Yes, it once again is ‘un aglomeracion de cosas,’ or for the Spanish-challenged amongst you, a collection of miscellany from my life on the island. This time the collection seems to all be connected to maths. My father loved maths. Well, maybe that isn’t exactly true. What is for sure is that he loved to try to get me to love maths. Or at very minimum, to understand that maths are everywhere, and either I had better get my head around them or I would be buggered. At the time (I first remember having to practise writing minor maths equations around something less than the age of ten), I just hated all the structure my father wanted to expose me to. Fair enough; I did understand that I needed to understand maths when I went to the shops, or when I shovelled my neighbours snow-filled drive in winter, or later, when I would need to fill up my car with petrol. But that is about as far as I could see that I needed maths in my life. But, like any good son (who was trying to avoid family strife), I soldiered on and would look quite interested when he would expand my potential maths knowledge base. And then one day, he introduced me to Fibonacci.
I think I mentioned Fibonacci in a previous chapter, but he is well worth writing about again. Born Leonardo Pisano Bigollo in 1170, he must have been a very bad boy because his name seems to have changed quite a bit over his lifetime. He was also known as Leonardo of Pisa (a nice touch…I wonder if I will one day be known as James of Bendinat?), Leonardo Pisano, Leonardo Bonacci, Leonardo Fibonacci, and most commonly as the way my father talked about him, Fibonacci. He was, according to Wikipedia, ‘considered by some “the most talented western mathematician of the Middle Ages.”’ He has two pretty serious claims to fame, not counting the fact that he had more alibi's than Tiger Woods had girlfriends.
One is that he wrote the Liber Abaci (a book about maths calculations). The other is the sequence of numbers that he figured out. My father was fascinated by Fibonacci’s sequence and believed, as Fibonacci did, that the numbers in the sequence appear in nature repeatedly. For those of you who didn’t have a father who was really into maths, the numbers in the sequence that Fibonacci identified are the sum of the previous two numbers; i.e. 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, etc. If you want to go for extra credit, you can identify the next twenty-one numbers in the Fibonacci sequence...as my Father would undoubtedly make me do if he were still here. Calculators not permitted (something else my Father would have insisted on).
As my father was never one to just ‘tell’ me something, he would instead get me to do something so I could ‘discover’ for myself what he wanted me to learn. This may have been a good way for him to get me to buy into his ideas, the fact is that this methodology of helping me learn was pretty annoying at the time. A good example was my father’s belief that the numbers of Fibonacci’s sequence appeared in nature. Instead of my father just telling me this, he told me I should head over to the park near our house and pick a pile of flowers and leaves from trees. I must have been pretty easy, or perhaps I just accepted my father’s way of helping me learn, because I did as I had been instructed.
After returning with my assortment of nature’s produce, my father sat with me and we counted petals on flowers and ‘spikes’ on tree leaves. My father was right…almost every example I had brought back with me did turn out to match with Fibonacci’s sequence. There were a couple of examples that didn’t match up and when I, as a young rebellious (in my own way) teen-ager, would say, “Excuse me father, but this flower has six petals (a non-Fibonacci number),” he would not even raise an eyebrow but just softly say ‘’aberation of nature…keep counting.” Nice.
Okay, so how does all this Fibonacci-maths-numerical sequence qualify to be in this chapter? Easy-peasy. The other week, the weather in Andratx, where Amélie is moored, was…well, it was interesting. Not rainy or even cloudy. It was windy. And with sustained winds comes waves. And because Amélie is moored to a swinging mooring in the harbour, the wind and waves meant that it was a bit ‘bouncy’ onboard. Now I use the term ‘bouncy’ with a certain amount of cheek, as for a person who does not have the “being-on-a-boat-is-better-than-just-about-anything” chromosome, the term would have been knock-down-hang-on rough.
