Is it me or are our lives all about numbers now? The figures for those contracting coronavirus are creeping back up and the numbers being tested around the UK are falling. The number of home nations which have a sensible approach is just one – and that is Scotland – while the numbers of idiotic, unhygienic, superspreaders are shooting up elsewhere.
The number of people quitting smoking is the highest it has been for 10 years – and it’s thanks to Covid. An ill wind …
People ask whether kids should go to school six days a week instead of five – to catch up for the time they had off at home due to lockdown.
Much as I would hate that if I was still in short trousers in Bernera Primary School, it makes a whole lot of sense. Education is important, you wee blighters. I can’t believe I said that.
What a fuddy-duddy I have become. Of course, that’s because of another number – my age. That figure, too, is the highest it has ever been.
And well done to Galson Estate Trust, which covers the north of Lewis. That community landlord is paying for residents to get free house numbers that are visible from the road.
Finding someone’s house can be difficult in out-of-town areas throughout Scotland. In the islands, it can be a nightmare because of the bizarre way that croft numbers were allocated. In many places, it was down to widely differing systems.
The first system was First Come, First Served. The second system was Which Number Would You Like To Have? And the third one was You’ll Take What You’re Given.
Rumour has it some households were given their preferred numbers depending on their number of sheep or the attractiveness of their womenfolk. It was also said that if the allocator was in the Free Church, the Church of Scotland families would receive one dissimilar to what may have been requested.
The result is that house numbers are a higgledy-piggledy mess based on love-ins and scraps from a bygone age.
Not so long ago, I was with a group trying to convince residents in another part of the island to comply. It didn’t work well.
Big Murdo said: “Och, why do I need my house number on my gate? Everyone here knows where I live anyway. And I don’t want the taxman to find my house.”
We would try to explain that it was difficult for new postal workers but Murd insisted that the postal people could ask anyone in the village.
Then I would say: “What if you get ill, Big Murd, and the doctor or paramedics have to find your house in the middle of the night?”
Wily old codgers like Big Murdo would scratch their heads and say they never thought of that. Yet few actually went and bought the necessary digits when they were next in town. Big Murdo solemnly promised to get his number on his gate 15 years ago – and he still lives at No Number Cottage.
That’s just silly. Murdo, you are inconsiderate. Mate, it could be downright dangerous. It is not about you, Murd. It is to help people who may be trying to help you. Do it – whether you live on Galson Estate or not.
And that goes whether you live in Bettyhill, Ballachulish or Balmoral. I wonder if the Queen has a house number on her gate? I’ve just checked it on Google Maps and I don’t think so.
Your Majesty, if a craven, unworthy subject could have a wee word? Wait – she doesn’t need one. Apparently, there are signposts showing which is her wee hoose. Even better. So, Big Murd, don’t even think of using “what’s good enough for the Queen” as an excuse.
At this time particularly, everyone should think about it. Support the NHS. GPs have campaigned for numbers on gates for decades. It’s the bane of their lives.
As my granny used to say when my grandfather would dismiss the local quack’s latest diagnosis on the cause of his persistent wind problem: “Always listen to doctors. They have inside information.”
Putting a number on your gate or on your door can be useful for all kinds of people who may need to come and visit your home. It’s not rocket science – it is just basic digital technology.
Which reminds me of the time that I walked down a street where the house numbers were very different to ones I’d seen before. They were numbered 64k, 128k, 256k, 512k and 1,024k. That was a trip down memory lane. One for the geeks.
Nowadays, I must watch my own figure. Like many people I may have over-eaten a bit during lockdown.
I also may have over-eaten for much of the last half-century. Mrs X noticed me standing on the bathroom scales the other day.
She started laughing at me. When I asked her why, she said: “You’re sucking in your stomach. That is not going to help.”
I said: “Of course it will help. How else am I going to see the numbers?”