Friday 23 April 2010

Cows in the meadow

Jonathan brought four cows over this morning - one of them, Benson (no. 191) has visited us before. The other three are 64, 65 and 196. I am particularly pleased that there are two square numbers, but I shall aim to name them too, just as soon as I can reliably recognise them. I have had a lifetime of finding it really hard to put names to faces, because I'm really bad at face recognition - I've put a lot of effort into improving this over the years, but it's still something I have to give conscious thought to. And I haven't mastered it with cows.

It's odd, really. Black and white cows have vast differences in pattern of their coats, but I don't remember them apart from each other. Yet dogs, I recognise with no difficulty, usually even within the same breed. With people, the fact that I can do it if I try hard enough shows that it's more a matter of lack of actual observation than lack of ability to observe. I'm surprisingly good at telling identical twins apart, for example. However, a few weeks ago when my friend Mary and I went to the school performance of Little Shop of Horrors and, both being governors, went backstage at the end, I found it quite hard to pick out the faces of the performers (unless I'd recognised them already because I knew them) whilst she had no difficulty.

On the other hand, because I do meet a lot of people and I do try really hard, I've actually got a reputation for recognising people very well. It's helped by my being good at remembering facts about someone - so, even if there's an initial hesitation, once I've placed someone I will remind them of what we talked about at our last meeting (possibly years ago) - which comes so easily to me that it always slightly surprises me that the person is startled and flattered by it.

Another thing I can't recognise is birdsong. It's all pleasant twittering to me*. I could learn it, but I'd have to do so bird by bird, specifically. I think that the difficulty there is my short sight and poor bird-spotting ability. So, when young, I never put a song to a particular bird and even now, though I think I know a blackbird, for instance, when I hear it, unless I see the blackbird sing, how do I know if I'm right?

*There are obvious exceptions to this - owl, cuckoo, pheasant, chicken, pigeon etc.

We've had six members of staff caught abroad when the planes stopped flying - five teachers and a member of the office staff. The reaction has been typical of the school - everyone immediately offered to help and to be as flexible in the classroom arrangements as possible. The Head and Deputy Head cancelled meetings so that they could teach; two science teachers were away, so the Head taught non-exam year classes so that science specialists could transfer to Years 11, 12 and 13. Meanwhile the stranded teachers were doing all that they could by email to share lesson plans etc. One teacher flew back yesterday and is back in class today, and another landed in the early hours, left Heathrow at 5.30 and was in school at 8.30 this morning, ready to teach. The others are coming back over the weekend and will be back at work on Monday. We were lucky only to have a few people absent, but I think it was a brilliant reaction all round. Thank goodness it only affected one week, however - especially with exams coming up. I'm not sure how many pupils were away.

It's a fabulous sunny day and here I am in a room that's colder than outside. I think I shall take the papers out and sit for a while in the sunshine. I'll forget about work and do it tonight instead.


Christopher said...

I too have problems with names and faces, but not usually gender. Last summer you were kind enough to name either a cow (female) or a snail (hermaphrodite) after me. I don't whether you planned to make this an annual event, but if so, could I put in a plea to have something male (and all that entails) in your ambitus named after me? I'm sure the waiting list is long, but I'm happy to take my turn.

Z said...

A snail was called after you, it's true - but I thought of it as Chris. Would you care to have a handsome cock pheasant, ruler of a harem of bantams and father of a young phantam, named after you?

Otherwise, you could be a blackbird. I'm afraid we don't have any male animals that aren't birds here at present apart from rabbits.

Christopher said...

Phantam beasant, that sounds just right. Thank you, Z. But is Chris the snail no more? Don't tell me you've...I mean, how could you?...well, I hope the garlic and parsley butter went down all right as well, with no gastropodic eructations?

Z said...

I didn't keep it as a pet, Chris was a wild snail, Christopher - as is Christopher the pheasant, and Walter the pigeon come to that. As far as I know, he/she is alive and well and living somewhere near Dave the Wall.

Z said...

are, not is. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I remember faces, even after a long time, but I can not remember names. I "see" faces of people before me, even remember details of the situation I met them, but there is no name.
Good to see that at the school it went well. A friend of mine is returning home to Hungary now - I wait for a mail - after a small odysee of four days starting from NewYork, last time I heared from him he was in Istanbul.

Dave said...

Dave the Wall?

I can not recognise many birds or their songs either. I believe I heard a skylark the other day though. The fields were wet with diamond dew too, so I picked 'Awake awake to love and work' as my opening hymn.

I had to explain why, as the congregation were in the centre of Norwich, and hadn't had my early-morning walk through the countryside.

Z said...

My sister is brilliant at both faces and names. I have no idea how she does it.

Um, a whimsy too far, Dave? Would you like to have a cow named for you instead? I'm rather fond of 14 squared, myself, but you can have the prized 64 if you would prefer it.

I think the most difficult thing for people was not knowing how long the flights would be stopped for. Some people have had some very difficult journeys, certainly.

Dave said...

I know I am a brick.

Z said...

But not just another brick in the wall - you're the real thing, dear heart.