I may be hopeless at maths... but now I’m a whizz at NFTs!

For years he says he 'wore the dunce’s hat' - but now holds all the aces... Read John Arnold's weekly column
I may be hopeless at maths... but now I’m a whizz at NFTs!

John Arnold hurling at Junior B level against Sarsfields in 1988 - this photo would be his NTF (Non Fungible Token) of choice!

I WAS never great at sums in school. Now, I’m not blaming my first teachers, Miss Hennessy and Donal Lehane, in the National School. They did their best and, in fairness, many of the pupils that were schooled by them turned out to be mathematical geniuses.

Some became teachers themselves and others got Civil Service and other top jobs.

No, I cant blame my teachers and neither can I put my inability to divide and multiply to an over-amorous affair with other subjects.

True, I loved Irish and history, but so did many others in the classes behind and in front of me, and they still got on great at maths.

Maybe I didn’t try hard enough to learn the basics of counting, adding and subtracting, but to this day I have never got the hang of anything numerical.

I used to be amazed as a child in a shop with an adult. They might bring seven or eight items up to the counter and each had a different price. Then the shopkeeper, without even resorting to a pencil, began ‘Four and eleven, and three and six, two shillings, four and eleven, seven and six and that’s two bob… yes that comes to a pound, four shillings and ten pence please’.

They called it ‘doing mental arithmetic’, amazing it was, and despite all the modern technology and progress, if an electronic cash register in a shop malfunctions today, sure the place has to shut down completely as no-one seems to be able to add any more.

After begging the President in St Colman’s College to ‘please let me give up Maths for the Leaving Cert’ - he couldn’t comply with my wishes of course ’cause Maths, Irish and English were compulsory subjects for State Exams in the 1970s,

I muddled on for two more years, clueless and aimless. I got NG (No Grade - less than 13%) in the Leaving Cert Maths Exam. Any thoughts I had ever entertained - and they were few and far between - of attending university soon faded like the morning dew on grass in a field in May. We always grew a few acres of potatoes on the farm back then. The spring after I stayed at home, Mam went to a neighbouring parish, to a farmer who had an ad on The Examiner for seed potatoes he was selling. She bought four or five bags of the seed spuds at a reasonable price.

After the ‘deal was done’, we were asked in for a cup of tea. This farmer had a son of about 11. He asked Mam to know was St Colman’s a ‘good school’ as he was half thinking of sending the boy there the following year. Mam was loud in her praise of Colman’s.

Lo and behold, didn’t he ‘put me to the test’ to see what kind of an education I’d got there. If he asked me the dates of battles, or a prayer in Latin, or a poem by Sean O Riordain, I was fine but no... he said if a farmer was planting an acre of potatoes and the drills in the field were 90 yards long and 18 inches between each drill, and if you planted the seed potatoes 20 inches apart… how many seed potatoes would one need for the acre!

I hadn’t a clue from Adam how to work it out, but he gave me a pencil and paper to do the sums. Sure, if I was there yet I couldn’t calculate the damn thing.

I spent maybe five minutes scribbling, scratching my head, and looking sombre, before I came up with an answer. I was out by about 400! Needless to say, he never sent the lad to St Colmans!

To this blessed day, I know we’re eight miles from Fermoy and 17 from Cork, but don’t ask me about kilometres! Same way with cattle - I’d make a guess that an animal was ten or twelve hundredweight, but as for asking me to answer in kgs -forget it!

They say you cant teach an old dog new tricks but there’s an exception to every rule! I sold two calves last year - well, I actually sold more, but these two made a good price. A friend of mine who met me coming out of the Mart told me all about cryptocurrency. It sounded Double Dutch to my non-logical brain, but he said he’d made a small fortune from it.

To shorten the story, he got a digital wallet for me - a kind of an invisible thing, a bit like the cryptocurrency - you know you have it though you never get to see it.

He explained to me that ’twas like Heaven and Hell - you have to have Faith that they exist.

I invested the price of the calves and begor, in a month I’d doubled me money! My friend called me and urged me to keep going, that I couldn’t lose.

Being the cautious type I hesitated and ‘cashed in my chips’ while the going was good. Apparently, if I’d left it earn away, ’twould have doubled again in two months.

I had no regrets, and then, when the price and value of the crypto crashed in December, wasn’t I the happy man, and I after buying a new wheelbarrow from my profits!

I might have been a slow learner but after half a century I’m now in the ‘fast economic lane’, gone from the dual carriageway for slow learners. The latest thing I’m into now is NFTs, or Non Fungible Tokens!

Ah lads, there are hard and aisy ways of making money but this bates Banagher altogether.

Let me explain - something fungible (nothing to do with mushrooms or fungi or dolphins) is like a thing that can be bought or sold for a certain value, like a car or a house. If you have a €50 note, you can swap it for ten fivers or five tenners, so it’s fungible, do ye get me?

A Non Fungible Token is kinda like a certificate to prove you are the original owner or maker of an asset - like a picture, a painting, a poem or a song.

No matter how many times this ‘asset’ is copied, reprinted or reproduced, you are still the owner of the original and the secret is that there is only one original of everything and that’s what makes ‘things’ valuable.

Lately, Michael Collins’s walking stick and a lock of his hair were sold at auction for huge sums. These are not NFTs because they are tangible, they can be seen and held, whereas a NFT might be on a computer or could be stored digitally. But wherever it is, the original owner can prove it’s provenance and thereby it is very valuable.

Take a simple thing like the photograph of me on this page. Taken in the last century, it is a rare - indeed the only - image of me as a hurler. Over the years I have written poems, songs and books about hurling yet the ‘doubting Thomases’ of this world have sneered behind my back and shook their heads. “What does he know about hurling?” “Sure he never caught a hurley in his life”, “A pure bluffer”.

Now, because I have this picture -and I know the date and venue when and where ’twas snapped and the other people in the snap so it’s not fake news or photoshopping - I can show incontrovertibly and impeccably that my hurling credentials are indeed bona fide.

It’s a simple picture and has often been copied, but because I have the original and can issue a Token of Proof with it, this photograph is now a Non Fungible Token, an NFT. It is recorded and stored on a quasidigital basis in a World Shared Ledger called ‘The Blockchain’.

Who else anywhere in the world has such a precious artifact? The answer of course is no-one, only me.

So me, who for years wore the dunce’s hat, now holds all the aces. Oh yes, and there’s no need to start bidding for my NFT - it’s not for sale!

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