A tale to be told. Left handed.

4 Sep

images.duckduckgo.comIt was a pleasant evening at Buckden rounding off a weekend of mayhem (us) and debauchery (not us) in Leeds..(what happens in Leeds stays in Leeds). I’m riding my bike home, carefully, as you do on a wet night, when suddenly the bike makes determined effort to mount the left hand verge. I wrestle it back only to find it drifting across to the other side. The inevitable happens. The bike his the verge, stops dead, and hurls your truly over the top and into a somersault. The aikido rolls and five years of tuck and roll from Sara’s car come into play, and I somersault, dramatically, into the ditch.

I pick myself up and dust myself off, and try and lift the bike. This is not happening. I have obviously done something serious to my right shoulder.

Rather than call for an ambulance, I call for roadside recovery, thinking that I can get the bike home and go into A&E in the morning. Unfortunately, because it’s an accident, I now have to go through the claims process. By the side of the road. In the rain. With a busted shoulder. They advise me all sorts of things about false declarations and stuff. Eventually it’s done and a recovery vehicle is ordered..it’s 60-90 minutes away.

At which point my phone dies. I spend the next hour so walking up and down the road. In the rain. I see no other vehicles in this time. Concerned that they may not be able to find me, and with the nagging doubt that no help is coming at all,I decide to set out in search of help.

I have two choices. . Go on to the sleepy village where no one has ever been seen on the streets, and scare the bejabers out of some poor soul at 2am, or go back to the US Air Force base where surely someone will be awake.

I head for the base, a couple of miles away. I am now aware that my left foot may not have escaped injury.

Eventually the welcome sight of the barbed wire gates comes into view. The place is seemingly deserted. However, I can just make out the shadows of two figures in the guardhouse. They are awake. They are fully armed. And they are not at all sure what to make of the grey clad figure emerging out of the rain. Apparently I am the first walk up visitor they have ever had, and I don’t look like your average civilian tourist anyway.   An early question is ’are you armed’ and I run through an inventory of the contents of a motorcyclist’s pockets to see if I am carrying anything I might get shot for. Newspaper headlines swim before my eyes..”British biker shot after midnight crash’…’Biker attacks US nuclear depot armed with helmet lock’.

images.duckduckgo.comThey take pity on me, but to a man the entire base is equipped with iPhones. I will not be charging my phone tonight. They send for medical assistance. It arrives in the form of two firetrucks driven by a crew with broad Cambridgeshire accents. I am told that my blood pressure is too high (really? I wonder why?) and that yes, my collarbone is probably broken.

The base police turn up. They, too, are reassuringly English but equally heavily armed. I might now get shot or tasered. Choices, choices.

Eventually an ambulance arrives, and takes me to Huntingdon. I do not particularly want to go to Huntingdon, but Huntingdon is where I am going.

At which point the wonderful thing we call the NHS kicks in. The driver is English. She expresses regret because she hoped to see my arm get fixed. She believes it is dislocated. Fortunately, she is wrong. The other paramedic  is charmingly and wonderfully Spanish. If you are female it may well be worth getting in an accident just to meet him.

The hospital is quiet, but am greeted by a United Nations of fabulous medical staff who continually offer me drugs. I turn these down on the basis that if it really starts to hurt, then I will really want all the drugs I can get and I don’t want to waste any on mere discomfort. I have an Asian doctor who takes great delight in poking bones, bruises and other bits exactly where it’s going to hurt. However, he manages this with such good humour that it is easy to forgive him. The Filipino porter manages to move a weight four times his size at the end of a 20 hour shift. The Chinese nurse brings me tea and biscuits. They are all cheerful, helpful, and efficient. They make me very happy, which confuses all of them, and I am transported round the building propelled by my fabulous Filipino friend while grinning like a madman.

The doctor confirms what I suspected. My collarbone is broken, and there is some twisting to my foot. I ah equipped with a boot for my foot and a sling for my arm, along with a single crutch. I feel less stable using the crutch than if I just stomp along like I have done all my life. It may come in handy for waving, threateningly, at people.

