Sunday, 18 March 2012

Me, maths and Rhett Butler

Strangely I am put in the top class for maths at secondary school - either a case of mistaken identity or someone with a twisted sense of humour?  It seems to have escaped my teachers that maths has escaped me - but there was no hiding it when it came to public exams at 16.

The exams are a bit of a chore, but the best thing is that when we have finished a paper we are allowed to give it in and then sit quietly reading a book.  I am reading 'Gone with the Wind' and am obsessed with Rhett Butler (who in my imagination looks nothing like Clark Gable - I was utterly traumatised when I saw the film - much too smooth - no five o'clock shadow - anyway enough of my fevered imaginings...).

On the day of the maths exam I have got to a good bit in the book and can't wait to get back to Rhett.
'Oh Rhett,' - I'm saying that in my fluttery Scarlett O'Hara voice  - 'Oh Rhett, you are such a bad man!'  - these aren't Scarlett's actual words for any purists - just my interpretation of what she should have said, then they'd have got together quite a bit earlier.  Actually this talking to characters from books is becoming quite addictive - must do it more often - definitely Captain Wentworth next.  Slight dilemma do I stick to calling him Captain Wentworth or Frederick - don't want to be thought forward?

Anyway I speed through the simultaneous equations as the siren call of Mr Butler tempts me from the path of righteousness (Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn - sorry, so couldn't resist that).

When the results appeared in August it was not surprisingly that I have failed maths (so you don't think I am utterly sad I have to assure you that Rhett didn't have a negative effect on my other exams - my inner swot won out against the lure of literature).

I retake the exam twice in the Lower Sixth to no avail.  In desperation I am sent to a private tutor who happens to live in Christ Church - one of the Oxford colleges.  I am not thrilled to spend sunny afternoons doing maths, but I am thrilled to find out that the room where I sit was lived in by the Liddell family (Alice 'in Wonderland' Liddell).  Also that Lewis Carroll possibly sat on the same chair as me (not at the same time -that would have been creepy).  Oddly enough Carroll's academic field was mathematics - this confirming (to me anyway)  the rumours that there was something dubious about him.  I spend a fair bit of time talking to my tutor about Carroll - it is very interesting, the maths less so.

Inevitably I fail again.


  1. I recall Mrs Pendrake in Little Big Man saying things like "you are such a bad man". "Deliciously wicked" was another favourite phrase of hers. You evidently had a good intuitive understanding of the southern belle.

  2. I shall add "Deliciously wicked" to the lexicon as of today - undecided if to adopt Scarlett-like tone or to unleash my inner librarian.
    Understanding of the southern belle comes from never having lived north of the Midlands.

  3. Hahaaa I might pick up some tips from you about getting out of maths ... great story! But, I can't say I agree with you about Clarke Gable!

  4. I'd rather you liked Clarke than Justin Bieber...