Grass Roots Open Writers

David Rex

 06 August 2013

Summer evening walks (Part Two)

The young couple sat on the grass beside the pond.Their swim was refreshing and the early morning sun was soon making them dry.  When
they walked from the pond to find a soft grass patch to sit on, the water falling from them caused a scent like summer rain on dry grass.The trees were in full leaf and they cast shadows on the still pond like an upside down world.

As the couple sat and talked about anything which came to mind, their mum and dad cycled over to them with saddle bags filled with a most enjoyable picnic. The dad said he wanted to give them a sample of a talk he had been working on for next term and he wished to hear their opinion. He was prepared to make notes from the three of them and to make changes where they agreed upon them.  What follows is taken from some of the ideas he bounced of his small audience. 

He called it:   Ideas on life; If we think we know everything about something then we probably know nothing about anything.  Any teacher who is unable to adapt the lesson plan to meet the unexpected questions from students... should not teach. 

Students often make the best teachers to teach their teachers: if a teacher is unable to learn something in each lesson, then they need to study again their ability to learn, adapt and improve.  This is so easy to do: just listen and learn. If the subject being taught is not being understood then it is NOT being taught: it is simply being recited, restated and repeated.  Say it another way, a different way and a new way, then ask again if it is being truly understood.  If a word is not understood then shouting it louder will only make it less understood.

We all need to be aware of teaching how to fail: telling students they do not understand, means I have not taught well.  Repeating the same mistakes will surely ensure they (the mistakes) are remembered and not that which is intended. We are all teachers and had better all be students, especially those employed to be professional teachers.

A sudden rain cloud appeared and they quickly packed everything into the saddle bags.  As the rain began to fall, they all ran to the pond and laughed about getting wet to stay dry!

To be continued.

David Rex

Summer evening walks
(Part One) 

Walking along the footpath between Farnham Lane and Hindhead in Surry, across the Common to the Portsmouth Road and the A3, I lightly held my girlfriend's hand.

We talked a little but we listened more to the soft sounds of nature all around us: the slight rustle caused by a light evening breeze in the fern, the bramble and the trees.
No birds sang at this hour, the occasional late bee was still to be seen working or lost in the heavy scent of nectar to be gathered.
Busily pollenating, this as this worker was, as were we: dazzled by the splendour of nature. Two teenagers walking in love: the innocent love of teenagers never to be fulfilled in those days in the 1950s.
This was an ancient path and untouched by developers because it was National Trust protected land.  Our feet sank into the soft foot path as we slowly progressed to anywhere and nowhere, we did not care.  Though we did care for each other and talked now and then of what made us happy. Being together.
Sex at these times could not be further from our minds, but in fantasy much later it was thought of by us both.  No, this was now a time to smell the evening air as that bee was showing us.  The half sun was slowly sinking and the evening star was bright and clear in the still night sky.  As if the heavens were being turned on, star after tiny star came to life till they wee uncountable on this still night.
No moon that night, but the tops of still trees could be seen against the vivid starry night sky.  Oh! how our young hearts sang and she sang softly too like an angel: she is an Angel now.  We were on holiday and we were trusted as her parents knew so well that they had given her the true value of their love.  Where is all this innocence now?
Simple talk about her favourite book, play, film or lesson and her plan to be a teacher.  A sudden breeze blew up and some dust from this seldom used path, caused us to take cover behind a great tree.  We laughed and made jokes about being blown away into another secret land. This was a very simple joy.
Later we cycled to her cottage in Borden and had brown toast and tea before going to our separate rooms, situated each side of her mum and dads room.  A new day and a swim in Frensham  Ponds, before breakfast and before her mum and dad got up. It was Sunday.
This swim was to change our lives for ever...
More to come if there is any feed back from my two readers!

Hastings Philharmonic Choir

With three hours to go before our dress rehearsal for our American concert in St. Mary in the Castle, the other members of the Hastings Philharmonic choir probably feel much as I do right now: scared!  Nerves at these times are common in performers and they do seem to help if used well.

As we walk on stage at 3pm today for our final dress rehearsal there is always an unreal feeling of what is to come.  Empty seats in front of us and a few stage hands doing their thing, we start to sing and have a mental vision of this invisible audience.

We all want so much to give enjoyment and pleasure: this gives pleasure in return.
You can't feel close to all eighty plus members on the list of singers, and they never all attend at the same time: there always have to be the absent ones.  Over the years we have seen many pass away and many new members come to fill the sad empty spaces.

When the audience arrive and we file up onto the stage, there is this moment of excitement and expectation.  In all my long years with the Phil. we have had some wonderful conductors and our present one, Marcio da Silva, continues in the tradition of our great former conductors like Shirley Carey ( who may be there tonight).