And that’s it. One of the nurses finds me a charger and I discover that while the recovery vehicle could not initially find me, my motorbike has already made it home. I will later find that quite a lot of grass verge has also made it home. Darcey has a smashed fairing and bent wing mirror but is not too badly damaged otherwise. I get through to my son at 6:30, who cheerfully comes to pick me up. As he arrives the reception staff are graciously trying to deal with a very irate man who cannot quite grasp the fact that if he has an abscess on a tooth then he needs to go see a dentist. Again, the staff are doing this tactfully and diplomatically.

So. I have crashed my bike. I count myself lucky – my injuries are relatively minor, and they will heal. But I am full of admiration for a bunch of air base staff who rather bemusedly dealt with this crazy Brit who appeared out of the rain with a random story about motorbike and phones – for an efficient bunch wildly international medics – and the fact that I can just turn up and the only thing that’s important is getting me back to a functioning state, without worries about insurance and hospital bills.

I am back home, glad to be in one piece (apart from the bit of me that’s in two pieces, of course). I doubt I will be riding again soon…or, indeed, doing much with my right arm for a bit. But, somehow, it feels like this is a very good day to be alive.


Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

Apologies for typos. I am learning one handed typing. Badly.

Down by the water

25 Aug

Photo 2017-08-16 17.36.19

As regular readers will know, I regularly take a trip out to Rutland Water for some down time. It’s one of my favourite places to be, and it’s not far away from home.

For those of you who don’t know, Rutland Water is a huge artificial lake in the middle of England (the biggest by surface area in the country), created by flooding the Gwash valley. Down under the waters are a couple of villages, flooded when the dam was built.

And I have always been fascinated by Rutland.. this strangely named county that’s the smallest in England. And for someone who lives in Northamptonshire, the hills of Rutland are just that little bit more extravagant.

I am sufficiently crazy to want to cycle there – then I can cycle round the reservoir, see a bit of wildlife, get some exercise…

Photo 2017-08-17 14.02.05When God designed Rutland, for some reason she decided that all the hills and valleys should run east to west. For a poor soul on a bike, carrying a tent, a sleeping bag, camping gear and a few odds & sods necessary to survival, this means big hills. Long hills. Tire your thighs out till they burn kinda hills. On the upside, I am now toting a backpacker tent rather than the two man version that I had last year.

Photo 2017-08-17 17.05.35But around 35km later, I am happily at my favourite camp site overlooking Rutland Water, and my new tent is set up and coffee is brewing (thanks to a fabulous little gas burner which was a Father’s Day present from my son). There are few facilities here, but it’s peaceful and has fabulous views of the Water. I do have one final task for the day though.. cycle to Oakham cos I need some food. Back on the bike and an hour later I am making dinner. As the light dies, I can see an owl hunting over the field not 20 metres away.

The weather forecast was for a shower. This is, of course, England. At night the skies opened for a downpour, causing one of my friends to ask if I had been washed away. But the sound of the rain on the tent is calming, and relaxing, and the waterproofing holds. I am snug and dry, and deliriously happy.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.30.00The next day sees me back on the bike for a ride round the reservoir, taking in a few diversions on the way. The first of these diversions is to sit and ponder for a while in Costa in Oakham.. the other reason for the trip is to look at the next phase of my life. Lots of things are ending, and I am becoming freer to do different stuff.. so I am looking at what the reboot looks like. And more on that at another time.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.01.21
Photo 2017-08-17 14.01.21I’m also collecting bolts, for my other hobby, geocaching. Some madman has hidden bolts around the reservoir perimeter with numbers stamped into them. Collect the numbers on the bolts, put them in the right sequence, and the co-ordinates should lead me to a hidden treasure trove. Following these hides around the water leads me to different spots that I would not have otherwise found, and I find myself cycling down a broad road in the middle of nowhere, where the silence seems almost absolute apart from the birds and the roar of tyres on gravel.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.29.46A few hours and 36km later, I’m back at the tent with a few more geocache hides collected. And all the bolt numbers. Unfortunately, the calculation yields a location 12km away. Somewhere, I have gone wrong. I decide one of the numbers is wrong, recalculate it and cycle off in search of the final location. In the end it turns out that the cache setter has got one bolt wrong, and I am rewarded with a box hidden in the trees and full of odds and ends for the junior cacher. I log my find and rehide it, feeling suitably smug to have not only solved the puzzle, but done that when the puzzle is incorrect. Go me!

