MATHS was never my strong point. Long division, logarithms and algebra were always a mystery to me. I'm dreading the kids getting older and asking me to help with advanced maths homework.

So far I'm OK. I can do addy-ups and takey-aways. I can even do timesy-tables up to a point, but it's getting harder.

Mind you, the hardest maths ever came when Mum got involved the other day. There I was, trying to help the kids with their maths homework, when she chipped in with a question about her own 'homework'.

"Here's a good maths question," she interrupted. "How many socks do I wash every week?" This was stretching the grey matter too far. The kids - screwing up their faces, chewing pencil-ends, and scribbling in notebooks - came up with different answers: "Seventy-two," suggested Christopher. "Fifty-four," guessed Hannah. "Five million, eighty hundred thousand and six," added Jack, who's just a fool.

I kept quiet and, like a child at the back of the class, hoped I wouldn't be noticed.

"Come on - work it out," insisted Mum, wearing her serious face.

"There's six of us. If we all wear just one pair of socks each a day, and there's seven days in a week, how many's that?" I was breaking out in a sweat. The faces screwed up even tighter.

"84!" shouted Christopher after an agonising pause.

"Correct," said Mum.

"Really? Thank God for that," I thought to myself. But it wasn't over.

There was a pause before she added: "So what percentage of those socks are left in balls when they're put in the linen basket so that I have to turn them the right way out before I wash them?" Us kids looked at each other. What on earth was she on about? Had she finally flipped?

"I'm serious. You're all the same - including Dad. You just take your socks off and expect me to sort them out, and I'm not going to do it anymore. Either you pull your socks straight or they don't get washed. Okay?" My God, this was serious. It had started out as maths homework and turned into a problem that required a quick solution.

I know when my number's up and it was a lesson learned. Me and the kids had an urgent talk and we all agreed to put our best feet forward on the socks front.

It has to be said that the kids are still inconsistent but, for my part, sock-balls are a thing of the past.

I'm only surprised I didn't get 100 lines: "I must not leave my socks in balls, I must not leave my socks in balls..."


My mate John has a little boy who's discovered Toy Story. Bemused by Buzz Lightyear's phrase 'To Infinity and Beyond', the boy asked his Dad: "What does infinity mean?" "Well," said his Dad, somewhat tentatively, realising that even the likes of Einstein and Hawking had struggled with that one, "It's like this..." Dad, desperate not to lose face, had a brainwave: "You know how our road has a wall at the end," he said, gaining confidence as he rewrote the laws of physics, "well infinity is like our road but without the wall at the end." A few minutes later, smug dad and young son went out in the car. "Dad," asked his son, looking out of the window, "are those gardens infinity?" "What?" asked his puzzled Dad. "It's just that they haven't got any walls either," said the boy. Dad decided to stick to the simple stuff after that.

Asa, aged three, turned to his mum after coming home from nursery, where he'd clearly been learning a new song: "Mum, who is Dougie Hokey Cokey?"

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