The excuse was that we were didycoy, of gipsy family, and the saying is “as superstitious as a gipsy”.
If you spill salt, you throw a pinch over your head and one over your left shoulder into the Devil’s eye. He is always standing behind you, ready to lead you into temptation.
You don’t change anything on a Friday – the day of the death of the Christ.
If there is a ladder propped against a wall, making a rough triangle with the ground – don’t walk under it. It’s a scaffold, you risk invoking your own death.
If I drop a glove and you pick it up, that’s good luck but it’s bad luck to put shoes on a table (as well as being thoroughly unhygienic).
Black cats are lucky but black birds aren’t.
And in other countries, it’s always interesting to see what we share in the way of signs and portents.
But sometimes it’s not that you observe or contravene, just that something pleasant happens and it gives you a positive feeling. Or something bad happens and we say resignedly “there will be a third” – jamais deux sans trois – a third to break the bad luck or end the good luck, presumably related to the Trinity.
It’s a terrible temptation to mark life as you might an exercise book – this is good (tick), this is bad (cross), upping the number of either to remark to yourself how wonderful or how horrible.
But life is.
The world divides into those at one end of the spectrum who want it at any price and those at the opposite end, who look at the bill and find it unpayable.
In between there are the rest of us, who have our joys and our sorrows, and try to make the best of it.
It helps if you have self knowledge which sounds like such an obvious statement but there are so many people who are often insightful of others but don’t know themselves very well at all. So that when they don’t sleep after watching a tv presentation with all sorts of personal horrors, they are quite surprised, almost offended. You can hear them saying “I never thought –“ which is to be ranked alongside “everybody else does” in the catalogue of social bromides, fine for others but no use to oneself in the growing up stakes where candour is better.
New Year brought me the mending of a memory lapse. Yes I had put the information in a safe place but that didn’t help because I couldn’t remember the name of the company, to whom I was recommended by one of those people who work in the crossover of allopathic medicine and other disciplines. When the name came back to me, I fled to the computer to order the best pills for my joint health which contain among other things turmeric, widely acknowledged as helpful, and green lipped mussels which always makes me smile because I wore green lipstick as a baby dragon in my first professional show.
New Year brought the need for body cream so I went to see if I could buy my favourite and there was an offer – hooray – so I talked to the saleswoman, telling how I had never been disappointed with the range, paid and wandered a few feet away to contemplate my next move when I felt a touch on my arm and there she stood, holding a small bag. “I looked in the cupboard and there is only one of the offer sizes left so I thought you might like it.”
“How strange you look in that long white beard” I said “ what a lovely Father Christmas, how generous, thank you.” And we grinned at each other in complicit pleasure.
New Year brought me two kisses in the street, one from a neighbour I see from time to time, whose wife developed early stage Alzheimers and one from a woman I met on the bus. We talked about This Year’s Cold, which she told me had left her with a graveyard cough (it had) so I recommended what I use. Never thought any more about it except we should all have skin like that in our fifties when we have been ill.
Enviable. She met me in the street looking markedly better and embraced me.
The embrace, from man or woman, with nothing but goodwill in it is one of the things the elderly miss.
So, That’s three: who’s counting ?