Photo 2017-08-17 15.26.39

Photo 2017-08-17 16.46.51

No rain tonight, but I am rewarded with a clear sky, and a beautiful view of the stars. The light pollution is low around here, and the Milky Way arcs overhead. It seems as if I can see the constellations leaping out at me – the Great Bear, Cassiopeia, all seem vivid and real. And I marvel at this incredible infinity spread out in the night sky… I am both awed and humbled at the sight.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.29.06The next day, I awake to a beautiful clear sky. It’s time to break camp. The tent’s a bit soggy, so that’s going to end up adorning my living room to dry out. And the legs are starting to tire. Those hills are going to be painful on the way home. My spirits are lifted half way by a fallow deer that crosses Photo 2017-08-18 09.30.06my path. And the views across to the Harringworth viaduct always lift my spirits.

And a couple of hours and another 35km later, I and my rucksack are back home. Inspection of my tyres shows that the rubber is missing – 122km of riding has finally managed to cycle the rear tyre down to the kevlar lining. On the up side, unlike my rather traumatic outing last year, I have experienced zero punctures. This is probably down to the kevlar and puncture proof inner tubes rather than improved riding.

As ever, I feel deeply tranquil and at peace.. my state of Zen has been restored, and some of the thoughts I have had will, I am sure, soon blossom into options for my future.

I’d rest and take it easy, but in around 3 hours I will have to lay a dance floor….

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

It’s OK to get it wrong

9 Jul


Politics is not my specialist subject. So. Let me try and get this straight.

The population of the UK are now on a bus hurtling down a road to uncertainty and chaos. Most of the people on the bus don’t want to go where they are going. The people who sold the ticket to their destination have now been proven to be liars, and the ticket price is continually escalating. The brochure shows that not only are the hotels not finished, but they are not even at the planning stage. Even the people who wrote the brochure now say that carrying on down the road is a big mistake. The people in charge of the bus don’t know where they are going, or have a clue how to drive the bus, and most of them didn’t want to go there anyway. Lots of the people in charge of the bus have got off and don’t want to have anything to do with the bus anymore. The destination for the bus is gloomy, desolate and lonely.

And no-one plans on turning the bus round?

Last year, a squeaky margin of British people voted to leave the European Union, against all the advice of the sensible expertise on the planet.

Since then it has been revealed that we were sold a lie. There is no £350 million a week for the NHS and in fact leaving the EU will mean that even less is available for public services. Leaving the EU will not leave us with more money, but less. Trade will be harder, not easier. We weren’t being regulated into hardship, but helped into increased freedom and well being.

It is clear that there is no prospect of a straightforward exit from the European Union, and that leaving the club will lead to huge and permanent consequences for us as a nation, for us as individuals, as businesses and as a society.

And it looks like the only people to possibly profit from departure from the EU are (guess who) those who are already wealthy and in power.

We can see the possibility of erosion of individual rights and liberties that we fought long and hard to secure.

Even the most generous predictions show that leaving the EU will cost this country and its people many billions, and result in a state of chaos that will take decades to recover from – if we ever do.

Our government are busy negotiating a future for us that results in the citizens of this country being worse off, and no ‘freer’ – that sets aside decades of progress. Is this what we want our government to do for us? Is this what a government should be planning?

If we went to the polls today, would we see the same result? Absolutely not. A significant number who voted to Leave now see how shortsighted a decision that was – and that they were not voting against the EU at all, but rather against the state of politics in this country. A significant number who didn’t vote – particularly the young – have now found their voice and are determined to make sure that we stay in the EU. We have seen that the route we have taken is not likely to end in economic prosperity, in increased freedom or in a better quality of life. Quite the reverse.

So why are we gambling the future of this country on something that even a straw poll of voters would show isn’t the future that we want. In Parliament, the majority know that they face a brutal future and a thankless task.

It’s OK to admit that we made a mistake.

It’s OK for the leadership of the governing political party to admit that the referendum was a mistake, and that continuing down the road that led us on is economic and social suicide.

It’s OK to admit that we don’t have a plan – not even the concept of a plan.

It’s OK to admit that we were naïve, lacking in foresight.

It’s OK to admit that we made mistakes before, during and after the referendum vote.

That’s not called ‘failing’. That’s called ‘learning’. And if this country has learned from its mistakes in the last year, then it will have been worth it. If this nation has realised that it is better for all to stand together rather than apart, then it will have been worth it.

