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Two boys defining the wheel

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posted on May, 9 2020 @ 07:36 AM
I was never designed to be a carpenter.
I was obliged to take Woodwork for exactly one year at school, and hated it.
One reason for hating it was that Tabby (Mr. Tabraham, to his face) was something of a martinet. He would not release the class at the end of the lesson until we had been standing to attention at the end of clean and tidy benches.
But this was the last lesson of the afternoon. The electric bell, which could not be heard from the woodwork room, had already signalled the end of the school day. The rest of the school were lining up to catch the buses which would carry them off to various far-flung villages.
Thanks to Tabby’s finicky ways, some of us kept missing the bus. This was a serious matter in a rural area, especially for those of us who had two-stage journeys.

Gathercole and I found ourselves in that predicament, one of those Tuesday afternoons.
We were twelve years old.
(“Rat”, the Geography teacher, who liked to have at least one verbal target in each class, used to call him “Gathersticks”. I understand that he has now changed his surname altogether.)

We were loitering among the vehicles at the front of the school, hoping for a lift from one of the masters.
As we were passing the time, one of us remarked; That one has got six wheels.
Seven if you count the spare wheel mounted at the back, replied the other one.
Eight if you count the steering wheel, retorted the first.
It was obvious that we could not get a final count until we had agreed on our definition of the wheel.

I offered a definition which was neat and clear and simple, as a definition should be;
“A wheel is a round object that goes round.”

Gathercole was always more scientific than me. I remember him, once, as one of a short row of boys copying my translation from Caesar as I was writing it (“Slow down!”), but he had a better grasp of weird concepts like “potential energy”.
He now started picking holes in my beautiful definition and finding fault with it. He pointed out that we were surrounded by wheels which were visibly NOT “going round”. Some of them were firmly held in place, and could not go round even if they wanted to.

After much debate, progressing stage by stage, we had worked up a definition which sounded less poetical but more precise;
“A wheel is a round object that tends to go round; when a force is applied to it; and providing it is free to move.”

We were rescued from all this when teachers started emerging from the staffroom. There was a little by-play; “Those two look as though they need a lift.” “Well, they won’t be getting one from me!”
But the genial Music teacher, Mr. Ades, was already giving a lift to a senior boy, one of the Sixth-formers, and added us to the party.

On the way, we asked for comments on the subject of the discussion.
The teacher passed the question over to the senior boy.
Who in turn, a little hesitatingly, began throwing together some description involving “discs” and “parallel surfaces”.
This was all getting a little too technical to be really satisfying.
As far as we were concerned, the subject got shelved.

I wonder if anyone else (of that age) would have done any better.

posted on May, 9 2020 @ 08:31 AM
This is wheelie terrible but if we are looking for the wheel, wheel McCoy
Not what it is but what it does, drives, turns or steers, maybe?

posted on May, 9 2020 @ 08:45 AM
a reply to: Raggedyman
Och weel. At least I didn't label it as "philosophy".


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