How long is a piece of string?
Once upon a time, when I was much younger and an avid toxopholite, I volunteered to give a talk to club members about bowstrings, what they’re made of, how to make them and so on. I had just qualified as an archery coach and was feeling on top of the world. The talk was to last no more than twenty or thirty minutes and if the weather was bad we could move into the clubhouse and hold it in there in comfort.
It took several late evenings to produce my notes and along with sample strings, materials, tools and diagrams I finally gave notice that the talk would take place in a couple of weeks’ time. At the beginning of my notes I made reference to my childhood and how much I had loved rummaging in my mother’s sewing box. There was magic in the button jar with its dolly mixture assortment of buttons; the many spools of sewing thread, mainly of cotton but also polyester, which most archers would know by its brand name, Dacron. So the string on most of our bows was the same material as that used to sew the buttons onto our shirts!
At the time of my talk we lived in Hertfordshire, and at work I had begun talking on the phone with a colleague at our depot in Mitcheldean in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. He was an American with a wonderful twang in his voice and many yarns to tell (ah, those were the days, when work wasn’t all work). Coincidentally I was reading a biography of the legendary Fred Bear, an American bow hunter and bowyer, and casually asked my colleague if he knew of a town called Grayling in Michigan, the town where Fred Bear had set up his archery business. “Why, that’s where I was born” replied my colleague. “In fact I worked at Fred Bear’s factory for a while, making strings!” I couldn’t believe it! Another crazy coincidence!
Anyway, the day of my talk arrived and as luck would have it the rain was pouring down, rain like stair rods! The turnout wasn’t what I had expected and was made up mostly of my seniors, hardened and very experienced archers; the core of the club. So, I gave my talk against a background of cajoling and much interruption, and many questions. Nevertheless, it was a success and I was applauded on its close. I kept my notes and made a promise to return one day and repeat the session at a later date. However, my work and my circumstances altered, and shortly afterwards I relocated to work alongside my colleague in Gloucestershire. I discovered that in his spare time he was a great knitter of woollen clothing and even turned out some mighty fine crochet work.
We remain good friends even though I have relocated again, this time three hundred miles to the north-west. When working together we discovered that we were the same age with our birthdays only a few days apart.
And the answer to the question in the title: twice as long as half its length!