Counting words, counting laps, can seem like exercises in futility. What, exactly, is being counted? Or rather, when the tally's in, what does the amount signify? Quite often when I'm swimming I lose count of the laps, it's easy to do, the state of mind is meditative, drifting, waterly, if that's a word, wholly antithetical to the harsh progression of numerals. When I do, lose count that is, it's always on an odd lap ... 9, 11, 13, 15 ... which suggests it's on the evens that I mostly drift off. Then I am faced with a dilemma: if this is either 13 or 15, which shall I choose it to be? (I'm only ever out by two.) The Roundhead in me insists on choosing the lower number, while the Cavalier says what the hell, let's just get off and do something that doesn't require effort. Roundhead always wins and for him it's a source of pride that, even if the count is wrong, it's wrong by more not less. While Cavalier says what the fuck, who cares, let's go to the wine shop and see what reds they have on special this week. When it comes to counting words, more proximate and more strange, they more or less agree : Roundhead will accept 964 if that's what it is when I (we) run out of puff, while Cavalier is usually thinking of that odd graceful flourish or complex manouvre which we wouldn't have got if we'd stopped at 703.

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