Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Three Rs

I love reading. I learnt to read before I went to school and I have always loved getting lost in a good book. I have pretty wide-ranging tastes, and I will read books that are factual as well as enjoying fiction. One of the problems with doing distance-learning, such as that with the Open University, is that you tend to have less time for reading for leisure because you are so busy reading course material and making notes.

I have, in the last couple of weeks, decided to take a short break from studying with the OU. There were a number of reasons for my making this decision, but one of the bonuses of having done so, is that I now have time for leisure reading again. And my reading is a bit like my knitting; I like to have several things on the go at the same time. At the moment I am reading three books, two fact and one fiction. The fiction is something that I have read before (I am a great believer in revisiting books that you have enjoyed) and that is considered to be one of the nation's favourites - Pride and Prejudice. The two books based around fact are Moondust by Andrew Smith and Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. Moondust has the subtitle 'In search of the men who fell to Earth' and tells the stories of what has happened to the astronauts who walked on the Moon since their great exploits. It makes for interesting reading, and gives an insight into what has happened to those men since the heady days of the late 60s and early 70s. I remember what it was like to watch the huge Saturn V rockets blasting off to travel to the Moon and the nervous anticipation as the fragile little craft approached the Moon's surface ready for landing and the walk on an alien surface that was to follow. I have been reading this book for a couple of weeks now and I'm about halfway through it. Yesterday, Bad Science arrived in the post and I'm afraid that instead of putting it on a shelf to be read at some future time, I started reading it and now I can't put it down. I will, however, have to leave it for a few hours today while I take care of the second of the three Rs.

Writing has been something that has been an integral part of my life for a number of years. When I was working, I had to write a great deal. All of it was writing fact, although I am sure that some who read it probably thought it was fiction, but that is always the way. Writing this blog has been my way of continuing to indulge in the second R, and I love it. As I said earlier, I have taken a short break from studying with the OU, but I have already pre-registered for a course which starts in October, and I consider it to be something that I should really enjoy. I am going to study Creative Writing. The course will give me the opportunity to try several different sorts of writing and I am looking forward to all of them except one; writing poetry. That bit will undoubtedly be a bit of a strain, but I am sure that I can get through it, especially as it only represents a small part of the course.

The reason that I will have to leave Bad Science for a few hours today is that I must finish working on my lecture for Thursday. I have it pretty much written now, all I have to do is go through it, expanding a few bits that I don't think that I have explained very well and adding anything that I have forgotten, and and then I have the job of completing the PowerPoint slides to accompany it.

The third R is one of those things that I have real problems with. Arithmetic is not one of my strong suits because I suffer from number dyslexia. I managed to pass O-level Mathematics when I was at school, and I needed to use some simple maths in my working life; in fact at one point in my advanced training I got 100% for an exam that was based completely on maths (incredible as it may seem). I used to manage the maths by writing down the formula that I needed to use for the calculation and then inserting a learnt example so that I could see what the formula should look like. Then I would determine the actual numbers for each of the terms in the formula and from there I could manage to work out any of the unknowns. It was probably long-winded but it worked for me and I continued to use the method for years very successfully. Knitting, one of my favourite leisure pastimes, does require one to count things occasionally. This is easy stuff and doesn't bother me at all. However, I love knitting lace and that does require a bit more than a simple ability to count, because if you are trying to scale up or scale down a design you need to be able to work out the number of stitches to the inch that you require and the size of needle to achieve this. Then there is the problem of having to work out how to decrease or increase a set number of stitches evenly across a row. I find that I can do this all relatively easily these days but I do remember the problems that I have had in the past.

The Victorians set great store on the three Rs and I can understand why. The ability to read, to write, and to do arithmetic meant that you could improve your position in life. The same is true today, but they can do more than just help you to get on. The three Rs have proved to be things that have allowed me to have an enjoyable leisure time too.


Anonymous said...

Bad Science. I've been wanting to read that for a while yet, but haven't been able to get my hands on it. Is it good?

There and Back said...

I could read before I went to school too :0)

Lily said...

Reading is probably my favourite thing and has been since I was about 4. It's only now that I can say that without being embarassed.

A really good friend of mine did the OU creative writing course and loved it. You must be excited about starting it!

Anonymous said...

I use to do a lot of reading for leisure but I lost the concentration to read... I ended up giving away loads of books last year I bought that were just gathering dust on the shelves. Although saying that I have just ordered three books from Amazon last week which I am hoping I will sit down and get into it. I would just to be able to lose a few hours in a book, curled up on the sofa.

cb said...

I took that A215 Creative Writing Course (if that's the one you are thinking of). I really enjoyed it thoroughly although I'm not a very good OU student and never actually completed it but really, I couldn't recommend it highly enough.

madsadgirl said...

Thanks for the comments.

Bad Science is really worth the read; I would recommend it to anyone who has a real interest in understanding science and and how bad the media is of doing just that.

Glad you managed to visit even if you are having a bad day.

Yes, I am looking forward to doing the course and I see writing this blog as something that will help me with the creative writing thing.

As I said, studying kind of put the hold on my reading for leisure, but as I am now having a six month break from studying I am enjoying the opportunity to read whatever I fancy again. Even in my darkest periods with depression I have tried to read. I have sometimes had to read a page or a chapter several times in order to follow what is going on in a story, but the mere fact that I was attempting to read meant that I was using my brain and not giving up on things.

Yes, it is A215 that I am going to take and I'm glad to get such a good recommendation for the course that doesn't come from the OU website. I'm looking forward to it even more now.