Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Monday, 24 November 2008

A sort of secular prayer

POST NUMBER 150. Try something different.

Each Tuesday and Thursday I swim 90 lengths of an 18 m pool, just slightly more than a mile. This takes about 49 minutes. Because I swim crawl my face is mostly submerged and the non-aqueous world is glimpsed only in two-second bursts while taking on air. Otherwise I commune with tile patterns suffused pale blue, the roar of breath exhaled underwater and the passage of numbers through my mind. Those numbers are gathered into sets.

Lengths 1 to 11. Sense of burden and a need to struggle out of single numbers; 10 lengths is pseudo-single-number; 11 marks first real – albeit minor - achievement.
Lengths 12 to 22. Dog days. Length 15 is 1/6th of total but passes uncelebrated.
Length 22 and a bit. Quarter distance. Fraction makes it messy. Uncelebrated.
Lengths 23 – 30. One-third distance. Worthwhile milestone but must avoid thinking about 60 lengths that remain.
Lengths 31 – 45. Long haul, preferably done mindlessly. Halfway there.
Length 46. Vital number! Future now smaller than past.
Lengths 47 – 60. Sense of swimming downhill. Mild exhilaration. Glance sideways at other swimmers doing breast-stroke, head out of the water. Accelerate and blast past.
Lengths 61 – 90. Each length increases laddish tendencies. Legs kick frothily, turns become flashier. Finally, climb out of pool, careful not to breathe hard, off to changing room without a backward glance.

NOTE: Frequent flashes of terror that lengths have been miscounted are quite normal.


Sir Hugh said...

I empathise toally with your analysis. I have done various similar things of a physical nature over the years and adopted almost identical stratagems.

Although not physical I always used to do similar mental arithmentic on long car journeys estimating average speeds ,miles per gallon and the like, but now thanks to your beloved technology most of this has been taken over by the car's own computer and my faithful Tom Tom.

Plutarch said...


Julia said...

We count the steps between our flat and vital stops (like the metro, 580 steps; school, 35 steps; chicken store, 150 steps). It becomes a sort of magical reckoning.

Barrett Bonden said...

Two reassuring responses and one utterly ambiguous. Thank goodness we are denied the ability to penetrate each other's mental processes. It's one thing to confess to these peculiarities through the rationality of the keyboard; it would be quite another to be caught out in flagrante by the thought police.

Avus said...

As a young man I can remember cycling along on a dark wet night, rain lashing down, passing the time by calculating various alternative gear ratios (in inches, as per my recent post), doing mental long divisions/multiplications of wheel/chainring/sprocket combinations. (Well, it passed the time.....)

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: With training like that you could have become an on-course bookie.