117. Run that past me again…?

“The ratio of the shear stress to the strain rate in a fluid is commonly known as what?”

The students confer; Young Fogey whispering to Phiz Illustration while Hockey Captain checks with Normal Looking Kid. There’s a lot of confident nodding. Paxman looks confident too, but then he has the answer in front of him.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to understand the question. A-level Physics was forty years ago and the only thing I remember now is Mr Hurst setting his jacket on fire by pocketing his pipe while it was still alight.

The individual words make sense; it’s the underlying meaning that has me fogged.

It was a similar experience when we were fixing a time to clear up, the morning after the retirement do. “As early as you like,” said Gill, going on to explain that once she’s awake then it’s a torture for her to stay in bed. She tries to make herself lie there for a while, apparently, so as not to disturb Mr Gill, but after twenty minutes or so, she just has to get up. DearHeart and I nodded because we understood the words, but when it came to putting meaning to the concept of finding it difficult to stay in bed, Gill might as well have been talking in Swahili.

I would love to be an early riser.   Both my brother and sister married partners of larkish dispositions and they squeeze so much into their lives: leaping out of bed to go to the gym, or the allotment, or to walk in the woods listening to the dawn chorus. It sounds such a great way to start the day and, believe me, I’d be with them every step of the way, if it wasn’t for the getting-up-early bit.

When the alarm bell drags me away from resitting my A-levels, or trying to stop my class from rioting, or whatever other nightmare scenario has monopolised my sleeping unconscious, it’s a painful grind back to reality. It takes several turns of the key before the clockwork grinds into action and I become anything vaguely human.

In term time, of course, I have to get up at silly o’clock, ready or not. So when it comes to the summer holidays, I always start with the valiant intention of continuing to rise at a reasonable hour and doing something constructive with the time. Gradually, though, I find myself sleeping later and later. Then I pootle and I potter and in a blink of an eye, it’s coffee-time and the baby still hasn’t got a new bonnet.

In case you think that I compensate for this slovenly disposition by staying up to the wee small hours churning out literary masterpieces, I’m afraid that is not true either. I might read for a while longer than in term time, but I can’t really claim to be an owl. I guess if I’m anything, it’s a sloth.

Now the thing is, soon I’ll have crossed the last item off my work ‘to do’ list and will start to be properly retired. Without the toad Work squatting on my shoulder, am I going to be able to make myself leap out of bed to write that novel, learn Italian and take up the piano? The runes aren’t promising.

Viscosity, by the way. I looked it up.

This week, I’ve spent eighteen quid on books for various birthdays. So that’s another 27p towards finding a cure, courtesy of the GiveAsYouLive scheme. The link to GiveAsYouLive is here.

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