Sunday, 11 December 2011

Touching wood

When I was checking the blown down fence in the garden this morning. I saw at least 8 magpies.  I didn't get much done in terms of looking at the fence, I was too busy saluting the magpies, wishing them a good day and enquiring as to the health of their wives and families.  No I'm not insane, well maybe a bit, but I am ridiculously superstitious.

When Stevie Wonder sang that he was very superstitious, I don't think he was singing about love I think he was singing about putting new shoes on a table.

When I was young, my mother was always dragging me away from ladders or touching wood and seeing as how the apple never falls far from the tree, I've not only taken up the superstitious mantle, but added another set of superstitions that I live my life by.

I'm sure you're all EXACTLY the same as me so I'm going to list my superstitions, or as many as I can come up with, just so everyone can go 'oh look at that, I'm perfectly normal too, there is NOTHING odd about how much these bloody, exhausting superstitions have taken over my life'.  Yes, I would imagine that is exactly what you will say.  EXACTLY.

I have always saluted magpies. The routine, the full routine, should go:
  • Spot Magpie (the bird obviously not  Newcastle fans, to go around randomly saluting them would be demented. Saluting a bird is obviously acceptable)
  • Salute said Magpie
  • Say to Magpie 'Good day Mr Magpie, how's your wife and family'  The Magpie does not have to hear this, so there is no need to park your car and run after the Magpie shouting your salutation.  It's the sentiment that counts. (and you are highly like to get arrested/committed to a secure mental health unit) 
  • Go about your business satisfied that you have averted disaster and bad luck for another day.
However the above routine is fine if you encounter 1-2 magpies. I like them to be in view while I pay my tribute to them, but what if you encounter more.  What if you encounter a gaggle of magpies?

1)  Are a group of magpies 'a gaggle'?  Or a bunch?  A 'bunch of magpies?  No that's not right.  OK, hang on I'm googling this.....It's a 'tiding' of magpies!  A tiding!  I'd never have got that in a million years.
2) What constitutes a gaggle (or a tiding).  3? 10? 155?  Strangely google didn't have the answer to that one.

So what if you do encounter a full 'tiding of magpies', and you're driving.  Well guess what reader, I know because its happened to me!

For some reason industrial estates are always full of magpies.  I was driving along merrily when I spotted a magpie and then another (ooh smashing, one for sorrow, two for joy - went all steps there didn't I). So I quickly did two right handed salutes, and two quick 'good morning Mr Magpie's etc....

Then within seconds another six appeared. Now bearing in mind that I was almost past them at this point I had no choice but to start saluting with both hands. This involved me letting go of the steering wheel and frantically saluting with both hands, while shouting 'Good day Mr Magpie etc etc' over and over while getting louder and louder...Mounting the kerb and stopping just short of a fence brought me to my senses.  I'm uncertain whether my actions prevented the accident being much worse than it was (there could have been a stray pensioner on the pavement) or if the entire thing was caused by my insane obsession with saluting magpies.  I'm going with the former.

Growing up we were never allowed to cross on the stairs.  I'm not sure what would have happened had we crossed on the stairs, it never happened.  We politely waited at the top or bottom. Them were the rules and we stuck to them.

I'm the only one in this house who abides by this.  This really upsets me.  I can be half way down the stairs with armfuls of washing and one of the kids starts charging up the stairs towards me. I yell 'HALT, GO BACK' (really I do!) and they completely ignore me.

1) Turn round and return to the top. This would be fine if I wasn't carrying 2.5 tonnes of washing, there are sheets wrapped around my legs, so the only way to get back to the top of the stairs is to walk backwards up the stairs. This is begging for disaster.
2) Untangle one of my legs and kick whichever child is walking towards me back down the stairs.

I've never been comfortable walking backwards.

I was never allowed to come in from a shopping expedition exhausted and plonk my bags down on the dining room table.  Within seconds my mother would be raking through them and should she find a pair of shoes, she'd make the sound a vampire makes on being stabbed through the heart with a stake and throw the shoes on the floor.

She'd then wail.....'NEWWWWWW SHOOOOOOOOOES ON THE TAAAAAABBBBBLE......NOOOOOOOH', then she'd she'd dissolve like the wicked witch in the wizard of Oz.

OK, so I exaggerate (so unlike me) but she would go a bit mad.  So as a result I have a massive problem with not only new shoes on a table, but any shoes on a table like surface. Shoes need to stay on the floor. Should I find a carrier bag with football boots/wellies on the butchers block in the utility room I find the perp and smash their pretty face in with the footwear.