Are we mature enough as a country, as a nation, as a government, as individuals, as political leaders, to admit that we were wrong? That we can recognise where we made mistakes, and then act to get it right in future?

There still seems to be a glimmer of light that shows there is a way back from the edge of madness.

So who is going to help turn the bus around?


Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

PS Lord knows I’ve got it wrong more times than I can count. Just ask my two sons. Or anyone that’s close to me. But hopefully I have learned enough and become secure enough to admit that I was wrong. Goofed. Screwed up. And hopefully I’ve tried to fix what I failed to get right first time round.

Maybe our government could try that?

Father to son

18 Jun

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

My father died over 30 years ago.. he simply fell off his bike and died from a heart attack on the way to work one day. So although he was at my wedding, he missed the divorce – and he never saw his grandchildren, or saw what a success they would be. But I know he would have loved them, fiercely and passionately.

He was a conflicted, loopy, crazy guy – we didn’t have phrases like PTSD to describe it, but he came back from serving with the Royal Engineers in the Tunisia campaign of WWII isolated and introverted. His first wife left him while he was away fighting for his country, which hurt him deeply. He was a great engineer, the son of a mining engineer also tragically killed in a mining accident in the coal mines of Merthyr Tydfil. And I suspect that’s why I became an engineer too. It’s in the blood, you see.

My brother and I will live with the image of a man with a tousled comb over (wildly out of control in the seaside breeze) dancing (we assume, it wasn’t obvious) in bright orange swimming trunks – or floating peacefully in the local swimming baths (which, it has to be said, is a bit of a shock if you’re not expecting it).

I remember clearing out the attic to discover he had been hoarding used beer cans in case they became valuable. And clearing out the shed, where I discovered a small stash of offcuts of copper that he’d been saving to take to the scrap merchants.

I remember the day that he went visibly pale when I came home and announced who I was dating… it’s always a high risk scenario when your son dates the boss’s daughter.

I remember the day we spent together rivetting a new floor pan onto the clunker of a car that I had just bought.. and the look of shock and horror that barely disguised his laughter when I drove the car through the front fence and into the front garden.

And I remember with fondness and thanks the day that I put my head on his shoulder and said ‘thankyou’ to him. It was the last time I saw him alive.

He failed, completely, to teach me any form of sports… those genes had to wait to be passed to my brother… but I was content to watch him play for his local cricket team, or to play a little bit of ‘whack the ball with the bat’ in the local park.

He cheerfully cycled 2 miles to work and 2 miles back every day.. and when, aged five, I decided I didn’t like school dinners, he cheerfully cycled the 4 mile round trip back home again every lunch time to make me lunch. I had no doubt that my father loved me.

He wasn’t keen on change – we suspect that he’d seen enough change in the war to see him through – and quickly discovered that ‘that was a nice meal for a change, dear’ meant ‘please never cook this for me ever again’. We would holiday in the same place every year until the hotel closed or changed hands, or something happened to cause him to fall out of love with the place.. and perhaps in his sense of keeping things the same was born my own desire to change things up – in his desire for uniformity was born my rebel cry to make things different, to yearn for adventure.

Only recently have we discovered the love letters he wrote back home to my mother excitedly looking forward to coming home and being together – letters full of tenderness and anticipation.

Like most men, my father had his faults, his inconsistencies, his weaknesses and his addictions. But he also had his strengths, his wisdom, his authority – and I knew I could rely on him to back me up, to be there when I needed him – and I knew I could rely on his love.

I hope I can bring my sons everything my father brought me – and then to surpass him – to build on the shoulders of a giant to be an even better example to my children as to what a real man is, and what a real father is. And already I see that they will be even better than I.

I wanted to post a song here. Cat Steven’s ‘Father and Son’ is for some reason too raw and painful for me to love. Its inclusion in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy II’ nearly leading me to walk out early, it’s that uncomfortable!

Peter Gabriel’s ‘Father Son’ is perhaps too gentle for the fierce love I feel towards my father – and towards my sons. Queen’s ‘Father to Son’ has more of the bite and energy that I feel – that sense that I will carry on where my father left off – and a rallying cry for my sons to become greater, better, more powerful, kinder, more loving, more successful and even better human beings than I am. Each of us carry the torch for a while, and we pass it on to the next generation for them to build a better, kinder future for themselves, and for those around them, and so for the world.

