This week Liz Dawes is passing on some Old Wives Tales - what are your family superstitions?
As I was driving my kids to school the other day, they saw a lone magpie. Without missing a beat, they chorused: “Morning Captain!” I’ve done this since childhood to ward off bad luck – more out of fondness for the habit than actual superstition (my mate Rachel is uber cautious and always adds “and how is Mrs Magpie?") I also always push the spoon through the bottom of an empty boiled egg shell to let the devil out. Obviously.
Before you write me off completely, a quick poll of friends shows I am Not Alone.
My mate Natascha (German) always puts her right foot on the floor first when getting out of bed since left first is considered very bad luck. Apparently all Germans know this, but only Natascha is continuing to observe it, which she accepts is a bit nutty but perseveres nonetheless. (Incidentally Germans also consider old ladies to be evil - one of the unluckiest things you can do is walk between them on a pavement….)
Lots of those polled confessed to having issues with numbers – one that they couldn’t have the volume button of any device on 13, another that it couldn’t be any odd number at all. Petrol stations caused similar worries: one friend told me that her BF can only stop the pump on a whole pound number, and if it goes even a penny over he has to keep pumping up to the next pound. At least they don’t have the Afghan problem with 39 which translates into “morda-gow”, (literally “dead cow” but also slang for a pimp). Imagine if that was on your number plate…..
Meantime, Jeni was out with her elderly mother when they reached a pedestrian crossing, whereupon her mother stopped, and waited for the lights to change. Jeni pointed out that she needed to press the button first, at which point her mother confessed that she never ever presses those buttons. Apparently it might disrupt the flow of the lights (I thought that was rather the point?) and they will be all out of sorts for the rest of the day; something for which she simply cannot be responsible. Bonkers, but somehow adorable at the same time.
Also: Steve won’t stand on a drain cover; Sue’s mum freaks out if she puts new shoes on a table, and an old Serbian friend of mine used to insist that if you bit your tongue it meant that your grandmother was going to bake you a cake. I’m not sure whether this is really true, or whether in fact she just had granny well trained every time she mentioned that she’d nipped her tongue (her granny was a most excellent baker…)
The older my friends are, the more likely it is they will respect an old wives' tale, even though when looked at objectively, they accept they are superstitious nonsense. They are somehow comforting, albeit silly, reminders of family traditions, so I’m glad my kids have picked up mine.