Left brain, right brain

From scart leads and car maintenance to maths homework, there’s some
things that Claire Calvey is just never going to understand


My daughter asked for help with her maths homework the other day, and dubiously I agreed. Ten minutes of heated debate and cries of ‘you mean you don’t KNOW this?’ later, it was clear that she was better off without my limited grasp on arithmetic.

Mathematics has never been a strong subject for me, and I still have a re-occurring nightmare dating back to my schooldays, where I’m sitting in an exam hall completely unprepared for the algebra paper in front of me.

It’s not that I’m stupid (well not all the time), it’s just that the left part of my brain is rather puny, and there are cavernous gaps in my knowledge which I doubt will ever be filled.

Take politics, for example, which – from the single transferable vote to the IMF – leave me completely mystified. I get the basics, of course, well… sort of. There’s a left, there is a right, and er, an in-between? And yes, I’ll admit I struggle to differentiate between my left and right most days, but that doesn’t much matter when we’re talking about politics, it’s only really relevant when the sat nav is directing me to the nearest mall.

Another thing that flicks the ‘off’ switch in my brain is anything to do with cars. I had a flat tyre the other day, and by unhappy chance my mobile phone battery was dead, meaning I couldn’t phone my husband to demand he solve the problem. Disregarding a vague doubt about the wisdom of driving the car at all at this point, I drove slowly along the road until I spotted a tyre yard.

‘I have a flat tyre,’ I told the nearest chap wearing a boiler-suit.

‘I need you to, to...’ I reached for the word.

‘Fix it?’ he asked slowly, bending his head slightly, as if talking to a five year old.

‘Yes, fix it, thank you!’ I had to stop myself from clapping my hands with pleasure. ‘Can I sit in the car while you do it?’

Twenty minutes and Dhs20 later, the problem was resolved (although he could have told me I needed to replace the entire car and I would have believed him, since anything involving mechanics is consigned to the dusty pile of ‘stuff that I’ve resigned myself to never understanding, so I’m not going to bother’). This also includes instruction manuals, scart leads, insects, anything involving mud, and the assembling of Ikea furniture.

Dealing with banks is also something I try to avoid at all costs, since all that talk of APRs and interest rates make my brain hurt, and my bank of choice was decided solely on the basis of a pink debit card they were offering at the time. It really is a lovely shade of fuchsia.

And don’t get me started on the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, which I find as dull and difficult to follow as a talk on Japanese cinematography, in Japanese. And if I manage to stay awake all the way through, I’m likely to interject every twenty minutes or so with questions such as ‘but I thought the guy with the beard was a goodie’, thus clearly demonstrating that not only do I have no understanding of the plot, but can’t even distinguish between the characters. The Matrix trilogy leaves me in a similar state of confusion, although judging by the look on Keanu Reeves face, I’m pretty sure he is as much in the dark as I am.

You’re probably wondering how I manage to get out of bed in the morning without hurting myself. But wait – the right side of my brain compensates for the left’s shortcomings. I can remember the words and melody to any song after hearing it just a couple of times. And although I’m hopeless at following instructions, I can make the perfect cupcake by simply using my instincts when it comes to ingredients and quantities. I’m also incredibly good at getting people to do what I want them to do, while making them think it was their idea. And this is why my husband now helps with the maths homework – who needs algebra when you can do that?

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