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…by Odovacar in 476 AD.

(Sorry, the title was a bit too long to fit in).

I was reading mitchy‘s blog about school the other day and that old maths question came up. You know the sort of thing: ‘If a train leaves London travelling North at 70mph and a second train leaves Edinburgh travelling South at 55mph then when do they meet?’. The correct answer obviously (to my mind) being that THEY NEVER MEET BECAUSE THEY ARE ON DIFFERENT TRACKS AND THIS IS EXACTLY HOW IT SHOULD BE AND YOU SHOULD NOT BE SENDING TRAINS HAMMERING TOWARDS EACH OTHER. EVER. EVEREVEREVEREVER.

Of course that’s just my take on things. I fully appreciate that there are people who have no issue with trains driving towards one another. I also fully appreciate that the world is filled with crazy people but that’s not the point. The point is that when that sort of pointless question you get at school was mentioned I suddenly realised. I work that stuff out all the time!

This was a huge revelation to me because I truly didn’t realise how often I’m doing it. Tonight, for example we had me on the line and I was running late. So as I crawled along I was doing lots of mental arithmetic along the lines of ‘OK, it’s 8pm so if it takes x minutes to travel to y and then z minutes to change ends and be released out of the platform except I think that train behind me is running out of sequence so they’ll probably turn that around first although it’s 5 minutes behind me so potentially not so we’ll call that z+/-8 and then it takes x+1.5 minutes to drive back because it’s uphill and then I need to tip out which will take s minutes if the passengers are paying attention although t minutes if they are all ignoring the announcements or drunk or something then I can finish only u minutes late BUT if this train in front doesn’t get a flaming move on it will take x+4.5 minutes to get to…’. And so on. If I have to switch trains then it’s even more complicated.

I got so bogged down there that I’ve forgotten the point. Oh I remember now. My point was that even when I was in primary school working out these stupid maths problems I always subscribed to the viewpoint that they were completely pointless and would serve no purpose when I was a grownup. How wrong I was. Of course, at the time I wanted to be a vet so I paid much more attention to things like how to correctly spell ‘hippopotamus’ and that question about ‘If the shepherd has a field full of sheep what’s the best way to count them?’ (Count the legs and divide by four) because those seemed much more useful for my preferred career path. I just sighed and tutted when it came to train questions and tried to blow through them quickly.

But now I’m wondering what other lessons I may have paid scant attention to at school. Because clearly the train questions were incredibly useful only I didn’t realise it at the time. I was too busy learning how many spots a ladybird has and other such foolishness. I’ve always thought that this is not the sort of job where education is required for the surface elements*. But apparently I was thoroughly educated in aspects of driving trains when I was a very small child and I didn’t even know it. Life turns out strangely sometimes.

I’ve posted this before but I like it so here it is again:

*Of course, the value of education to any position is immense but the practicalities of my job are learnt as we go and it’s not necessary to be an academic type to do well here.