The latest fashion amongst Diarists, I gather from chatter in the coffee shops and eating houses, is apparently to post eight things about themselves in some manner which were previously unknown, and, having done so, suggest to eight other Diarists that they should do the same. I confess that this does sound somewhat like a plan that my brother Cardinal came up with, except that he included a further instruction to send a shilling to the person from whom you received the initial request, which led to the drastic impoverishment of many Scribblers (and consequently, coffee shops) and a short stretch for my brother at Her Majesty's Pleasure.
Given that there is no such instruction here and that I was "tagged" by the explorer Ms Bettina Tizzy I thought that I might partake on this uneventful Saturday evening. Here are eight Facts of Significant Import concerning myself.
I am allergic to Nickel. This causes occasional issues during my activities, but confined mostly to an occasional rash which is easily countered by the application of a medicinal cream.
I am the most appalling shot imaginable. During my earlier years, when my Father was instructing me in the handling of Firearms - I mean no disrespect clearly when I term him an eccentric man, who had ideas regarding the role of Woman in Society, and particularly his own daughter, that were distinctly out of step with those more generally held - he regularly despaired.
"For G-d's Sake, Ordinal!" he would cry out in the field next door to the Hertfordshire home where I spent my early years, scaring the crows far more than my awkward shots. "It is simple, hold your hand steadier girl, and do not spasmically yank at the trigger like that. And put that screwdriver away! That is a perfectly good revolver and needs no additional parts inserted."
I grew up entirely unthreatening to any targets, and it was only when one stray bullet aimed at an empty jar instead went through a hedge and into the wheel of a passing cart, causing its complete collapse, the spilling of its cargo of illicit whisky, and three unsavoury types to angrily leap the hedge and chase the pair of us to our very door, where they were only discouraged by the arrival of a shotgun in the hands of my papa, that he decided that perhaps it was not advisable that I continue in this particular mode of education. Instead, my mother forced me to read more Milton. In retrospect I have to say that the .455 calibre is not terribly suitable for eleven-year-old girls.
One thing in which I am skilled which surprises folk at times is that I can play the trombone. It was the opinion of my mother that every child should learn an instrument, for their own artistic pleasure in the future, though it is well known that children (except on very occasional occasions) have no interest in their own futures, or at least no interest in any future which requires music practice now.
Given that I was forbidden from the piano after ruining it almost beyond repair - I merely wondered how it worked - an alternative had to be sought, and the only thing that was available in the locality was a trombone owned by a fellow from the North, who used to play in a colliery band. The poor chap had developed a lung condition from his exposure to coal dust but offered to instruct me in its use, and I surprised my parents by being particularly willing to visit him for lessons. Actually, I confess, I spent much of my time talking to him about mining machinery, but without some progress with the trombone I would not have been allowed to continue, thus it was necessary that I actually learn to play it.
I dare say that the number of female trombonists in the world is fairly small, though I have not played for some decades and do not even own a trombone now.
Initially at University I had no interest in my current profession, but instead rejected it and chose to study Mathematics and Philosophy. Not only was this more approved of as something for a lady - well, certainly compared to engineering - but I had entered a regrettable adolescent phase of Romanticism, rejecting my earlier interests and instead dressing in the most terrible purple, mooning purposely after the most witless of fellow Romantics and composing the most awful poetry.
I spent a couple of my undergraduate years studying the Classics of both fields and the work of more daring modern Logicians and Thinkers, before coming to the following conclusions:
- Mathematics is terribly difficult if one is to do any more than simply use it (I have heard vague references to some American thinker, "Malibu Stacy" I think, saying the same);
- Philosophy is all very well but often propounded by people who could not write, and should have been beaten harder;
- Philosophy is routinely studied by complete halfwits who would not recognise proper Thought if it were to insert itself into their skulls via a large syringe.
These did discourage me and quite quickly I moved to the study of the Difference Engine, in which my College was internationally renowned, and discovered for myself that it was in fact much more the sort of thing that I had always wished to do. I am known to occasionally wear purple now but I do not write poetry, an activity which should only be attempted by those who are any good at it.