I have to admit that I like the fact that for most of the lifetime of this blog entry (depending on your time-zone) it will be 09/09/09 (whether you are American or British, too! – there is still some subliminal chaos in Britain when referring to 9/11, and the fact that our worst calamity happened on 7/7 is one of those weird coincidences which have prevented us going numerically mad). In fact, at some point in the day, twice on a non-digital clock, it will be 9 hours, 9 minutes and 9 seconds on the ninth day of the ninth month of the ninth year. Enjoy it while you can: there are only three more chances this century, since the number 13 does not, unluckily for some, apply to months or hours (although you could have 1313 on the 13th. I bet it’s a Friday).

There was a moment in 1989, when you could say, during lunchtime on 6th July, that it was 12.34.5 on 6/7/89. I had a colleague who specialised in keeping us up to speed about such things, and he brought the staffroom to a respectful halt to observe the fluky numerology of the moment. I am afraid I don’t subscribe to the lucky sign/ number/ gemstone/ flower/ (fill in your own others) school of superstition, although I realise while writing this that it is a lie, since I did as a child have a lucky number, and it is 6, and if I am going to be really honest, it is still affecting my behaviour in a very OCD way. There were two foods in particular which I would only eat in sixes (or multiples thereof, since both are moreish): Twiglets and grapes. And even now, I feel a bit odd if I eat seven grapes, and would rather not.

Malcolm Lowry (and I think it is safe to say now that the literary world has almost completely ignored that it is his centenary) was terrified by 7. All the misfortune in Under The Volcano is associated with the number. And you don’t have to be a big-name novelist to be obsessed by numbers, as the gameshow Deal Or No Deal proves. It is a numerologist’s heaven. (I was in the Kentish town Deal the week before last, and oh how tempting it was to pretend to be a lost Frenchman and to ask the way by lowering the car window and asking ‘Deal – or no Deal?’)

And, for now I recognise another problem, I do actually get considerable pleasure in a car if all the digits on the milometer are the same. On the way to Devon in 1970, my first trip, the friend who drove us down knew, as did I, that the Trumph Herald in which we were travelling would go round the clock – and in those days that meant a straight line of noughts. Alack (how odd that word look uncoupled from ‘alas’!), we were preoccupied at the time, and we missed it. I have lots of regrets about my life, and that’s in there at about no. 54.

I must go and do some mental arithmetic.


One Response to Numbers

  1. Ben R says:

    I was born in Deal, lived there for 20 years, and bought a copy of ‘Under the Volcano’ in a bookshop opposite the pier.

    The best part of living in Deal was that there were quite a lot of unexploded bombs resting on the Goodwin Sands, about a mile out to sea, and at low tide fishing boats had to be careful. Which they sometimes weren’t.

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