Numbers up.


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This story is now published as part of the anthology ‘Loyal and True’.

His war was almost too long ago.
There were gadgets and gizmos but mostly the killing was analog.
Popular wisdom says that firepower and industrial might win wars; but it was then, as it always has been; spies and code breakers win wars.
American code breakers had cracked the Japanese code in the early 1930s, and the US president most probably knew that the Japanese were going to attack. He wanted the US in the war but he needed an excuse. He got one. It’s a hell of an advantage to know what your enemy is going to do before he does it, as Admiral Yamamoto found out.
His number was almost up but that was fine with him, he felt that he had lived too long anyway.
It had been a long time since anyone had asked him to crack a code.
There was a chill in the air and it looked like rain but nothing was going to stop his daily walk.
There wasn’t much else to do except walk.
He’d had that coat for as long as he could remember.
“If you buy the best it will last you for a lifetime.” He could almost hear her saying it, and up until now she had been right.
She had to go, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. 
Now he was just waiting.
He liked to travel but his kind of travel meant going to an interesting city and living there for a while. Sometimes a few weeks, but more often it was months. It all depended on the friends he made.
Cities are just bricks and mortar.
The places people love to talk about visiting are the ones where they met people and shared their lives.
After Mary died he traveled to the cities that they had loved. It was too painful and it just wasn’t the same if you did not have someone to share it with.
So now he traveled to places where they had not been.
He kept a dialogue going as though she was there with him.
He had some time to kill and walking was the best way to do it.
The young couple who lived in the apartment just below him had invited him to dinner and he was looking forward to it.
They were very young and very much in love.
He sometimes had to turn the music up in his apartment because he was embarrassed by the sounds that came through his floor. He felt that they deserved their privacy but they probably didn’t care, young ones were like that.
 The young couple was amazed that he was so proficient at number puzzles.
The young man was a maths teacher but he could not compete with the older man.
They had asked him a few times what he did for a living, but even after all these years he never mention Bletchley Park or any of his assignments back in the days when his ‘green and pleasant land’ was fighting for it’s life.
 One of the things that makes a good code breaker is the ability to accurately predict the reoccurrence of a number in a given sequence.
This ability had come in handy over the years.
He had been able to see significant changes in market economies before they had occurred.
His time on this earth was nearly over but before he went he wanted to give the young couple a gift that would set them up for a bright future. He could not teach the young mathematician how he did it, it was something you could do but not something you could learn.
Over dinner the conversation turned to the stock market and the world economy, as it often did.
The old man looked into the young couples eyes and said, “You know that I have had a lot of experience in equities trading, and you know that I’m pretty good at it. I never give tips, never ever, but just this once I’m going to tell you something and you can decide what to do with what I tell you.
Very soon there will be a break in the banking sector, and I’m not talking about a small retracement, I’m talking about a full on break. So big in fact that some banks may not survive. It has to do with housing loans and derivatives that have been created around that debt. There isn’t any way that these derivatives can continue, it’s basically a pyramid scheme and when it collapses it is going to take the overall market with it. This is going to happen very soon and you don’t want to be in the market when it happens. More importantly you need to be short the market index and you need to stay short until you see a double bottom with volume. This means that you will have to keep your nerve as there will be times when it looks like the market is recovering.
If you keep your nerve and ride it all the way down you will make enough money to set you both up for life.”
The young couple had a little money put aside and two days after they attended the old man’s funeral the market started it’s downward spiral.
The rest was panic and pointless questions with no answers.
The old man was reunited with his Mary and the young couple held their nerve for two years until the market settled and the young mathematician saw the sign that the old man had told him to look for.
Even though their initial stake was small they had realized an enormous profit; more than enough to give them choices in life.
Every year the young couple would visit the old man’s grave and let him know how their lives were going.
Each time they came the young man would place old house numbers on his grave.
The young man would prize them off gate posts and save them up for that one day of the year.
Amazingly, they would still be there when the young man added to the collection each year.
The old man took his code breaking secrets to his grave except for the one he gave to his young neighbours.
As long as their young lives continued they would remember the old man in the well-worn overcoat.



My dad was a whizz with numbers.

He was comfortable whenever he was around them. He wasn’t a patient man but I can remember him helping me in my later years of high school. He was self taught because he had to leave school at the end of year ten because his father died suddenly and his family needed his income.

