This post should not exist

I studied English until year 11, yet beyond learning to read and write at primary school, I have never needed any of this since leaving school.  I have certainly not drawn the inside of a pepper since this was required of me in year 7 art class.   So why do people only ever complain about how they have never needed pythagoras or solving equations in the real world?  I am not saying maths is any more important than English or art by the way, just that it is equally so.

Art, music and theatre are not useful, but they are not required to be, as they are beautiful and entertaining (in the eye of the beholder at least- the stage adaptation of 1984 was two hours of my life that I will never get back!)  Why then should maths, something equally beautiful in its own way, require a real-life purpose to be justifiable?  Your mobile phone number and date of birth appear somewhere in the irrational number pi (see digits 96060954-96060961 for my date of birth).  The numbers that you think are infinite are in fact not even scraping the surface when you consider the 2-dimensional numbers.  Even without the real-life application of pi and complex numbers, these numbers in themselves are inherently beautiful and interesting. Think flowers are more beautiful than maths?  Think again.  That’s petals arranged in Fibonacci numbers you’re looking at there.

So this post should not exist.  I should not feel the need to justify maths by its real life applications.  But I will.  Because some people don’t think maths is beautiful and think that I should study their idea of beauty but that they should not study mine.

Consider getting on a plane.   You need basic numeracy to work out when to get the plane to get where you’re going on time, and some money skills to see if you can afford it.  The internet uses prime numbers and cryptography to ensure that no one steals your credit card details while you’re booking that flight and the travel company uses probability and financial maths to work out how much to charge you for the flight based on how popular the time you are flying is and then they do some probability to work out how many on board meals they should bring with them so that they can be relatively certain they will have enough, given the proportion of passengers who generally purchase a meal.  You then do some arithmetic to work out how many packets of crisps you could buy from tesco for the price of just one small tube of pringles on board.  If you are a particularly irritating person, you might announce to your neighbour that the sandwich you have bought is only 20% carbs which is the rule of your new diet and they will use their own knowledge of percentages to tell you that there’s a 100% chance that they don’t care about your diet.

I have managed a whole paragraph about the maths of flying and we haven’t even taken off yet, and that’s the biggest bit.   The forces required to ensure a safe take off arise from detailed calculations, taking into consideration the mass of the plane and the thrust from the engine and lo and behold you’re defying gravity at 32,000 feet and you stay at a relatively constant height because the thrust from the engine pushes air around the carefully designed wings so that the lift is approximately equal to the gravitational force exerted on the plane.  Thankfully the pilot knows about bearings, so can navigate to the correct destination without crashing into any other planes along the way. Once you land, you change your money at the airport and regret not changing it before you left when you calculate the difference in exchange rates and don’t even notice how much maths and economics went into calculating those exchange rates in the first place.  In fact, you didn’t notice any of the maths along the way, so after checking in on facebook at your holiday destination, you share a photo with a sarcastic caption about how funny it is that yet another day has passed where you haven’t used any algebra.   Btw, thanks to cryptography no one hacked your account and changed your profile picture to a jpg of a chicken while you were on the plane.

Admittedly I am not an aviation expert, so the exact details above are my somewhat simplified understanding of events, and perhaps you think that a single plane flight is hardly  justification for the hours you spent learning about fractions and algebra and the probability of rolling a prime number on a dice.  But I shall leave you with the thought that world war 2 was won not by guns and bombs, but by maths.  It is estimated that when Alan Turing cracking the Enigma code, it shortened the war by 2-3 years, saving between 14 and 21 million lives.

tl;dr- maths is beautiful AND useful.  And it saved millions of lives in WW2.

2014 in jpgs!

2014 highlights:


Family: This was us enjoying a particularly intense family board game!

C-S residence gatherings

Friends: More games and good times in the last few hours of 2014

faraway friends

Not going to the Charles Dickens museum: Three years later and we still never made it!

love love2

Love: Proposing to my lovely Jodietrix in Venice!


Theme parks (with plenty of swirly slush!): Visited Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Chessington at least twice each!  Excellent fun!

srs bsns employment

Srs bsns employment: Still undecided as to whether teaching is for me, but have had some awesome times with these lovely people.

tic tacs

Tic tacs: I have about 10 tic tac boxes on my desk at work and people ask whether or not I’m obsessed with tic tacs.  Little do they know that this is just the tip of the iceberg!

2014 also featured my PGCE, several rodent buffets (two of whom date right back to Devitt House days), a Rubik’s cube obsession, many musicals (mainly Mamma Mia!) and lots of hot chocolate :)

Here’s to more fun and adventures in 2015!

Counting my blessings

While sulking around on my online banking grumbling to myself about having to fork out money for a new train ticket home tomorrow (because some numpty didn’t renew her railcard and another numpty didn’t think to check if said numpty’s railcard had expired when booking the tickets) it dawned on me how lucky I am that right now dipping slightly into next month’s wages is the biggest of my concerns.  Tomorrow I will be en route to spend Christmas with my four favourite people and I am so excited to be home at my favourite time of the year. I have two weeks holiday from my godforesaken job which isn’t half as godforesaken as some jobs, and I’ve come out of my shell somewhat this year to the point where I will miss the social side of work a bit over the holidays!  And of course I have the most fabulous fiancée and amazing inspiring friends who are dotted all over the world.

I am in many ways incredibly fortunate with the life I have, and sometimes it takes a minor catastrophe to remind me just how minor most of my catastrophes are!

Exciting plans!

When procrastinating life by browsing my facebook news feed, I often come across exciting things that I want to do in London, so thought I’d make a list of things that I think look like fun, so that I don’t forget them and to share some of the quirky stuff I have come across!

