Here in Spain, we are entering week four of lockdown due to the COVID-19 virus. I check the worldwide figures on a daily basis and admit to the odd frisson as I look at the statistics...a frisson which is not virus-related, not linked to seeing the numbers increasing or morbid interest in the numbers of deaths. It's more a revival of my previous relationship with statistics.
I often refer to my past as my 'previous lives' as I seem to have followed not a curving path along the years, but have taken several sharp turns in one direction or the other. As a student at school, I was ridiculously bad at maths. Failed not one, but two attempts at securing the important 'O' level with an unclassified result (meaning it was so utterly rubbish that it wasn't worth grading, not even as one of the lesser CSEs). In Sixth Form, I was entered for another type of exam, whose name escapes me, but it was a mixture of 'O' level and CSE and was probably very difficult to fail. I remember the exam, even though it was an eon ago. All the questions were multiple choice...every single one. I was smart enough to realise that I had a better chance with this one, statistically speaking!
And I was right. Passed it with a 'C' level GCSE. Ha!
After various twists and turns in my career, I found myself working for the NHS at the Yorkshire Headquarters in Harrogate. I was helping to set up the system that would allow the
collection of statistics across all the acute hospitals in the country, in effect by making sure that we called a spade a spade. Data definition administration. I enjoyed it. And one of the things I was expected to do (little did they know) was to produce statistics and graphs of the numbers that were collected from the different area health authorities. This meant putting in numbers and figures into a spreadsheet and doing calculation. With numbers. Numbers - I didn't do numbers, remember. I was musical, artistic, creative and utterly useless at adding two numbers bigger than five together. At this time, during the 1980s, the NHS was the most amazing organisation to work for. They provided the most wonderful training and support for their staff or at least that was my experience. I was able to enrol on a post-graduate diploma course to do Health Information Statistics, which was delivered during an academic year over three two-week sessions at the School for Advanced Urban Studies in Bristol. I remember the whole course was excellent as were some of the other students I met there - oh and the food we ate was incredible, thanks to a chef from the Caribbean. But one particular thing shone out, literally, for me. It was a class covering statistics and the only thing I remember about the tutor now is that he was called Kevin and came from Liverpool. I had such a moment of enlightenment during this lecture that in my memory when I think of him, he is in the pulpit of an enormous cathedral, surrounded by light and glory. Honestly. People talk about a light switching on when they understand something. This man made me see stars, rainbows, hear heavenly music. As he was explaining Chi squared or linear regression, I forget which, I UNDERSTOOD! I understood the maths, I understood what he was talking about, I GOT it! First time ever I had understood someone talking about numbers. And at that moment, I was switched on to statistics.
Never looked back. Went on from the NHS to the Local Education Service and ended up explaining statistics to maths teachers and head teachers, can you believe it? Worked on national projects looking at statistics, did an MSc in Information and Knowledge Management, using statistics throughout my final dissertation.
So when I ask, what's new, I want to share with you that in my experience, you can learn something new at any time of your life. It may add to your life or it may change it. When I found Zentangle, quite by chance when searching the internet for something on calligraphy, I had taken early retirement, moved lock, stock and barrel to Spain with my husband and our three children and just started doing some teaching of English at a local academy. I was also giving a class of basic Spanish to some other local English folk in the area and they must have thought I was crazy when I came in with a page of 'doodles', my first attempt at Zentangle because I was so excited at the this new thing that I had found.
And that's how it all began. Not looking for something specific, but finding something special. Looking at the Coronavirus statistics stirred up a range of feelings for me..I have been pouring over the graphs and boring husband and daughter with explanation about how the numbers reported on the news are not giving a real picture of what is happening and how things are going. The memory started making connections and links.
All of which led to this post. See, I did say my new blog would be about all sorts of different things. Have you been inspired to try something new? Have you given Zentangle a go yet? Do let me know!
Thanks for reading.