My Dad wrote an absolutely brilliant comment in response to yesterday’s blog post, so great in fact that I decided to add it as its own post. Enjoy…
I had a box, it was labelled H2 on the top in marker pen, it was the box that I packed my notebooks, notes and papers into when I left university. H2 had been my last room. I had used this box before in previous moves and it had survived the tumult of these wanderings. It came with me when I returned to my parent’s home, whilst there it was lodged in the attic.
After a bit my job took me to Bristol where I shared a flat, I was keeping my chattels light, so the box didn’t come with me. Some time later I moved back to work in London, then bought a house in Kent; it was time for the box to come home, I collected it from my parent’s attic and moved it to the corner of the room I used as an office, it sat there with the H2 on the top, but I don’t think that I ever opened it.
It wasn’t long after this that I moved to work in New York. The easiest thing to do in a relocation like this was to move absolutely everything to our new house in New Jersey, of course the box marked H2 came with us.
A few years later we returned to the UK and box H2 and all out other stuff was put into storage whilst we looked for a place to live. We bought a place in West Sussex and soon after were reunited with all the things that had been in storage… The box was back.
You accumulate things over time and make assessments as to whether they are of value and worth keeping, or are they things that just have to go as they take up too much space. Box H2 was opened, the contents inspected, the maths notes, which were very comprehensive and probably my best effort, looked at in amazement… I don’t remember how I did any of that stuff. It was obvious, after 25 years I didn’t need the box or its contents any more, it had to go.
We roll forward some years and I sign up to study Radio Astronomy at Manchester University, It s bonkers, I should have just gone to the visitors centre at Jodrell Bank for a look round, but no, I’m on a course. Naturally, the course has quite a high maths content and I find that I have forgotten what I used to know. Oh, if only I hadn’t jettisoned my H2 box with all its maths content, written in my own hand and in a style that I could understand.
I’m told that the best book that I could use to get back up to speed is Engineering Mathematics by K.A. Stroud. I get a copy and start to work through it. I get a very strange sensation, it’s like I’m reading the maths notes that I used to have in box H2, Stroud lays out his stuff just like I remember my notes were. I make good progress and things come back quite quickly. After some time and out of curiosity I turn to the Preface of the book just to see… Wham, oh my god, it’s Ken Stroud who taught me maths all those years ago that has written this book…
The notes in the box marked H2 are back, I threw them out years ago, but now have them back in a book. Ken did his trick again, I got a distinction.
When will it be time to throw the book out…? I can tell you, I’m not throwing my notes out again.