Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Key Childhood Memory

Lets say I'm 8. I might be 7 or I might be 9- because memories rarely come with numbers attached- and I'm sitting in a classroom on the first floor (second floor in US-speak) and I can see past the heads of my classmates and the desk where the teacher sits and out through the window. It's a beautiful day: blue sky, big fluffy clouds- and I'm looking across back gardens with the roofs of sheds and greenhouses in them and I sort of think one of them may have had a weather vane mounted on its eaves which is blowing in the wind- and I'm thinking (wordlessly) "Why the hell am I stuck in here doing this dreary stuff when I could be out there doing some real learning?"

What exactly was that dreary stuff? My memory, which is probably conflating all sorts of things for the sake of neatness and maximum impact, says I was being taught about contour lines. And why was I being taught about contour lines? Because they wanted us to be able to read maps. And why did they want us to be able to read maps?  Because they wanted us to grow up to be soldiers...

I didn't understand that at the time, of course.

And did I learn about contour lines? No, I couldn't see the point of them so I didn't.

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