## 2020-05-09

### Wait maybe the other guy was alone and he just had seven wives with sacks of cats waiting for him at home...

Surely you remember the first time on the playground somebody tricked you with St. Ives.

As I was going to St. Ives
I met a man with seven wives
Each wife had seven sacks
Each sack had seven cats
Each cat had seven kits

Kits, cats, sacks, and wives
How many were going to St. Ives?
As is generally understood, the correct answer is one. After all, and apologies if you've heard this before, I was going to St. Ives, but I met (coming the other way) a man with seven wives. The entire party described was obviously therefore leaving St. Ives and cannot be counted in the number going to St. Ives. Get it? Har har.

Of course the pedantic go and actually calculate the total. Some even justify it by arguing that we were all going to St. Ives, just I was walking faster not having a bunch of slow ass women carrying sacks of noisy felines. Wolfram has a page calculating the total based on that. The answer they come up with is 2,801 using the formula:
N = 70 + 71 + 72 + 73 + 74
N = 1+7(1+7(1+7(1+7)))
N = 1+7(1+7(1+7·8))
N = 1+7(1+7·57)
N = 1+7·400
N = 2801
QED.

So let's express this in English, because it's important. 7 wives each with 7 sacks means 49 sacks. 7 cats per sack gives us 343 cats, and 7 kits (kittens) per cat gives us 2,401 kittens.

2,401 kittens plus 343 cats gives us 2,744 felines. Everybody agree? Good. Plus the seven wives (there's a "polygamy argument" believe it or not debating whether the wives are all married to the man we encounter, or whether he's just traveling with seven married women of which six and maybe all seven are married to men other than him). 2,744 + 7 = 2,751. Plus the man makes 2,752. Add in myself, baked into the tin as going to St. Ives, and the total is 2,753.

Wait, I hear you say. Why did Wolfram say 2,801? Well two reasons. First, notice that they didn't include me, the man meeting the man walking to St. Ives. So that's 2,802. But that's still a difference of 49.

Where have I come across that number 49 before? you're probably thinking to yourself. The answer, of course, is the sacks. They counted the sacks. Why on earth would you count the sacks? The sacks are just things that contain cats and kittens: each sack contains 56 of the things so they must be huge heavy and stuffed full of cats who may or may not be suffocating to death. We're already anthropomorphizing quite a bit by even including the cats: we're a half step away from those people who answer the census by including their dogs in the "number of people living in this household". But under no even remotely charitable rationale do we need to include the sacks they carry kittens in.

Bonus St. Ives trivia: Due to the Wuhan Flu we can't go anywhere right now, but if you could travel to St. Ives and maybe come across some Muslim guy with seven wives and a bunch of cats on the path into town, where would you go?

You might think the answer is simple, but it's like asking "which Springfield is The Simpsons in" or "do you know the way to San Jose?". There are four St. Ives in Britain.

The most popular choice is St. Ives, Cornwall. The lovely seaside town is a bit of a trek from London but is highly advised for any good tour of England's southern shore. Have a pint at The Sloop Inn which was a continuous pub from 1312 until COVID-19 (though the building itself is only a couple hundred years old). This St. Ives is important enough a place that it has a constituency named for it, the only one of our four to have such.

Cornwall's not the only option though: another contender St. Ives, Cambridgeshire. You can even drink at The Seven Wives pub, but it was built because of the story rather than the other way around. Rupert Brooke from nearby Grantchester presumably preferred the Cornwall option.
Strong men have blanched, and shot their wives,
Rather than send them to St. Ives
After this we start getting obscure. St. Ives in Dorset is a village near Bournemouth International Airport, just across the New Forest from Southampton (another highly advised seaside British destination, but I digress). It's not even remotely important in its own right, but if you're driving from Southampton to the Cornwall St. Ives you'll pass the Dorset St. Ives 1/8th of the way there.

Finally we come to the St. Ives Estate, more commonly known as Bingley St Ives, a country park in West Yorkshire. If you haven't been to England it basically is just land administered under the Countryside Act 1968: it would be like some sort of proper "country" experience by putting a parking lot, toilets, and a kiosk in the middle of Lafond and encouraging urban Edmontonians to go out and enjoy farm life: 300,000 strong to match the Bingley St Ives total. Anyways if you're intending to travel there you'll probably only want to golf at St. Ives (no cats allowed). The nearby village Harden has in the past held the "St Ives Medieval Fayre" which really makes it seem the subject of the rhyme: the St. Ives Great Fairs were so important that scholarly works have been written about their administrative burdens, and St. Ives Australia holds a huge medieval fair of its own so popular that it quelches any Google searches of the Harden version.

However, that's not the case. The original St. Ives Great Fair was held on the banks of the River Ouse. Oh, you must be thinking, you mean the river in Yorkshift, where Harden/St. Ives is located. You must be thinking that...but you'd be wrong. I'm not talking about that River Ouse. Oh the other River Ouse! The one that runs in Sussex. Does it also run all the way to Dorset where that third St. Ives is? Uh, no...that's another River Ouse. This River Ouse where "St. Ives Upon Ouse" was, in fact, was the Great Ouse...which runs through Cambridgeshire.

Congratulations to the sleepy village north of Cambridge University: you win the grand prize of seven sacks.