Using a five bar gate is a quick efficient way of tallying up something that you are counting, without using numbers. It requires very little in the way of equipment and is an excellent way of sorting out items in completely unrelated lists.

How does it work? First of all you need something that you can make a mark on, a pencil and paper is the obvious choice but you could use the dust on your computer monitor, a large sandy beach and a stick, or even your best friends back and sharp fingernails.

Then you need something to count or tally, these could be; bumps in the night, flies, occurrences of the word 'Porrajmos' on E2 or the times you have wanted to end the evil hegemony of wikipedia. About the only thing you can’t count with a five bar gate is sheep, that’s because a much better way of counting sheep exists.

To begin the tally, every time you notice a fly (or a Porrajmos) make a small single vertical mark on your chosen friends back, like this


From then on every time it happens again make another | mark next to it. Once a few have occurred you will have something like this


Notice that there are only four lines, this is important. When you get to your fourth vertical line you need to change your mark making paradigm, or at least remember that the line for the next occurrence is different. When the fifth fly (or Porrajmos) occurs, you scratch a diagonal line like this / right through the four verticals that you have previously made. It should look a bit like this.

|||| (but with the horizontal line more sloping).

There you have it, five flies have been successfully counted , and by happy co-incidence you have also made a rather crude drawing of a five bar gate, complete with diagonal load bearing strut. You can draw the hinges and latch on later. At this point some clever soul always points out that a real five bar gate usually has four horizontal beams. If you encounter this problem just push over the person who suggests it and invite them to take another look from their new perspective.

If you want to count more than five things, you simply start another five bar gate, then another and another and so on like this.

10 |||| ||||

30 |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| ||||

320 |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| ||||

True you will need to count the number of five bar gates that you have when you’ve finished, and what’s more you will have to multiply the result by five to get the true value of the tally, but I never said anything about needing numbers to decipher the bloody mess that you have made on your friends back.

You might find that with very high numbers you will need to tally your five bar gates with five bar gates and those with others and so on. These Übergates can reach phenomenally high numbers and have the advantage of being virtually indistinguishable from amateur drawings of the Chicago stockyards of 1920.