Whilst the weather norm is just the opposite and usually Amélie just sits there in the sun with its bow facing into the direction the breeze is coming from, gently turning as breeze shifts from one direction to another; that day it was different. The winds (some serious blowing shit of 30 kts) were from the south-east, but the waves were coming in from the west-north-west. This resulted in Amélie being hit broadside by the never-ending train of waves rushing to shore and beating the crap out of anything in their way. Amélie and I were in the way. When this happens (which is not often at all), I tend to go find a book to read or fall asleep. Which is what I was about to do, but then I remembered my father’s not-so-subtle stories about the Fibonacci sequence. I started wondering if this sequence, because it appeared so often in nature, might also be the key to the wave patterns and they kept whacking into the side of Amélie. I sat on the aft deck and started to count the number of big waves and smaller waves, and then began to try to determine if there was any pattern between them. After about 15 minutes of this, I said screw it and took a kip.
Changing direction a bit (and this has nothing to do with anything); I just finished reading “1000 Years of Annoying the French,” and now am immersed in “Talk to the Snail,” another book by Stephen Clarke. Both of these books are quite good, and whilst they should be read with your tongue comfortably nestled in your cheek at times, they are quite revealing about life in my neighbouring country. An excerpt from “Talk to the Snail” explains it all.
The differences between what you can expect from the British and French national-health services in the case of various common ailments:
France: Call your doctor, get an appointment for the next day, or maybe even the same day. Go to a small private-looking apartment, and wait in what looks like a living room with an abnormally large number of magazines on the coffee table. Look at the fashion pages of a recent Elle or news magazine. Be welcomed personally by the doctor, who comes to fetch you, probably just a few minutes late if he or she is not an especially popular or inefficient practician. Explain your problem, have your throat examined, your ganglions felt, your temperature taken with a thermometer pressed on the forehead or in the ear (the days of the rectal probe are gone, much to the chagrin of some). Listen while your doctor tells you the Greek names for sore throat and runny nose (which all the French know). Watch him or her write out a prescription for aspirin, throat pastilles, nasal spray, chest rub, tablets for a steam inhalant, antibiotics in case things get worse, and (probably only on request these days) suppositories. Ask for, and receive, a three-day sick note. Pay the doctor by cheque, and leave the surgery, shaking the doctor’s hand, promising to return if the cold doesn’t clear up in the next few days.
Go to a pharmacy, get a rucksack full of medicine, watch the pharmacist swipe your social-security card so that your refund is credited automatically. Go home, have an aspirin and a hot drink and wait for the cold virus to go away naturally. In the case of recurring snuffles, request a stay at Aix les Bains health spa.
Britain: Call the doctor’s surgery, be told that there are no appointments free for the next week and to call back in forty-eight hours if you’re not cured or dead. Go to the supermarket, but a medicated drink, go to work and sneeze all over workmates. In the case of recurring snuffles, try acupuncture. So, so true…
And lastly, from the ‘how-good-can-one-man’s-life-be’ department, I have made a discovery that has the potential to be more impactful than just about anything. Yes, this has to do with my self-imposed Gluten-free dietary exploration. One of the hardest parts of the whole Gluten-free diet thing is finding foods that I might like that are indeed not laced with Gluten. I don’t mean things like meats – whilst not a vegetarian, I am able to exist rather well without eating meat. What I mean are things that I would ‘like’ to eat; with the emphasis on the ‘like.’ The other day, whilst on one of my searches for acceptable food products, I found what could be the Holy Grail of Gluten-free foods…Gluten-free Carrot Cake. I have no doubt that by my next chapter, I will have gained 55 kilos. The good news about this is that at least it will be a weight gain that is a Fibonacci number.
my father, John Frank Rieley
Fibonacci (not my father)
the not-so-subtlely slipped in irrelevant-to-the-chapter photo
my Father and Fibonacci would be proud of this flower
today's wind forecast, Amélie is next to the orange area
most definitiely not the waves in my harbour
light reflections on the normal size wave in my harbour
ahhh, the French, ne convenez vous pas?
two guys comparing health services
near heaven on earth (if you are on a Gluten-free diet)
copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 James B. Rieley