Letter to my grandson (xxi)

Dear Winton

A couple of nights ago Nana Di and I were watching a program on television about the future, something I think about quite a lot when I think about you. The program was about the kind of future our grandchildren will be facing. The program said that most of the jobs we have today will be gone in 15 years and it showed a group of children, not all that much older than you, at school.

“One group of these children” said interviewer,” needs to write an algorithm for an ice cream cone that does not drip. The other must write an algorithm for an umbrella that does not turn inside-out in the wind.”

“Holy shit,” I thought,”Winton is only just beginning to eat ice cream in cones. Where are we going wrong?”

Ice cream.jpg

Indeed, the education program at Mary Street would appear to be sadly deficient in algorithm writing and if, in later life you feel badly let down by both me and Nana Di in the matter of algorithm writing, this letter is by way of an apology.

I have often mentioned to your mother that we seem to be falling sadly behind in the matter of differential calculus as well. Counting is coming along pretty well. We are up to 3 with pretty good accuracy. Things fall apart a bit after five. But you know it’s better to ask for five chocolates rather than two, so I reckon the mastery of five is not far off.

We’re certainly not making any progress whatsoever on algorithms.

I have started to read and recite poems and nursery rhymes to you when you’re in the bath.

We are doing pretty well on Old McDonald had a farm particularly the E-I-E-I-O bit.  Baa baa Black sheep is a great favourite, particularly as you’re convinced that the little boy who lives down the lane is called Winton.

Three bags.png

I have also started reading some of Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales: Jim: who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion


and George Who played with a Dangerous Toy, and suffered a Catastrophe of considerable Dimensions.


Nana Di is not certain that Hilaire Belloc is altogether suitable for young children.

I recited I know an old lady who swallowed a fly and you sat watching me, absolutely transfixed.


What is it that makes you do this?   I know that part of it is simply that Papa is doing it but I do a lot of things and you pay no attention whatsoever, so there is must be something special about the poetry.  Of course there is something special about poetry, the great thing is that you seem to be getting it.

And this comes to a very important point about what grandparents can do for their grandchildren. They can only help them love the things that they love.

So it is an act of faith that a love of poetry, of books and of literature will stand you in good stead when you face a future that neither Nana Di nor I can envisage.

And I think they got the thing about the algorithm for the non-drip ice cream cone wrong. The thing about ice cream cones is that they are meant to drip, the skill in catching the drips is more important than writing the algorithm.




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