Apparently you need only 23 people to have a 50% chance of having two or more in the group share the same birthday; this despite there being 365/6 days in the year and — presumably — birthdays being more or less evenly spread throughout the year (although, in fairness, this last might be an unwarrantable assumption). And, apparently, if you have a group of 30 people (randomly selected) there is a 70% chance that two or more of them will share a birth-dates! To put this to the test BBC Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’ programme-makers ran a check on the squads at the World Cup (FIFA World Cup squads being made up of 23). And indeed, exactly as one would expect (statistically speaking), out of the 32 World Cup squads, 16 of them had two or more footballers sharing the same birthdays.
Recently on Poetry Please on BBC Radio 4 they featured the Raymond Carver poem ‘His Bathrobe Stuffed With Notes’, which caused me to smile — it’s something I’d not encountered before, but I know what he’s talking about. They don’t get into explaining or discussing the poetry they present on Poetry Please (it is not that kind of radio show; it’s more like a late night music radio show…”Anna Rodley from Barsetshire has asked to hear this one…” and then a recording of someone reading the piece requested — usually well-read recorded performances — and then afterwards on to the next track, et cet), therefore I’m presuming that the Carver poem is about Carver’s own pockets stuffed with jotted down notes and tidbits (Ted Hughes’ ‘bowerbird’s bric-a-brac nest’). On the desk before me as I write this — and there are similar piles at several locations throughout the house — I’m looking at the following, on the backs of envelopes, on post-it notes and so forth (in no particular order at all, except as I’m seeing them — the first of which is a two-week-old note to remind myself to do a blog-post based on the Raymond Carver poem):
In his bathrobe pocket
Uber-super (or super-uber)
Mr Sullivan (the surgeon)
Wrapped around the axle (for ‘all tangled up’)
Brendan Sims’ Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, 1453-present
Wisteria for front hedge
His Bathrobe Pocket Stuffed with Notes
By Raymond Carver
From A New Path to the Waterfall (1989)
Published by Harvill (Harper Collins)
Talking about her brother, Morris, Tess said:
“The night always catches him. He never
believes it’s coming.”
That time I broke a tooth on barbecued ribs.
I was drunk. We were all drunk.
The early sixteenth-century Belgian painter called,
for want of his real name,
“The Master of the Embroidered Leaf.”
Begin the novel with the young married couple
getting lost in the woods, just after the picnic.
Those dead birds on the porch when I opened up
the house after being away for three months.
The policeman whose nails were bitten to the quick.
Aunt Lola, the shoplifter, rolled her own dad
and other drunks as well.
Dinner at Doug and Amy’s. Steve ranting, as usual,
about Bob Dylan, the Vietnam War, granulated sugar,
silver mines in Colorado. And, as usual, just
as we sit down the phone rings and is passed around
the table so everyone can say something. (It’s Jerry.)
The food grows cold. No one is hungry anyway.
“We’ve sustained damage, but we’re still able
to maneuver.” Spock to Captain Kirk.
Remember Haydn’s 104 symphonies. Not all of them
were great. But there were 104 of them.
The rabbi I met on the plane that time who gave me comfort
just after my marriage had broken up for good.
Chris’s story about going to an AA meeting where
a well-to-do family comes in — “freaked out,”
her words — because they’ve just been robbed at gunpoint.
Three men and a woman in wet suits. The door to their
motel room is open and they are watching TV.
“I am disbanding the fleet and sending it back
to Macedonian shores.” (Richard Burton in Alexander the Great)
Don’t forget when the phone was off the hook
all day, every day.
The bill collector (in Victoria, B.C.) who asks
the widow is she’d like it if the bailiff dug up
her husband and repossessed the suit he was buried in.
“Your bitter grief is proof enough.”
Mozart, Act II, scene 2
La Clemenza di Tito
The woman in El Paso who wants to give us her furniture.
But it’s clear she is having a nervous breakdown.
We’re afraid to touch it. Then we take the bed, and a chair.
Duke Ellington riding in the back of his limo, somewhere
in Indiana. He is reading by lamplight. Billy Strayhorn
is with him, but asleep. The tires hiss on the pavement.
The Duke goes on reading and turning the pages.
I’ve got — how much longer?
Enough horsing around!
Lovely lines by British poet Wendy Cope (b. 1945), which I heard a reading of the other day on BBC Radio 4, it was like a little splash of sunshine in my day
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.
The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.
BBC Radio 4 has a wonderful series called ‘Four Thought’ which is now in its 4th series, short talks (12 or 13 minutes long), thought-provoking presentations delivered to an invited audience at Somerset House or the Royal Society of Arts or some such place. The series is presented by the very clever and long-lasting David Baddiel (once a stand-up comic but now a sort of apprentice Melvyn Bragg)—there is something about Baddiel’s presentation which leads me to suspect that he may have originated the concept of the show (he seems to be more than merely a hired presenter, that’s for sure)—no matter, it is a very simple idea for a short radio feature, and whatever goes into the mix it is something I like very much.
In this post I want to present my two favourite Four Thought talks. The first is by the cricketer and author and Test Match Special new-boy Ed Smith, talking about professionalism in sport (and by extension in much besides). Smith is a very good speaker (like Baddiel, a Cambridge old boy—Peterhouse—double first in history and cricketing ‘Blue’, scoring a century on his first class debut for the university—square-jawed and handsome, Smith verges on a being almost a paint-by-numbers of ‘Home Counties’ Englishness) and he has really thought through this subject, something he has discoursed on many times before, not least in his 2008 book What Sport tells us about Life.
Click on the link provided (which take you to the BBC website):
THE SECOND TALK is equally good: Anna Woodhouse (University of Leeds, mature student) talking about glass in our culture, everything from high street plate glass window displays to office architecture and culture to [Microsoft] Windows, Google Glass and all that. I do not know how long these talks will continue to be available on the BBC website but for as long as they are I’d like to steer people to them. (If you come to this blog and you click on these and they are no longer available you might be kind enough to let me know—via the comments facility below—and I’ll delete the post.) But for now, enjoy.