But I think I will leave you with one of my all time favourite moments in concert – worth listening to for Ged Lynch’s amazing ‘falling through the drumkit’ drumming – worth thinking about to consider what better world we might have if we would just talk to each other – but definitely worth the beautiful interaction between Peter Gabriel and his daughter Melanie in the song ‘Talk to Me’ – skip to 4:46 if you must.



Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

A vote for hope

7 Jun


Tomorrow the United Kingdom votes for its next government in what may be the most important election in my lifetime. The democratic system in the Western world has seen some shocks in the last twelve months – and perhaps this time the shock may be one that benefits this planet and moves us forward rather than taking us backward into darker days.

So far I have stayed quiet, watching what others have been saying, taking note of other people’s opinions.. and hoping and praying.

This time, I will be voting Labour. Not particularly because I want to vote Labour – it will be the first time I have, as I have usually favoured voting outside of the two party system – but because I am choosing to vote against a government lacking in compassion, in love, in those shared values that make us human. I am choosing to vote for a future where there is hope, rather than one of despair. And for me, Labour show me the possibility of that future, whereas a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for a return to the dark ages of modern politics.

For too long, this government have chosen to support the wants of the few over and against the needs of the many. Their approach to the NHS, to the disabled, to the disadvantaged, to the elderly, has been inhumane. Theresa May’s willingness to tear up the Human Rights Act – a bill of human rights that is one of this country’s proudest achievements – is irresponsible and dangerous, and would take humanity back centuries.

Their protection of the rights of the few, prioritised so heavily over the needs of the many, is anti-humanity and actually works against the prosperity of the nation as a whole. They gamble the future of this nation and the future of its people to line the pockets of a few powerful individuals.

We are ‘threatened’ with a Labour party that would apparently ‘take us back to the seventies’. And perhaps we need to remember those days. Those were the days when we had a National Health Service that worked. A police force that was respected. Where we were still grateful to be a country that was no longer at war. Where the ordinary people were finding their voice.

I have nothing against people becoming prosperous. I cheer on those who become successful. But I do stand up against those who use the power that wealth brings to take more and more for themselves while they forget the simple values of kindness, mercy, love, compassion.
In our continual pursuit of wealth we have forgotten that money is there to be used, not to be owned. We have forgotten that people matter. We have fallen prey to the thought that power is in the hands of the wealthy, the elite. We have listened to those who have the most to lose and to those who control the media that tells us what we should think. Our attention has been diverted to a false enemy when the actual enemy and danger to our humanity is far closer to home.

We have an opportunity in this election to vote for our true values. To vote to take humanity forward, not backward. To vote for love, compassion, hope, integrity. To vote for this country to be an example of what a nation can be – a demonstration to the world of what is possible when a country looks to what it can bring to the world.

So when I rock up at the polling station to vote tomorrow, I will definitely vote with my head. I will vote with my gut. I will certainly vote with my heart. And I will vote with hope that we can change our future.


Find out more at www.timhodgson.org


I don’t just dance

25 Apr

fight to dance

There’s a post going round called ‘I don’t just dance’. A photo of a dancer obviously letting go and letting the dance flow through her.

And it goes on to explain how she doesn’t just dance – she performs. She stops feeling sad. She loses the pain. She watches the world disappear. She tears down walls. She lets go. She smiles.

And that’s good. And every time I dance with someone, I want her to feel just a little bit of that. That’s why I dance, I think.. to bring a little bit of joy into someone else’s world. I want her to feel like the most graceful person in the world – to let the outside world drop away, for those four minutes (or possibly seven, when it’s one of those tracks when the guitarist just won’t give up until the bass player walks off stage or the drummer throws his sticks down). I want her to feel happy, and joyful, and elegant, and inspired, and beautiful, and alive. I want her to feel, at least for those three or four minutes, like a fabulous dancer.

But in the magic world of partner dance, we have to work hard to make the magic happen…while we might appear cool, calm and collected –we might appear in control…we’re actually just trying to hold it together to make it through the next track. And it made me think that picture only tells half the story.

So I’ll tell you what’s REALLY going on in the mind of your typical lead…


She said “yes”. Perhaps it would have been easier if she’d said “no” because now I actually have to deliver.