We should not really look at individual members of the audience, however, our loved ones have often come to see us so we do smile back a little, but not while performing.  It is best to look mainly at the conductor and not bury ones head in the music.  The conductor plays his choir as if playing an organ telling us how long to hold a note and when to stop.

We try to keep near the same singers throughout practice and performance because the voice of each person varies in tone and volume. We also feed to others in front of us and from those behind, so the ones in the back row often have to go it alone.

We will often have our position changed by the MD even in the final rehearsal, in order to give the correct blend.  Some do not like this, but personally, I don't mind, because we should be able to sing in any position.  I'm a 2nd. bass and can often find myself singing next to an alto or a tenor and these will be singing another tune.
It then becomes like playing the piano with two separate themes going on in your head at the same time.

We are so pleased when the audience aplaudes us and I tend to smile back in appreciation.  The mind often becomes so engrossed in the music that we almost forget where we are, even on the page at times, but if we know the part well this is not a real problem.  If the harmony is close, as in J.S.Bach, then the sounds often stay in the mind for days after the concert, even in our dreams.


Far East Dangers

Soft sunlight beams flickered over my closed eyelids and I woke on a sandy beach in Batu Ferringhi.

It's seven pm and the sun dips leisurely  behind the distant rain forest hills, to the west of Penang in Malaysia.   I had fallen asleep with my head on my trusty rucksack: not too wise, as the sand midges can bite here.  A more dangerous threat is the malaria and dengue-spreading mosquito: they get to work at sunset and in the dark.
After spending six months a year here in Penang for the past ten years, till now when it is three months a year.   I mistakenly think that the dreaded mosquito can not get to me: it can.  Malaria was avoided when I was here in 1956, serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC)  I have managed to avoid being infected with this killer disease for the past sixty years.
A close friend of mine in Kuala Lumpur is the head of oncology in the main KL University Hospital.  As an expert in minimal invasive colon cancer research in this university college hospital. This doctor is still only the same age as my own twin sons, Matthew and Mark who are now 43.  Eighteen months ago my dear friend was infected with dengue which developed into pneumonia.
He is recovering well and is being cared for by his wife who is also a doctor, and is two young daughters.  How can a leading surgeon and head of a medical research department get dengue?  The answer may lie in the fact that he often sees over sixty patients in his surgery before going on to the operating theatre.
The mosquito loves the dark, and dark places. Many of my friends patients, wear black robes, where mosquitos lie in wait to get a feed on any exposed skin.
This doctor saved my life when we were on an emergency medical mission in Banda Aceh during the 1994 tsunami disaster.  As my boss, Dr. Tikfu Gee took me with him to a safer location where less infection was evident after the tsunami.  Dr. Gee is now unable to cover every inch of his skin while he examines 500 infected patients a week. These dangers and conditions are not seen in the UK, but in the Far East, these dangers are ever present.
Back to the holiday island of Batu Ferringhi, where I am a part time voluntary English teacher.  Being paid without a work permit would land me in prison there, so voluntary work is acceptable.
The soft caress of the evening  sunbeams on my formerly mentioned closed eyelids reminded me to cover up.  Shorts and short sleeved shirts are fine after 5pm when the sun is not fierce enough to burn through a No.30 sun cream.
Seven hours daylight and seven  hours night time is common any place near the Equator.  So as the setting sun alerted me into action. I took the white long trousers and white long sleeved short from my bag.  This simple strategy of protection and repellent like citronella, has been used by me since 1955 and worked so far.  I seldom teach after sun down, but bright lighting and the above protection manages to prevent most, but not all bites.
If you venture to high risk areas, these simple precautions can save your life and the use of anti malarial medication may help too; but you need to discuss this with a specialist. Personally: I can't take them.

What is it?

To explain, we may consult the OALD, and I now quote from this dictionary: "A statement that seems to be absurd or contradictory but is or may be true."
Plato gives us this ancient example:
The statement below is true.
The statement above is false.
Escher did it this way: He simply drew lone a pipe and showing it smoking.  He wrote under this drawing: "This is not a pipe."  He wrote this in French.

He made many impossible shapes and the most famous may be the triangle with right three angles. In reality this could only make three sides which can never meet.
Gödel did the same with numbers which are beyond me to explain.

J.S.Bach  composed paradoxical fugues which I can hear, but not explain.