He was one of those people who can compute in their head and occasionally we would compete. I was almost as fast as him but I had to work very hard, for him it was second nature.

In a world of uncertainty and betrayal, it is comforting to know that numbers will NEVER let you down.

Two plus two ALWAYS equals four.

No ifs no buts, always equals four.

Considering this magnificent certainty, I find it amazing that so many people dislike numbers; or should I say they dislike Maths. This is probably more a reflection of the deficiencies of the Maths teachers, but fortunately, I had a few good ones along the way.


31 emails and a dog’s paw.

Our entire world is made up of numbers. 

Even the stuff you cannot see can be described in numbers.

The computer you are reading this on now is heavily reliant on numbers.

The way that people use written numbers is interesting to me.

Because I like to take photographs I am constantly on the lookout for interesting things to shoot.


For example; when I was sweeping my back deck before heading to the cafe that I’m sitting in now, I noticed that the young man who had done some work for me recently (the same young man who rebuilt the deck) had written some computations on one of the railings. He rubbed it out when he was finished but I could still see the faint outline of the numbers. I’m not sure what he was working out, it just seemed interesting to me that this post was rattling around in my head and for the first time in nearly a year I notice these numbers.



This house has changed hands three times since the ‘no junk mail’ sign went up. I wonder if the current owners feel this way?


House numbers are probably the most obvious example.

In our society as numbers are rarely used here (Australia) as street names. I follow a WordPress person who is posting a house number a day for 365 days. The whole 365 days thing is not really for me but I still like this idea.

You will find that a few of my numbers will be house numbers but not in any particular order. They will be there because I liked the look of them or because of their location.

It’s the way that people use numbers that makes it interesting, boring, sinister or scary.

On the way here I dropped off an old tape of an interview I did in the 1980s. The bloke in this ‘really interesting shop’ is going to clean it up (literally and acoustically) and make a digital copy. I promised to send a copy (if I ever found it) to the National Film and Sound Archive*. When I dropped the tape off I noticed that the arcade had two number 13s, and no number 15. The owner of the shop said that he constantly gets mail for number 15 and there is no number 15! You hear a lot about the number 13. Some building don’t have a thirteenth floor, but this arcade has two shops with the number 13 on them and to make it worse they are opposite each other!

One wonders how long this has been going on and how much longer it will continue. Things like this, where no one in particular is in charge, tend to keep on keeping on.

More numbers: the aforementioned tape was an interview with a man who was involved in the manufacture of Pianola Rolls. All piano rolls have catalogue numbers as well as the name of the song. It’s similar to the way that books have a number as well as a name. Sometimes you have to look inside to find this number and other times it has a different number on the outside when it is in a library.^


I’ve also discovered that light and telephone poles have numbers, which makes sense.


Most electronic gear has some sort of a serial number. 

They do this so that you can write it down and quote it to the police after some a***hole has nicked it from your house. The police will probably quote you a number to represent your chances of ever getting your stuff back and it may look like this; about a 1000000 to 1, which is a little disheartening.

One of my favourite numbers is the one that appears on money. 

Interestingly, when my country switched from cotton to polymer for the manufacturer of money it was decided that the largest denomination would be $100. The reason being that larger denominations would encourage the cash economy. Those of you who know what the ‘cash economy’ is will know that it does not need any encouragement!


It’s also interesting to note that the $100 bill is now worth slightly more than $60 some twenty plus years later. (I just read this post to my wife and she said that she thought that the $100 note should be worth more not less…………. I give up!)

*  The interview is with a man who worked for Broadway Music Rolls in Collingwood. He worked for the company (he was it’s sole employee) until the founder of the company, Len Luscombe, died in the early 1950s. Luscombe was a talented musician and very well known in Melbourne. The gentleman I interviewed was very old at the time and I was excited that I had tracked him down. He was very sharp and was also excited that someone was interested in his past. He was a living time capsule of a time long past. He was living with his son and daughter in law and they were bemused as to why I was so keen to speak to this old-timer. As often happens with old people, those around him never thought that he would have something to say that anyone would be interested in.

^  In the olden days people used to read books and sometimes they were gathered together in places called libraries.

On another subject altogether; what do you think it looks like?