Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
January 2023
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Reliving some misspent “youth”

During the late 1980s and continuing into the mid 1990s I was working on my PhD in the maths department. Initially I was in a shared office with two other PhD students, Nick and Tim, and it was here that two rather memorable indoor games were invented (well, memorable to us anyway).

The first, “egg squash”, involved a hollow plastic egg and the use of any horizontal and vertical surfaces in the room. It was played like squash, but using our hands as racquets, and the asymmetrical egg meant that the bounce was erratic making things a little unpredictable and fun. The object of the game was to have a rally run for as many turns as possible.

In its first incarnation the other game, “office cricket”, used the wooden arm of one of those old blackboard compasses, a plastic plug that closed off the hollow metal tubing in one of the office chairs, and Tim’s briefcase. The plug was placed on the open latch of one of the briefcase clasps, and the latch could then be spring-flicked to launch the plug like a bowling machine towards the batter wielding the wooden compass arm. Due to the size of the plug and the room, one-bounce catches were allowed, if I recall. In the confines of a 3m x 3m office occupied by 3 people and 3 desks there were some amusing moments and much honing of reflexes.

Gradually things evolved. Nick graduated and moved to Queensland, some more office space became available, Tim also graduated and kept working in the department for a while before getting a job in NZ but he kept coming back regularly for summer, and we were joined by Damien (whom I had taught when he was in Grade 12, and who worked his way through undergraduate maths to honours and higher level study and work). Office cricket moved into empty classrooms, and evolved to having a hand-made cricket bat (about 45cm long) and using a squash ball, which allowed spin bowling since the rubber had enough friction to get some bite on the horizontal surface of the table that we placed in front of the batter (with wickets drawn on the board behind).

On at least one occasion — and the occasion that I’m particularly thinking of was just over twenty years ago, according to my diary — we actually ventured outside with a real bat and a tennis ball and had a bit of a game of cricket on the oval. In the few years following we probably had a few more games either indoors or out (I’d have to do some more diary reading to find out for sure), but by 1999 I had moved to Melbourne. Although we have kept in touch from time to time, I can’t recall any games of cricket since then (there may have been one or two, but I don’t recall them at the moment).

Having heard, yesterday, that Tim was across from NZ and with Damien (a.k.a. “Daimler”) still working in the maths department, I sent an email to them both suggesting a commemorative game of cricket on the oval (the handmade bat and squash ball are long gone, but for a number of reasons I carry a cricket bat and tennis ball or two in my car). Thus it was that early this afternoon three now somewhat middle-aged slightly eccentric mathsy folk met on the oval, and temporarily commandeered a garbage bin for a wicket. We summoned up varying degrees of bowling and batting prowess (Tim’s shoulder is a bit the worse for wear, so he resorted to underarm which is kind of ironic as an Aussie living in NZ; and I can only bowl straight if I bowl slowly), and we chased the ball all over the southern quarter of the oval (since the need to have a batter and a bowler as a minimum starting configuration meant that the remaining player was left to be the sole fielder, and despite our attempts to bat to the field we didn’t always succeed).

It was a nice way to catch up with each other, and fun to relive a few halcyon moments from our past.


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