Science fiction gives us many situations including time travel which transport us into the past.  We are then posed with the choice of an action which would negate our very existence.
Random numbers which seem to have no relevance can be seen to add up in any direction.  With an odd number magic square there is a very simple and logical progression: it can be explained.  With an even number like 4x4 =16 magic square, it takes many complex calculations to explain.
When I failed to be accepted as a mature student at Trinity college Cambridge, 20 years ago, after an interesting weekend in that fine place, the classicist and philosopher: Nicholas Denyer, gave me an interesting interview. He signed his book: "Language, Thought and Falsehood in Ancient Greek Philosophy."  This book taught me that there can be no absolute truth or falsehood: we can never be sure.
Surely we can survive without absolutes because near approximates are enough. 

Nothing is ever what it seems because if this were so then we COULD have a triangle with three right angles!  Ask Escher.


Some degree of care is needed when making decisions and this is fact is scientificaly proven.  We have heard of the Butterfly effect and the Probability theory but these seem rather vague till we look a little deeper into their meaning.

The Butterfly effect is simply explained as the last straw which broke the camels back.Why is it called the Butterfly effect?  If we look at long term weather forecasts, we can see that the predictions can often be faulty.

The Butterfly effect is an example of how two opposing weather systems are so finely balanced, that the slightest weight or disturbance on either side can dramatically cause this balance to tip.

When we make important decisions it is worth considering the Butterfly effect and the probability factor.While the Probability theory is an extremely complex mathematical theorem, it is worth asking ourselves: What is the probable effect may result in our decision?

This is not intended to suggest we should procrastinate over every choice we make, but to state that the best laid plansetc.  Of course, we have, and need to make decisions all the time, but a little care can go a long way in helping us make the right choices.  I hope! 


My First Kiss

Here is a description of my first kiss when I was 12 years old, as was the girl I kissed.  I have said that I kissed her, but it was not my idea: it was hers.  We were just good friends walking home from school and she simply asked if I would like to kiss her.  I was not too keen till it took place, it seemed a silly thing to do with a school friend and not my mum.
My mum would kiss me goodnight, but only on my cheek.  This girl said it must be on the lips: like they did on the films.  I was still not to keen and she became offended and asked if she was my special friend.  I said she was; so she said I should prove it with a kiss, before we parted to go home.
We both knew nothing of "grown up" kissing so we kissed with tightly closed lips.  We hugged each other during this first kiss and the hug was much nicer than the eeting of our lips.  She asked if I liked kissing her and I replied that it was OK but I enjoyed our cuddle.  She said that this nice feeling was why we see older people kissing on the films.
As the year was 1959 when I had my first kiss, it was more then most youngsters did at that time.  The strange thing is that I now recall how nice my lips felt as I walked home after leaving my "girlfriend," which she must surely be after our kiss.  We often walked home, but we had only a single kiss goodbye, when we reached the privacy of her front door porch.
I now feel so guilty as I can't even remember the name of this nice school girlfriend.  My future was to be in a county so far from North London, it could have been nother country.

It is now 65 years since my first innocent kiss: if only life could remain so simple. Today we would have a mobile phone or an email address: we would stay connected.


This is my latest and it is a simple number game.  Most of us know that a magic square is not really magic but I can explain the rules and numerical sequences.  All odd number magic squares (3x3   5x5  7x7   9x9) etc.  follow the same rules.

They all progress in a sequential order and all start on an outside line in the centre of that line.The diagonal run will always be continuous from one corner to the other. If we choose to start on the top line in the centre with the number '1', Then it will follow that the number on the bottom line in the centre will be the total number i.e  3x3 = 9 This number 9 will always be the sum of the number in the centre of the square less '1' therefore  the centre number will be half the lower (9)  = 4.5 + 0.5 = 5.

Let us now see how this looks on a very simple magic square  of 3x3 = 9 numbers.Here they are and they are called magic because they all add up to 15 in every direction.  Interestingly 15  is also the total of the 3 on top times the centre number: 5x3=15  3x5=15,  and this is always so, in any odd number magic square.

Here is a simple 3x3 magic square

The magic square became truncated in the email and no one will understand the final square.

I will try to resend the simple 3x3 and also
the 5x5 square without any further text now:

In the 3x3 magic square all directions add up to 15:

 8  1  6
 5  7

In the 5x5 magic square the total is 65 in all directions:

 17  24  1  
 23  5   7  14  16
 4  6   13  20  22
 10  12  19  21   3
 11  18   25  2   9

This is so in all directions. There is a simple method to work out any odd number magic square and I will show this in the 9x9= 81 magic square, in the next one to follow later.


Six whacks with an old gym shoe.

Six whacks with an old gym shoe,
Were like six lightning sparks.
And he would have you bending,
So the class could see the marks!

All the boys wore trousers then,
With legs both loose and short.
He would have you touch your toes,
A target for his sport.

The punished had to show each boy in turn,
The marks as they turned red.
"That's what mistakes will earn for you,"
The gym shoe sadie said.

