Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pythagoras Cup

a Pythagoras Cup
This "Pythagoras Cup" comes from the island of Samos. If you fill it too full, you can't drink from it without spilling: and according to legend was designed by Pythagoras to ensure that all obtained equal shares. Thaks to Rosie and Stephen for this Christmas present!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Pecan pieApologies to my loyal readers for the paucity of recent posts on this blog. I will try to do better next year. For mathematical postings, see Greenwich Maths Time.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Cake with strawberries and fromage frais

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A New Year's Day Walk

Woods near Westerham
A walk near Westerham in Kent

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A churchyard in Deptford

For my last post of the year, a melancholy memorial to a great writer, in a churchyard in Deptford where he died mysteriously. The skulls are on the gateposts of the churchyard.

Skull at the churchyard entrance

Christopher Marlowe memorial stone

Second skull at the churchyard entrance

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A key place in the history of science

Down, Kent: Darwin's house

Monday, August 25, 2008

A trip

Wednesday evening
Coming soon - a report of a visit to Tilling-sur-Aude.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to make up your mind

Whenever you're called on to make up your mind,
and you're hampered by not having any,
the best way to solve the dilemma, you'll find,
is simply by spinning a penny.
No - not so that chance shall decide the affair
while you're passively standing there moping;
but the moment the penny is up in the air
you suddenly know what you're hoping.

Piet Hein (my thanks to Rob Eastaway for this)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Another gem from Private Eye

Here's a brilliancy by Ian Baker:

Cartoon by Ian Baker

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A puzzle solved

Last night I was sitting at my computer when I became aware of an occasional creaking noise coming from my right. I first of all thought it was outside but as it recurred it seemed closer.

It seemed to be becoming more frequent so I got up and walked over towards the window hoping to locate it. But it didn't recur.

This morning it was apparent again. Was the weight of my books too much and were the beams supporting the floor groaning before breaking? Again, investigating where the noise was coming from failed because I was never there when it happened.

Finally this afternoon I realised that the sound was simply my mouse cable rubbing against the edge of the table. Which is why I only heard it when I was at the computer!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Catching up

I haven't posted for some time: my intentions haven't been matched by my achievement. I had intended to write about the Scottish writer Jeff Torrington, author of Swing, hammer, swing, who died last week after a long illness. His novel, on which he worked for 30 years, is wonderful and deservedly won the Whitbread Prize: I learned from his obituary how much he supported and influenced other writers in Glasgow.

Today I was in Cambridge, and found myself unexpectedly moved by the 50 Etchings of Christopher Le Brun on show at the Fitzwilliam. Le Brun is not an artist I've previously been drawn too, but today I found these etchings, with their references to the Forest, the Tower, the Quest, the Given, extremely powerful - I really wanted to bring them home with me to look at at my leisure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Shark-infested woods

Oxford, 21 April 2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Joan Hunter Dunn

Joan Hunter Dunn
I was astonished to find in the paper an obituary for Joan Hunter Dunn, who has died at the age of 92. My surprise was because it had never occurred to me that she really existed. John Betjeman's A subaltern's love song was in the poetry anthology we used at school: I remember coming across it while reading the book in bed (somehow that was always much more enjoyable than discussing the same poems in class). It is of course the perfect example of Betjeman's verse, with its gently self-deprecatory humour and what the obituary accurately described as "sexual wistfulness". And now I discover that Joan Hunter Dunn was real, a war-time colleague of Betjeman's, although when he wrote the poem he had never spoken to her.

A Subaltern's Love Song

Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,
Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament - you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father's euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o'clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun,
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light's in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing's the light on your hair.

By roads "not adopted", by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o'clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,
Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl's hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us the intimate roof of the car,
And here on my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I'm engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Maths, Borges and dance

Marcus du Sautoy dancing
Just been to "The nineteenth step" at Laban. A collaboration between the composer Dorothy Ker, mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, choreographer Carol Brown and sculptor Kate Allen, taking as its starting point some of Borges's stories. Marcus danced a proof of the irrationality of the square root of three (that was the bit of dance that I could best relate to). Stimulating discussion afterwards about connections and interdisciplinary collaborations, particularly around space and dimension. An interesting evening, in the best sense.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

From my kitchen window

My neighbour's garden in March sunlight