What do you know?

If you were suddenly rendered bookless, aimless and Googleless, then what information would you remember from the recesses of your mind? Of course it depends what, if anything, you have put in there in the first place.

Some Burns afficionado would be able to recite the whole of Tam O Shanter which runs for pages, and requires a modicum of acting skill to make it work. My father who is now an octogenarian is still able to tell you the names of the islands which comprise the Inner Hebrides: Rum, Mull, Coll, Tiree…..thanks to a patient teacher he had at primary school.

Most of my early learning (in fact some might also say some of my higher education!) was based on rote learning, and of course once you have put that amount of effort into memorising some facts, then it becomes easier to recall them.

1. i before e except after c. I have always been blessed with an ability to spell. I call it a blessing, and it has been very useful to me throughout my business life thus far, but now that there is something called Spellcheck is this really a necessity? Probably not.

2. The square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. This would be useful if I could remember what application this would have…..

3. Photosynthesis. This is a process by which plants take in carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. I am sure it is a bit more complicated than that but that is the rudimentary explanation. In light of this it was always a mystery to me why nurses removed flowers and plants from hospital wards in the evenings….

4. Speed equals distance over time. This is particularly useful in estimating arrival time at your destination, working hard to keep yourself awake on long journeys and allows you to go at a different speed from 60 miles per hour simply to make it easy to calculate.

5. 99% of all rapists are themselves the victims of abuse. This I have always found fascinating, and a bit of an insight into why men might rape in the first place. Some date rape scenarios, whilst absolutely not forgivable may become easier to understand, at least by psychiatrists trained to do so, but the motivation for someone to randomly pick out a woman and rape her remains a crime of the highest order in most, if not all, criminal justice systems. If you know however that the perpetrator has themselves been the victim of some abuse, then it will not make it all right but it may allow for a very limited type of empathy in certain limited circumstances. There is no excuse, and it is a horrid crime deserving its status in Scotland as a crime requiring the highest custodial sentence, but my point is that this random fact is an eye-opener.

6. A football pitch is about an acre of land, so if you ever need to visualise an acre then think of a football pitch.

7. If you drive at 40 miles per hour then it will take you 40 feet to bring the car to a halt. Hard to think of many places you can now drive at 40 mph though.

8. “I am just a poor boy though my story’s seldom told. I have squandered my resistance to a pocketful of mumbles such are promises, All lies and jest till a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest…” I could sing most of the verses of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Boxer. In fact there was a point where I was word perfect on most of the songs on The Bridge Over Troubled Water album, which was the first proper album I ever bought in my own right…..but when I used to sing in a band I could never remember the words of every song perfectly unless I had some prompts – bits of paper stuck in various places around the place! (and a helpful lead guitarist!) I am also word perfect on the scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts goes back to the shop with the snooty saleswoman…..”You work on commission right? Big mistake – Huge!” I love that film, another example of rote learning however. I must have watched it all the way through at least 15 times.

9. 12 old pence in a shilling, 20 shillings in the pound, 21 shillings made a guinea. Horses were bought in guineas, maybe they still are…. It made for fairly artistic arithmetic when everything did not neatly divide by ten, but one had to use some skill in calculating change from a pound when the item cost 15 shillings and 6 pence. And then there were fractions! Miles are made up of 1760 yards. It is possible to visualise a person who is 6 feet 4 – but someone who is 1.95 metres….. No idea!

10. The first name of the fictional and TV character Morse was Endeavour…… Who in their right mind would have christened some poor wee baby with this moniker? Well the late Colin Dexter of course!

All of these diverse facts are floating around in my brain, the relics of education and reading. You may be comforted to know that these are not the only facts, only a few examples of the kind of flotsam which is there ready and waiting in case of any great need to know.

So what do you know without recourse to books or Google? Do let me know!


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