The walk between each vibrant desk,
To him was pure delight.
While fumbling fingers fast removed,
Their pressure, out of sight.

He always had the same ones up to beat,
They never ever tried to get work right.
They seemed to think it was a special treat,
They seemed to think we all enjoyed the sight.

On leaving for another school,
And starting out again.
Gone was the gym shoe sadist fool,
And gone the red rear pain.


The Magic of Number 9

Some of us know the magic of the number nine.
To a few of us this will all be new.
To newcomers let's meet the magic 9.

1 x 9 = 9  well, we all know that do we not?   Just look at one "1" plus nothing "0"  next it = 10 less 1 =9.
Zero can be stated as "0" or nothing.  Just take   nothing, "0" from GOOD  and what do we get? ....

Now that is a little simplistic of me, I admit but we seem to get more joy from being good.

Now to the pure maths:-

2 x 9 = 18  we know that, but now take a closer look at 18.    It is 1 and 8   .....1+8=9   Now let's get started.
3 x 9 = 27...2 + 7=9                                    
4 x9  = 36...3 + 6=9    and so infinitum.
9 x 9 = 81...8 + 1=9    But did we notice  the total is ALWAYS  one (1) less  than the question!

One (1)  less than 4 is 3   so 3 plus what makes 9     so 4 x 9= 36 as stated: one less than 4 is 3 and 3+6=9

Oh that's all very fine with numbers up to 9, I hear you say, as you are a poet.
Now let's take a rather larger number  say:  78 x 9 = 207    (2+0+7=9)

Not big enough?  Try:  1,345 x 9 = 1,2105    ( 1+2+1+0+5 = 9)

Therefore any number multiplied by 9 will result in a total who's digits will add up to 9.

Do you have a favourite number?


The Eight Parts of Speech made easy:

If we start with the VERB  (in simple terms - a doing word)
No sentence is possible without a verb being stated or understood.
Q: Are you going?
A: No!
Understood =  "No, I'm not going."
Then think of the ADVERB as something adding to the meaning of the verb (as a modifier or limiter and much more)
NOUN: in simple terms, the NAME of a person, place or thing.
PRONOUN: in place of a noun (He, She ) but also much more.
ADJECTIVE: Telling us more about the noun and much more.
They usually go in this order: Article e.g. A (indefinite) or The (definite)

Description: Beautiful.  Size: Little.  Age: Young.  Colour: Brown.  Defining: Scottish.  NOUN: Horse.
The beautiful, little, young, brown, Scottish horse. ( It is not usual to use all in one sentence.)
PREPOSITION:  This mnemonic has the word position in it as a clue.
CONJUNCTION:  Joining word:  And,  But, If, Or,  etc..

This is all very basic, but it gets the children in the Far East (up to 11 year olds) thinking about the  eight main parts of speech.
They also know that many words can be many different parts of speech e.g.:  Run =  VERB OR NOUN, depending on usage.
This is simply a little reminder, to take the horror out of grammar, but no where near a full English Grammar.

As a young man when in the army I would often think of ladies and girls of my age (17) as possible conquests.  Most of the other soldiers also thought this way: a challenge to go out with the girl we admired.
We thought little of the person behind the looks which first attracted us.  We wanted our lady friend to look good and to make us look and feel good too.  It was a very limited view of the true worth of a particular girl/lady: it was a shallow conception.
So many of us were influenced by the type of page three proportions, thought to be what a young man wanted in his girlfriend.  This was so very misleading because it suggested that bigger was better, and a trade was set up to make these false alterations, by employing terrible and dangerous surgical means.
Young men of this age thought bigger was better because it was their own proportions which confused them. In fact, smaller is very often better, but normal (meaning what one is born with) is usually the best.
Now we come to the person under the outer and visible appearance. This is where the true value rests.  It takes time to find the inner person, she is far more than the sum of her parts. She is often wonderful.  How do we find this, as mere men? How do we discover the inner beauty of the person inside the object of our desires?
Well, we could simply talk, but to listen is rather more informative.  Open ended questions help here: the big four 'W' questions and the big 'H' question.  Where, Why, What and When, but leave out 'Who' at this stage. How? Is so important too.
If we ask a closed question like, "Do you like ice-cream?" then we can expect a closed answer like Yes or No!  If we ask what type of flowers she likes, this could lead to a discussion about horticulture, gardening or favourite colours, let alone birds and bees!
Ladies know this better than us because they usually know how to really listen, then to respond.

This is just one of the reasons why I admire the fairer sex, but there are many more.  Perhaps there are those of you who have your own reasons to like these differences between the sexes?
26. 5. 13


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