Tuesday 11 January 2011

Ruminations on Fifty-Seven

As I type this sentence, I am losing the "First 11 for '11" blogging race against Hannah 'LikesSheepBaa' Newcombe by 2 posts.  I hope to goodness she doesn't post another one before I finish this, or my catching up might become completely impossible.

Anyway, the current score stands at 5-7, which provides yet another piece of evidence to support the already-more-or-less-proven conjecture that the number fifty-seven is in fact stalking me (and certain friends of mine) around the universe.  Therefore, I shall take this opportunity to write a blog about the number 57, and explain some of the reasons why I'm so paranoid about it, and why it keeps cropping up in my creative output.  Yes, seriously.  Read on...

The first two pieces of evidence were supplied by a smallish shunting locomotive and a bottle of tomato sauce, and subsequent sources of corroboration have included video editing software, a games console, and my great-aunt's address.

Back in the days when I used to have a model railway (that's another story), I was mainly interested in collecting locomotives and rolling stock representing the Great Western Railway between the late 19th century and the 1930s.  Mainly for aesthetic reasons: the GWR had, in my opinion, the best-looking trains.  Some of the Gresley LNER locomotives were quite nice too, but if you take account of the carriages, goods wagons and so on, the GWR won out on the whole.  Anyway, anyone who knows about the GWR will know that their most numerous (and arguably most iconic) locomotive type was the '5700' or '57xx' class, a group of compact but disproportionately strong six-wheeled machines mostly used for shunting and branch-line work.  There were over 800 of the things in service at one point, and even today they remain one of the most numerous British locomotive classes ever built.  No GWR-based model railway is complete without one, and therefore, I had one.  Its running number is 5768, and I've still got it.

(As an aside, two other notes of interest about the 57xx pannier tank: those of you whose railway knowledge is derived mostly or entirely from Thomas the Tank Engine will actually already be familiar with the class even if you're not aware of it - Duck is a 57xx.  And closer to home, a 57xx (specifically number 5768 - yes, named after my model engine) occupies the background of the first panel in the debut episode of my very short-lived, unpublished, railway-centric comic-strip project Gentlemen of Tarberford, which is where Grace and Caffeine regulars Tom, Edwin, Fred, Ike (alias Jake) and James all made their very first appearances.)

At the same time, I couldn't help noticing (what with the amount of tomato sauce we get through) that Heinz's bottles all had '57 varieties' written on them, for reasons I never really got my head around.  There were a few other 57-related things at the time, I think, although I can't remember what they were.

And so the theory was born that the number might have some metaphysical significance.  I shared the theory with Tim and Sarah, and then it developed in a slightly more paranoid direction: what if the number was actually following us around on purpose?  Well, we've been spotting more and more evidence ever since:
  • A year or two ago, I played a couple of idle rounds of darts against myself, and happened to score 57 with one set of darts, and 85 with the other (the number 85 is also important, but not as much as 57).
  • Whenever I load Ulead MediaStudio on my current PC (which I still do occasionally, despite having switched most of my film and video production over to Sony Vegas), the progress bar always jumps to 57%, and then to 85% (see?  85 again as well), and then to 100%.  The same numbers, every single time.
  • I recently discovered that one of my great-aunts lives at house number 57.
  • The other day, I happened to walk through the lounge just as someone finished a game on the Wii - with a score of 57 points.
  • One of my Christmas presents this year was a WHSmith giftcard whose serial number features the digit pair '57' not once, but twice.

And that's just a tiny little sample of the many, many occasions where that number has popped up in my vicinity.  It isn't always straightforward - sometimes it's the numbers 5 and 7 appearing suspiciously close together (like the example I mentioned in my second paragraph here), or other permutations - but that just increases the deviousness of the way the number is doing its stalking.

The funny thing is, though, I don't resent the number 57, even though you might think I would after all this stalking.  Our relationship has almost developed into a bizarre, skewed pseudo-friendship (not quite, but almost), and I have deliberately acknowledged the 57 phenomenon on many occasions, including many references to it in my creative output, especially my comic strips.

  • I've lost count of the 57 references in Cylinder and Miserable.  Among others, the protagonists' house is number 57 (as revealed in a mid-Series-1 episode).
  • Grace and Caffeine contains about four occurrences - the ones I can remember are in Strip 061 (where it appears as a statistic in an opinion poll), Strip 112 (as the number of the last song in an out-of-date hymn supplement), Strip 171 (as a statistical fact about a church photocopier) and Strip 178 (where it appears on a hymn board).
  • Fort Paradox, bizarrely, has managed not to include a single 57 reference yet, after 32 strips completed and several more scripted.  But I expect it'll turn up sooner or later.
  • I wrote a reference into the background dialogue in Alpha One's Quantum Shampoo - French is listening to 'Radio 57 FM'.
  • It's not my work, but since Tim's in on the theory I'll throw in a mention for his webcomic Brothers in Shells, which has featured at least two or three 57 references in its first 100 strips.
  • There have been others, but it's getting late, and I can't be bothered to remember them all and type them all up.

One or two facts about the number itself:
  • It has two digits (5 and 7, obviously), both of which are prime numbers.
  • It has two factors, apart from itself and 1 (3 and 19), both of which are also prime numbers.
  • Its reciprocal 1/57 looks like this in decimal notation: 0.017543859649122807 recurring.  Interesting to note that the repeating 18-digit pattern includes the digits 5 and 7 twice each, and in one case right next to each other, albeit reversed (as '75' instead of '57').
  • If you convert it to Binary you get 111001.  Its Octal form is 71, and its Hexadecimal form is 39, which for some reason makes me want to mention Steps.

Right, I think that's probably enough weirdness for one day.  And the scary thing is, I've been telling the truth!

And to round off, here's another nice juicy blob of up-to-date stats:
  • 11 For 11 status: 6 down, 5 to go - half-way there, and 1 post behind Hannah
  • Latest book read: The Runaway Train (first draft) by Hannah Newcombe
  • Latest film/TV watched: Top Gear: Middle East Special and ITV's 'Family Film of the Decade'
  • Latest music listened to: um... not sure, but I think it was Doctor Who: Original Television Soundtrack Series 4 by Murray Gold (yes, him again - I like me some Doctor Who score on the old hi-fi)
  • Latest food/sweets/whatever eaten: I think it was fruit pastilles again.  Hannah's not the only one with recurring confectionary stats!
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Outlook 2007, Firefox (tabs: Blogspot Create Post; hannahlikessheepbaa.blogspot.com, MatNav)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1124; Alien President #7 (anyone else think it's a bit ironic that one of those numbers is so huge, and the other is tiny?)

- The Colclough

1 comment:

  1. I did toy with the idea of using 57 in my sheep essay thing but I settled on 42 instead in the end.

    As for being ahead.... mwah ha ha ha ha!!!

    Oh, just thought, I might write a blog now but only because the last thing I ate was jelly beans rather than chocolate. Still a bit of a theme tho...

    I had something else I was going to say too but I guess it will have to wait until I remember.. :)