? Have the numbers been kind to you? Why not share your experiences in the comments section below?

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1. I’ve always had a fascination with numbers. My grandfather was an inspector of schools and always impressed on my that I had to know my times tables, and spelling.
This followed me through my school days, and into my working life.
My first job was in a bank, and then working with figures with the PMG’s Department/Telecom Australia, a health fund, & Aust Post.
My love never waned, so well after I finished my last full-time job in 1992, I went on to do the Cert 4 in Accounting and refreshed it with the Cert 4 in Bookkeeping some years later.
I now work my budget in an Excel spreadsheet and have it forecast until mid-2029!
I’m just under 5 months until eligible for the Age Pension.
Thanks Granddad for my love of numbers – you would have been 133 4 days ago. Miss you 🙂

Lyrics
When upon life’s billows
You are tempest tossed
When you are discouraged
Thinking all is lost
Name them one by one
And it will surprise you
What the lord has done
Name them one by one
See what God has done
Name them one by one
See what God has done
Are you ever burdened
Does the cross seem heavy
You are called to bear?
Every doubt will fly
And you will keep singing
As the days go by
Name them one by one
See what God has done
Name them one by one
See what God has done
So, amid the conflict
Whether great or small
Do not be disheartened
God is over all
Angels will attend
Help and comfort give you
Name them one by one
See what God has done
Name them one by one
See what God has done
Name them one by one
See what God has done
Name them one by one
See what God has done

FROM THE AUTHOR

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