Homeschool maths

Homeschooling has become a household word during pandemic lockdown, but both my grandchildren have been homeschooled since before the pandemic. Surrey historically has too few state school places, and Joshua was not offered one locally so would have had an hour's commute to a school in the next town. My daughter Jenny runs a pre-school and has a good educational brain, so took the brave - and so far very good - decision to homeschool. Since they all live with us (we are what in pandemic times is called a 'multigenerational household') I get to see homeschooling in action. Although I spent much of my career teaching, it was in industry and at Masters university level so I am involved mostly in opining wisely about strategy rather than actually teaching school level. Since I studied physics and spent my career in physics, computing and mathematics I am handy to have around to answer questions but despite having been a school governor for ten years and chair of governors for f

Living in a commune

 I posted something on twitter, in response to a question about living in a commune. It's just a spontaneous twitter 'thread' but several people liked it so I thought I would share it here, as it refers to a short period in my life that was, in retrospect, special. When I left school I was idealistic so wanted to join Voluntary Service Overseas - but had no useful skills so they didn't want me. My granny - who seemed to know all sorts of people - suggested the kibbuttz movement in Israel (no, we're not Jewish). So my parents, who were wonderfully liberal, somehow let 18-year-old me go to war-torn Israel on my own, not knowing to where I might be allocated. I worked in a factory making photo machines to save the money to afford it, and flew out to Israel with no idea where to go. From Tel Aviv airport I took a taxi to the kibbutz organisation office, slept on the pavement, and finally found I was to go to Kibbutz Mahanayim in the Golan Heights. Neither my parents, my

Rockaway Beach

 I like Rockaway Beach. It's one of ten small communities down south of San Francisco, strung out along CA-1 - the Pacific Coast Highway - that are collectively known as Pacifica. Each is individual, all are small, and very different from the big city to their north. I discovered Rockaway Beach when I used to fly to San Francisco a lot - usually to Sunnyvale or Milipitas, centers of hi-tech silicon design - and once looked for somewhere to cool down and relax before the long flight home. 'Pacific Coast Highway' sounded promising, and 'Pacifica' sounded nice, and Rockaway Beach had a big sign so I stopped there. One of the shops at Rockaway beach used to be - and I hope still is - Christmas Cove. It sells Christmas decorations and toys all year round - that is all it sells. I walked into Christmas Cove, in high summer, and the lady greeted someone who must have come in behind me: "Hi! How are ya?? Great to see ya!" and I looked to see who she was greeting b

Accidental running

I have helped to create two happy accidents in running.  I devoted much of my career to Digital Signal Processing - a highly mathematical branch of real-time, high-speed, computing whose subtle and complex nature fascinated me, and in which I loved being involved. Late in that career I wrote several books, encapsulating insights I had been privileged to have explained to me by many great people I worked with, and that I felt were valuable to pass on to others. I didn't write them as text books: I wanted to inspire others to enter or continue in my field, and I wanted to help change that field from a dry mathematical purist academic study accessible only to those with a specialist education to PhD level, to a living, fascinating, human endeavour accessible to anyone with the diligence and motivation to pursue it. It is a passion I had, to change that little part of my world - to push aside the traditional academic gatekeepers and the worthy but dull mathematical approach to it, and

Running in the time of Covid

This has been a year of disruptions, and one is to running. Races and formal runs that might have served as milestones and motivations  have been cancelled, and runs with our local group have had to be suspended at times because of lockdown rules, but in the main, to some extent, I and others have kept running, more or less. Running has implications for general fitness, health and mental welbeing so is important in that respect, though for someone like me who runs for fun I can't say it is essential. The biggest impact for me is social: our run group has been meeting every Saturday for years, and after-run coffee has become a stable part of our lives and a weekly chance to catch up with friends, so we all miss that. But there is also a nice aspect, in an odd way, due to the social distancing. Running can be a bit of a selfish pursuit: I am guilty of it myself sometimes, running in a bubble, oblivious to people I see or pass, on a mission, focussed on my pace or my style or my exhau

Pain, no gain

This has been an 'interesting' year for my running. For many years I have been able to say (OK, boast...) that I have never sustained a running injury that stopped me from running. It is about the only thing about my running I could boast about, because I am very much an average (to below average..) runner in terms of speed, endurance, style: and as a Run England run group leader and author of Slow Running, at least in my own head it lent me some measure of credibility. But no more... ...and how it happened is a salutary lesson, in showing that I should have followed my own advice. I went for a short run, last January, with my then 12-year old grandson. I had changed running shoes, from my usual straightforward Adidas style I have worn for decades, to a lighter, flatter, less cushioned shoe because everybody tells me I should try barefoot running and lighter shoes seemed at least a step in that direction. Joshua, being 12, shot off like a rocket. I, being then 63, and

The Memorial Mile

After the 2012 Olympics in London, I was involved in a number of local sporting initiatives. One was The Memorial Mile - a commemoration of the First World War Armistice, on the sad anniversary of the start of that war. The Memorial Mile is a run - a mile dash, along our local canal, in St Johns, from one bridge to the next. I conceived the idea when thinking about the mostly young people who lost their lives in that war, and wondering what they might have made of the world 100 years later. Much of what I have read about those people - and heard first-hand from some - portrayed a sense of fun, mild recklessness, and exuberance that I recognised as eternal associations with youth. Running along the canal it occurred to me that the distance between two bridges - the second being in the village - was about a mile: and I idly mused that you could run it as a mile 'dash'. I thought, those young people, if they came back to see the world 100 years later, would recognise a mile dash