Confidence is off the scales

19th February 2010 at 00:00

The road from Carluke down to the Clyde Valley was not one I favoured as a young cyclist. While I didn't mind long uphill stretches, I preferred them at the beginning of my journey so that I had a scoot downwards to look forward to at the end.

When I got my moped, my exploration of the area began for real. Aged 16, my friend and I would buzz along the satisfyingly twisty road, halting at a milk bar where some girls in our class worked in order to say: "Can we have two Irn-Brus, please - we're TT riders." They didn't get it either.

The milk bars have largely been replaced by large garden centres selling plants, paninis and scented candles. On the other side of the river from the road is a pleasant walkway. The spectacular waterfalls, orchards, rivers and castles have inspired writers and poets. Rare birds, badgers and deer drop their guards now and again to let you know they're around. I don't work for the local tourist board, but I really think you should visit.

Guess what else I saw down the valley the other week? Some confident individuals. I have a pal who is a heidie in a school there. She and I formed a CPD-delivering double act a few years ago, which involved promoting science education, encouraging the development of thinking and lots of falling around laughing at one another. She asked me to judge her school's Scots poetry-reciting competition.

Aforementioned confident individuals did not make it easy. When the first child got up, I wrote down things like "spoke with feeling" and "well memorised". By wean number four, I gave up, as it was clear they were all going to be like that.

If you felt so inclined, you could count the number of badgers or yummy mummies (forgot to mention them earlier) you saw on a trip to the Clyde Valley. You could measure the length of a typical panini, calculate your moped's fuel consumption or the average cost per millilitre of an Irn- Bru.

Sadly, some people think it is possible to quantify confidence too. You can't, so don't try. There is no standard unit of confidence kept in a sealed chamber in a French scientific institute; nor is it defined in terms of a fixed number of wavelengths of a spectral line.

There are so many things you could do that are more worthwhile than trying to assign numbers or grades to human qualities. Wrap up well and go badger-spotting. Eat a panini. Wheech about on a moped or read a poem (preferably one of mine). Light a scented candle and contemplate the fact that you can celebrate confidence - but not measure it.

Gregor Steele was given some nice haggis crisps for his judging endeavours.

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