I used to relax by doing old maths papers. I got in to Cambridge to read classics, which was much easier than mathematics; now I do the brain- teasers in Another Newspaper. I used to find them too difficult when I was 23, but at 35 I grew cleverer - or they grew easier. I like it because it is a solitary pleasure. You don't have to play with people who might not be as intelligent as yourself - you can see why it annoys the rest of my family.
They hide the supplement before I've looked at it, which puts me in a horrible mood for the whole weekend. A good Sunday is when I've finished the bloody thing before I come downstairs. My wife says we have all suffered this for 20 years.
Most of the puzzles are mathematical. Last week's was a straightforward letters-for-digits substitution. I can't even remember the weekend before. Something about a husband of 95 and a wife of 85, which I regard as a bad answer. It's not very realistic, is it? "Punctuation to be ignored," as you might say in crossword parlance.
My wife gets cross because she thinks I do it to shut out the rest of humanity. I suppose my interest in such things is an adherence to the Socratic principle which maintains that the nice thing about growing old is that you can concentrate on thinking instead of being distracted by thoughts about sex. Socrates also said that death will be the best night's sleep you'll ever have.
I think it's a well-established theory that people who regularly exercise their brains don't go quite so gaga, and they seem to live longer. Bridge works well: my old Ma went on playing bridge until she was 90, which I think can be taken as reasonable proof.
Perplexity and the Crossword are available at the foot of this page.
Plato's `Republic' is available in the Penguin Classics series at pounds 2.50.Reuse content