OK. Remember your technique. Get the connection right. Shoulderblade. Arm. Hand. Just the right amount of tension. Not quite got the connection on my arm. That’s OK. We’ll fix it as we go. I can work with this…

Calm. Relax. No need to move too soon. Get your connection right. Hold on. What do you mean, “Relax”? I have four minutes of dancing to fill and right now I think I might have forgotten everything I ever learned. Oh my god this is going to be a disaster…

What on earth is this track? I have never heard this before. What’s going on? Where’s the rhythm? There is no rhythm. OK. Follow the vocal. The vocal always works. Pause. No vocal, no movement. Silence is OK. Stillness is OK. Move again. Pay attention to the music. Pay attention to my partner.  Work with the mood of the track. So much to think about…

Eye contact. Remember eye contact. Try to keep the panic out of your eyes…

I wish these voices in my head would stop so I can just get on and enjoy the dance…

A break. Dammit. Missed the break. Now she’s wondering if I am actually listening to the music. She must think I am an idiot. Never mind. Try and get it right next time.

Technique. Always remember good technique. I lost connection there. Got it back. It’s all good.

Any chance of a change in the music? Please? Whoever wrote it. Must be Ed Sheeran. Everything seems to be by Ed Sheeran at the moment. PLEASE let there be a change. Up tempo. Down tempo. I don’t mind, just change something cos I really have run out of ideas. Is she bored yet? She must be bored by now. Does she look bored? Is she enjoying this…?

Dammit. Missed another break. Pay attention to the music. WHERE ON EARTH has the vocal gone…?

Instrumental break. OK, we can change this a bit. Oh, for goodness sake, don’t follow the guitar. Never follow the guitar solo. Even the guitarist doesn’t know what’s coming next, so how on earth can I work that out and then communicate ‘widdley-widdley-twang’ to my partner…?

Harmonica?! For heaven’s sake, how am I meant to dance to a harmonica solo..?

Phew. Vocal’s back. She’s singing in my ear now. Actually, that’s quite pleasant. Resist the temptation to make it a duet. Bit more energy here.. no no no, don’t go out to extension, you idiot. You’re going to start flailing around like a spider on rollerskates. Wrap her back in. Nice neat transition…

Oh my god. Must try not to be inappropriate. She’ll think I’m a complete weirdo. Perhaps I should just stay at extension. No, relax, you got this…

Break! Got it! Oh yeah baby we are so cool. Smug look…

Let’s try some travel and a pivot turn..and.. whoops. That didn’t go quite as I planned. Must work harder on preparation before moving next time. Never mind, just segue into something else, look all calm and confident, and she’ll never suspect a thing…

She must be bored by now. Is she enjoying this dance? She probably thinks I’m a complete doofus. Oh, god, let her be enjoying this dance…

Getting ready for a dramatic ending now… prep a nice little drop and… oh no, the keyboard player’s just gone off on one again. Dramatic ending #2 coming up… nice little lean… and it’s over…

Smile. Say thank you. Realise that actually, that was a really good dance. Murmur “that was fabulous, thank you” because actually – it was…

Try and get heartbeat back to normal resting pace…


And we come and do this for FUN?

It seems to me that when a dance works, it is one of the most sublime, awesome, incredible experiences on the planet. And we live for that moment. We might not be expecting it every time but when it happens… it happens. And trust me when I tell you – those moments only appear because we’re working hard, both of us, to create them. In that moment. In class. In workshops. In the kitchen. Listening to music. Imagining. Dreaming. Creating.

And when we meet on the floor, and we give it our best shot, and fireworks race across the sky and heaven applauds our efforts… then it all becomes worthwhile. (It’s called artistic licence. Deal with it.)

And THAT’S why we face the terror, and the panic, and the insecurity, and the fear of getting it wrong.. because most of the time.. it’s fabulous. And some of the time.. it’s incredible.



Find out more at www.timhodgson.org


Original picture, in case you missed it:


Only for geniuses

13 Dec

An algebra lesson from Timmy. Because I love you. And I want to stay your friend.

2016 has been a year of shocks and surprises, and I for one will be glad to see it over. I am hoping and praying that one trend will disappear next year – the horseshoe/burger/beer mathematics puzzle. Because every time I see one of these I am drawn to look at it and dismayed to find out… you’re still damn well getting it wrong!

Now, first off.

