My Grandfather was a brilliant mathematician, and it was the bane of his life that his grandchildren were, and I’m being very kind here, mathematically illiterate. I could spell arithmetic, I just couldn’t do it, so I stumbled through school looking at maths in much the same way as Tony Abbot would gaze at a Health Union membership form.
Grandad tried to help by giving me random maths problems, and long before I’d finished punching all the numbers into my calculator, he’d have already solved it; in his head. Then he’d, look at my result, sigh, and wander off to get a beer.
I’d redo the sum, grimly determined to get it right this time, and he’d return to discover that my second answer, while vastly different from my first attempt, was still wrong. He’d shake his head, take a long drink, then give me ‘the look’. The sort of look you give to someone you love very much, but wonder why they are as dumb as an ant.
Well, everyone has a weakness, including my Grandfather, and it was one of the mysteries of my youth that Grandad, the Human Calculator, also happened to be the worst gambler I’d ever known.
Now, I might have to take my boots off to count big numbers, but I quickly worked out that gambling was for dummies. I only had to look at Grandad, who was forced by economic necessity to holiday at our place every year, while his bookie slummed it in five star luxury in Fiji.
So this week, as the Government number crunchers handed down the budget, much of it slid over my head, but I was extremely relieved to see that Wayne Swans’ pockets weren’t stuffed full of Lotto tickets, or Julia sitting behind him scanning the racing pages, so we may come out of this alright.
And whenever I get disheartened at my maths dyslexia, I think of a fellow sufferer who makes me look like a genius: “It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.” — George W. Bush. If I were a betting man, I’d lay good odds that his Grandad must have given him ‘the look’ plenty of times.