This year on my birthday Phil and me had been married for 7 years.  I never, ever know what to buy Phil but this year I'd done my homework and realised his crocs were on their last legs (I mean shoes, not elderly reptiles).  He wears them for walking the dog when its dry cos he can wash them under the tap in the drive (Yes I know I'm justifying a 48year old wearing crocs). So I managed to get him a size 12 pair of black crocs (no mean feat, believe me).  My mam collected them for me and wrapped them for me, therefore knew what the present I was giving him was.

Sunday lunch was over. It was time to exchange pressies.  As it was my birthday, I got to open my presents first. Then I went to give Phil his present.  Now bear in mind that Phil has been around for ten years so he knows all of the lovable little foibles of me and my mildly eccentric mother.  So I passed him his present. He was finishing his cake so he made the mistake of putting the package down on the table.  As if someone had tazered her, my mother shot out of her chair, and in seemingly slow motion leapt across the table, and grabbed the present while shouting.....''NEWWWWWW SHOOOOOOOOOES ON THE TAAAAAABBBBBLE......NOOOOOOO' Phil was startled and stood up, for a moment I thought he might punch her, but he's a bit scared of my Mam so he just sat back down like the good boy he is. Coming to her senses, she  handed the gift back. Phil calmly accepted it and said 'Shoe's then is it Marie?'

Its unlikely I will ever give shoes as a gift near that woman again!

There's only two points to make here, both I stick to religiously and both come from my mother

1) Wherever possible avoid walking under a ladder
2) If you have no option but to walk under the ladder then you must spit as doing so.

I have developed this, because unlikely as it may seem I'm a bit on the superstitious side. 

  • Ladders (see above)
  • Scaffolding (sometimes there is no choice, its that or falling down the massive hole that's dug up beside the scaffold)
  • Signs (the ones that your child insists on running under, normally say 'Newcastle 32miles' In another vein I can't allow any of my family to walk either side of a tree, we all have to walk on the same side, a complete bloody nightmare when walking in the forrest'
  • Car park entrances/exits (have to open the window to spit)
  • Subways/Underpasses (generally the smell of pee is enough to make you spit at least) 
The irony of this one is my mother would murder me if she knew I was wandering around town randomly spitting. That woman's got a lot to answer for. (Much respect here for my Dad who just tolerates it!)


Basically crossing knives means tears.  Be careful when piling up the washing up, knives should be completely separated on the plate, touching is OK, but if they touch there's a danger they'll cross.  And unless you want to fall out with all your family and friends you'll take a moment to consider your knife management.

Oh, and should they happen to cross, you need to pick up said knives and throw them on the floor. This breaks the spell (yes SPELL, this is serious business).  However when tossing the knives on the floor, ensure that your feet are clear. If necessary throw them wide of you, just make sure there isn't a bare footed child isn't in the vicinity.  Social Services seem to think that chucking knives about is somehow dangerous and irresponsible. If anything explaining the 'crossed knife theory' seems to upset them more.

Take Heed.

That's only scratching the surface on my superstitions.  We've got a lot more to touch on.....Here's a taster.

  • Touching wood (always keep a pencil about your person)
  • Touch your collar, never swallow when you hear an ambulance.  I have added holding my breath into this for good measure. I almost died during a pile up on the A1 once.  I wasn't involved but I held my breath for far longer than was good for me.
  • Never stay in the room with a boiling kettle (this ones mine and mine alone)
More soon.

Night Muckers.....


  1. O M G!!! Did we have the same mother?? This REALLY made me chuckle :o) The only difference with our Magpie ritual is that we only salute & say "good morning Mr pagpie...etc if there is a lone magpie not if there is a tiding of magpies (I'm taking that as 1 or more!)
    Some other of my Mother's little superstitions we're "never stir with a knife, you'll stir up strife" And if you buy someone knives, of any kind they need to cross your palm with silver to avoid falling out! Also if a Black cat crosses your path you have to change the street, bad luck 'n all that! Oh and if you put an item of clothing on inside out, it's unlucky to change it?? and I'm sure I'll think of more!! GREAT post xx

  2. Haaa! Excellent. Be careful if you have to walk over 3 drains in a row as well! I don't know what happens to you if you do walk on them but I can only imagine it is TERRIBLE!