If you title your post "only for genius’s" then I will find you. I will hunt you down. And I will take away your apostrophe key until you can use it properly.

There. That’s that out of the way.


I hear a lot of people complain that they never use the algebra they were taught at school. This is very clear, looking at the answers we’re getting…but in fact you are using algebra, and you’re doing it in your head. Go you!

(Now, a caveat. I am not a mathematician. I have however got a degree in physics and electronics, including semiconductor physics, nuclear physics and particle theory. I have therefore done more algebra and arithmetic than you can shake an abacus at.)

If you apply the mathematical rules correctly, you will always arrive at one consistent answer. This answer will, in fact, be wrong. But we will look at that in a minute. Let’s try and find the answer you’re ‘supposed’ to get if you are a ‘genius’.

These puzzles always seem to take a similar form.

Line One:

Line one is something like

horse + horse + horse = 30.

This is like writing [a+a+a=x] or [3a=x]. Or [a=x/3]. Where x=30. So a=30/3. Which we all manage to solve to get ‘horse’ = 10.

So far so good. Your algebra is working. Awesome!

Line Two:

The next line is probably something like

horse + horseshoes + horseshoes = 18

This is writing [a + b + b = y], or [a+2b=y], where y=18 and a = 10 (from line one)

So [2b=y-a], so [b=(y-a) / 2] , or [b=(18-10)/2]

Which would make ‘horseshoes’ = 4

So far so good. Your algebra is holding up nicely, even if you’re actually solving this in your head. It’s still algebra.

Line three

Same again. Something like

Horseshoes – boots = 2

We used b to represent the horseshoes, and a to represent the horse. If c represents the boots then…

[b-c=z], or [c=z-b] – which for us is [4-c=2], which makes c (boots, remember) = 2

You probably did that in your head too..

Line four

This is where it all goes to hell in a handbasket. There are two little tricks in here that mean you’ll probably get it wrong. Line four is something like

Boot + Horse x horseshoe = ?

Trick one. The first thing you might miss is that there’s only one boot, and only one horseshoe. So when boots=2, boot (singular) must be 1. If horseshoes = 4, then horseshoe (singular) must be 2.

So that line becomes

1 + 10 x 2 = ?

Trick two. Now, the evil blighters want you to forget that you don’t do arithmetic from left to right. There’s a reason for this, and we will talk about it in a minute.

There’s an order to do these in. First off deal with the brackets. There aren’t any here.. and we’ll talk about that in a minute too.

Then do the division and the multiplication from left to right.

So that’s 10 x 2 = 20.

Now do the addition and subtraction from left to right.

So that’s 1+20=21.

Always. The absolute values may vary from puzzle to puzzle, and the horses might get replaced by hamburgers, but the rules are still the same.


Horse = 10
Horseshoe pair = 4
Boot pair = 2
=> Horseshoe =2
=> Boot = 1
1 + 10 × 2 = 21
(Calculated as 1 = (10 x 2) because you have to do things in the right order according to the rules of arithmetic.)

Now. Here’s the thing. If you were a REAL genius you’d have remembered that mathematics is a way of representing the real world in numbers and symbols. Which is why the rules exist and you do multiplication first.

And real geniuses want to make sure that there’s no room for getting things wrong, so we throw brackets in like there’s a sale at the bracket store.

So, in the real world, this puzzle might at the end mean

"Multiply the number of horseshoes per horse by the number of horses and you’ll get the number of horseshoes to buy…

Then add on the number of boots to buy and you’ll have the total number of things to bring home from the chandlery. "

We obviously have a large number of two legged horses and a peg legged cowboy, but who cares.

What you can’t meaningfully do is add the number of boots and the number of horses and multiply by a number of horseshoes. That’s craziness, unless you are in the habit of putting horseshoes on your boots.

AND… we’ve assumed that a picture of two horseshoes is equal to twice as many as a picture of one horseshoe. But that’s only an assumption. In reality we worked out what the value of the symbol ‘horseshoes’ meant but not what the symbol ‘horseshoe’ meant. It might be different. (While a ‘W’ looks like two ‘V’s together, it’s a different symbol, remember. This is no different)

So the only real and true answer to these puzzles is ‘it’s meaningless’ until we know what things represent and what the symbols mean. If they mean anything.

Can we stop posting these now? Please?

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