Smugly to the writing group

She’d done it! Seventy-three exactly even though it didn’t make complete sense to her – on the other hand, maths often didn’t make complete sense. Anyway, thanks to Richard Kefford’s introduction to Vol I of his anthology ’73’, Livia had written exactly seventy-three words for tomorrow’s writing-group. Yes, she had left it to almost the last minute again, but she had planned what to do for a few days, it had only been that the time had squeezed itself and it was only now she’d settled to the task. She had had to compromise on Mr Kefford’s final sentence introducing 73 – ‘It is a star number, which is a centred figurate number that represents a centred hexagram (six-pointed star), such as the one on which Chinese checkers is played.‘ There was no way it could be condensed, and no way the rest of it could have been abbreviated further and make any sort of sense, even to a mathematician.

Seventy-three is the twenty-first prime number, a permutable prime with 37 – also an emirp. This means its reverse is also a prime – thirty-seven is a prime and twelfth. Seventy-three is the smallest prime with a composite sum of digits, in base five (whatever that means – ditto it’s palindromic in base 2 (1001001) and base 8 (111) ).73 books are in the Bible, and on CB ‘10 – 73’ means ‘speed trap’.

She wondered whether to put a footnote with Wikipedia’s ex[planation of a permutable prime -‘A permutable prime, also known as anagrammatic prime, is a prime number which, in a given base, can have its digits’ positions switched through any permutation and still be a prime number.’ Calling it  anagrammatical made much more sense to her and she wondered if she should swap it – but no! The wretched thing was done. She would go smugly to the writing group tomorrow with her head held high and her in font size 14.

Livia printed it out and looked at it before going to make a coffee. Ha! This was original! All her writer friends would be writing about knocking on a door with a number 73, or entering a draw where the winning ticket was a number 73, or someone panting their way through a marathon and was delighted to come in at #73 – or maybe they were 73 years old! Maybe a robot with no name but a number – like R2D2 and C-3PO, or the one in ‘I Robot‘ – although now Livia remembered that robot was called Sonny, although maybe in the Asimov original he was called Robbie.

Livia switched on the kettle and began to read her writing aloud to practice – it hadn’t got the natural flow of a story, and limiting it to just 73 words –

She stopped. She stared at her 73 words. The kettle came to the boil, rattled its lid and eventually switched itself off as Livia silently read her seventy-three words again.

Idiot!! It had seemed such a brilliant idea, but it was so brilliant that of course the others would think of it as well! They would all set to, chuckling as they scribbled or typed, chuckling as she had over the exact seventy-three words, thinking that it would be an original way to take up the challenging title, ’73’.

Disheartened, Livia made coffee and went back to her untidy desk. Well, at least she had realised in time, at least she would be able to write a proper piece about a door with 73 above the knocker – or maybe the main character got in a muddle and was actually looking for number 37 – as she could imagine she might do. She had a moment’s panic that maybe it was 37, another prime number, but a quick check on the Facebook page and yes, it was 73.

Now her mind was blank – the seventy-three year-old marathon runner, or did he run seventy-three miles – well, that would be a mighty dull story, run, run, run, run. The lottery ticket – too obvious, the code to a safe – well, it would be longer than just two digits wouldn’t it? Prisoner 73 – I am not a number!  Her mind drifted to Portmeirion where the TV series had been set. A seventy-third birthday, dull. Sheldon Cooper’s favourite number? Well, if people didn’t watch ‘The Big Bang Theory‘, then they would be a bit lost, and anyway, she didn’t even like it, so why write about Sheldon and his stupid shirt.

73 (seventy-three) is the natural number following 72 and preceding 74. In English, it is the smallest natural number with twelve letters in its spelled out name.

Livia sat down and began to write about a fell-walking competition and how the person with 73 on their back came to grief… How dull.


This is completely fictional, except my writing group did have a challenge to write to ’73’. Richard Kefford and I put an anthology together called 73, and I have pinched Richard’s introduction for my fictional Livia to mess about with.

One Comment

  1. Richard

    Hi Lois

    In really enjoyed your latest blog post about Primes and Emirps! I wonder if you got many comments on it?


    The last one was “ “Catch the light” and the current one is to write a character driven story of not much more than 1,000 words. I found that both were great fun to write.

    You sound as if you are back on form and you have left the shingle on the beach.

    See you at Cleeve at 10 o’clock ish on Wednesday.

    We’ve got another funeral on Tuesday – so many funerals this year

    I’m loving Jasper. I’m trying to read slowly so as not to miss anything. It’s wonderful writing isn’t it.

    I haven’t yet worked out the significance of the title! It must be something to do with carrots?

    Best wishes




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