1) Not London-specific, but I need to go and see the Imitation Game!  I’m sure lots of people are keen to see it because Benedict Cumberbatch but it’s all about the maths & codes for me :P

2) A board game café opened in Haggerston today; hours of fun to be had!

3) There is a cereal café opening in Shoreditch on December 10th; yum!

4) Piebury corner– I’m keen to give it a go, but it will have a hard job beating my favourite pie shop

5) Mamma Mia will always be on my list of things to do! Think I’ve seen it three times already this year :P

6) Working my way through the list of best hot chocolates in London is now underway, after my lovely Jodie took me to Choccywoccydoodah last weekend, which was well worth the half an hour or so queue to get in.  As well as hot chocolate, we got a dipping pot of melted chocolate, with mini cakes, strawberries, biscuits and marshmallows- what could be better?  (Well, dipping items which didn’t have nuts in almost everything I guess, but we were provided with an extra portion of strawberries and marshmallows at no extra cost, so I would have stuff to eat!)  Lovely atmosphere, friendly staff and of course, delightful hot chocolate, jpg below (person holding hot chocolate not quite so aesthetically fortunate, but never mind!)

photo (1)


So I’ve been meaning to write about my birthday treat for like a month now, and am only just getting round to it!

I had the most amazing day at Alton Towers with my family :) Turns out Air is 10 times more fun when my sister is screaming the place down and grabbing the hand of a random stranger to comfort her as she is subjected to the biggest terror imaginable. And some of this was just the beginning of the ride when you are tilted to face the floor ready to ride the rollercoaster in a ‘flying’ position. Of course as soon as it finished she wanted to go on it again.

The newest thrill at Alton towers in the Smiler, the world’s first 14 loop rollercoaster, which will set you back 70+ minutes queuing time, or £10 for a fast track. It’s certainly intense and you get a good 2 minutes 45 of being thrown about for your wait. I don’t think it was a scary as I was anticipating, but that’s because it’s mainly big drops that scare me (and it doesn’t have any) and it’s still definitely only for fearless thrill seekers!

And a word of warning for northerners who assess everything on a comparison with Lightwater Valley- whilst the Runaway Mine Train may look like the Ladybird, it’s actually fairly adventurous for something that looks like a children’s ride!!

All in all, a fabulous day with fabulous people :)

The Heat Is On In Saigon!

If you do one thing this year; it should be seeing Miss Saigon in the West End.

We went for the day ticket option, meaning we got £20 tickets at 10am at the box office on the day.  The catch being, there are a limited number of day tickets available (reportedly around twenty) so you need to get in the queue early- we arrived at 7 am and were second and third in the queue and we got tickets in the middle of the front row.  The seat directly behind mine sells for £69.75.  Personally I think it was worth the three hours in the queue (it was a lovely day and I brought a book!), but Jodie did not agree!

But anyway, on with the show.  The musical itself is excellent, with a heart-breaking plot- a love story between a soldier and a civilian woman during the Vietnam torn apart when the American troops are evacuated suddenly.  The cast are incredibly talented; probably the best I’ve ever seen in a West End production and the music and effects are outstanding.  As an aside, I felt fairly sure that one does not simply have helicopter in a theatre, but apparently that’s a thing.   As a heads up, the story starts in a sleazy club with several prostitutes, and they certainly do not keep it G-rated, so perhaps not one for bringing children to!   Being right in the front row meant there were one or two scenes where you didn’t see things on the floor and the orchestra was sometimes a little louder than ideal for hearing the singers, but I didn’t feel that got in the way of my enjoyment.  It is an incredibly sad story, although the hysterical weeping of a nearby lady was probably a little much.

All in all, a fantastic show and highly recommended, whether you book online, or try for day seats (for more details on acquiring day seats, just message me or something!).

Afternoon Tea – Millennium Hotel, Mayfair

My first mistake was reading the voucher name: “The Mayfair Celebration Afternoon Tea”, and not the location, thereby assuming that the location was The Mayfair Hotel.  #rookie error.  Luckily we were in plenty of time (guess who wasn’t in charge of transport) and The Millennium Hotel was not too far away so all was not lost, and turns out to be just as fancy (at £197 a night in the most basic room, I don’t think I’ll ever be staying there!).

The celebration afternoon tea includes a glass of Moët champagne each, which I’m reliably informed is very nice stuff (and after drinking both of ours, Ms Shanks was certainly very merry!).  Each person receives a pot of tea from a few options, including second flush Assam (again, reliably informed of the high quality of this!) and they were happy to replace my tea with very tasty hot chocolate at no extra cost.  The first tier of food was the sandwiches (chicken & mayonnaise, egg mayonnaise, cucumber & cream cheese, salmon and something), then plain and raisin scones, with a delightful array of desserts on the top tier (Eton mess, chocolate madeira cake, crème brûlée, chocolate éclair and a suspicious fruit tart).  All food was delicious, with wonderful presentation, charming staff, and a special egg timer for the tea, to ensure it was brewed to perfection!  There was only one each of the desserts, so you may have to fight between yourselves to decide who gets what and the portions were a little bit small, but a second plate of scones is provided free of charge if you ask, and I saw others getting extra sandwiches too (didn’t sound like they had to pay for that either).

I bought the voucher a while ago for Jodie’s birthday, but it is still available on amazon local- the celebration afternoon tea for two would normally be £69 (there are cheaper options without the champagne), and the voucher was only £39- check it out here if you’re interested!  Highly recommend this as a great afternoon out.  I think the sandwiches and desserts vary, but if I could find stuff that I liked, anyone can!  They do add a 12.5% service charge to the bill, which you don’t have to pay, but you may well want to, the service is that good!

Obligatory jpg, which is a bit shadow-y (just can’t get the staff these days) :

afternoon tea


Next up: Miss Saigon, after an impromptu decision to queue for the day tickets this morning!

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