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Saturday, 29 December 2012

Thirteen steps to superstition...why I'm dreading the New Year!



We lived at number 13 when I was a child and one day, when my mother refused to buy home-made pegs at the front door,  a gypsy put a curse on our home.  Everything went wrong after that:  we sold the house  and I've been superstitious ever since.  I won't travel on the 13th, write a cheque on the 13th, and once even refused  an operation on the dreaded day, preferring  to suffer in silence...

I got married on Friday March 12  because I didn't want my wedding anniversary on the 13th, and I've always avoided Friday the 13th  by staying at home.There are thirteen steps to  the gallows, so legend says, and that's enough to frighten anyone.

The Greeks, who took the whole thing very seriously, had a word for fear of the number 13 - dekatriaphobia. Sounds painful, doesn't it?   Sounds pretty ridiculous, too, come to think of it. So as the seconds tick by to midnight  remember the old saying:

Don't trouble thirteen
Till thirteen troubles you
For if you trouble thirteen
 You'll trouble others too

Superstitious?  Me?  Not any more...


to you all!



Friday, 21 December 2012

The Host of Christmas past...

With  summer now just a memory, here's a seasonal poem from our best-known Poet Laureate:

 'Advent 1955' by Sir John Betjeman

Last year I sent out twenty yards
Laid end to end, of Christmas cards
To people that I scarcely know -
They'd sent a card to me, and so
I had to send one back. Oh dear!
Is this a form of Christmas cheer?
Or is it, which is less surprising
My pride gone in for advertising?
The only cards that really count
Are that extremely small amount
From real friends who keep in touch
And are not rich but love us much
Some ways indeed are very odd
By which we hail the birth of God

Happy Christmas to you all...


Monday, 17 December 2012

Happy Birthday from Father Christmas!

On my 5th birthday I rushed out of the front door to greet the postman who was struggling up the driveway. 'Do you know what day it is today?' I asked excitedly.

'Christmas Eve, of course,' he winked, handing me a pile of envelopes. 'Everyone knows that.'

'No - it's my birthday,'  I replied tearfully before slipping on the icy doorstep and gouging a hole in my scalp.  I ended up in the emergency department of the city hospital with 10  stitches in  my head. That's one birthday I'll never forget.

As the day comes round again, the old childhood feelings still rush back - one present instead of two, nowhere to put my birthday cards, and absolutely no time for a party on my special day.  I remember one year going to stay with relatives who presented me with an amazing iced fruit cake. It was covered in silver baubles with my age in large numbers perched on the top.  I was so excited as I lit the candles and got ready to cut the first slice.

'Oh, we can't cut it,' my aunt said in a horrified voice. 'It's the Christmas cake too!'
Sure enough, the candles came off that night and my beautiful cake was trimmed with holly and a great big smiling Santa.

And please don't get me started on those jolly cards that say 'On your Christmas Birthday.' They were no doubt invented by someone who was born in the middle of June.

Seriously, though, as we approach the season of goodwill, lets remember why we celebrate  December 25th.   Christmas Day isn't just for baby Jesus - it really does belong to us all.


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Until The Twelfth of Never...

I was going to put off writing this blog until tomorrow, but then again it might just be too late...
For Wednesday the twelfth of the twelfth two thousand and twelve is a day when anything might happen - including the end of the world!

Of course, that's only if you are a pessimist and I'm very much an optimist (as well as a fan of hyperbole, as my hoards of good friends will  tell you.) Besides, people have been predicting the end of the world ever since - well - ever since time began.
Interestingly, it will be another 88 years before all three numbers in the date are the same  (thats 01.01. 2101 if you want to put it on your calendar.)

But if all is well and you're reading this on Thursday morning, please don't get too complacent. In just a couple of weeks' time, according to the ancient Mayan calendar,  we will be facing the apocolypse anyway. This time 21.12.2012 is the day of reckoning.

A 'rotating calendar of stone,'  the Mayan calendar  was not so much  an almanac, but a 'gauge of the evolution of consciousness.' No doubt before social networking, and the invention of His 'n' Hers calendars,this was the only way of telling what your friends and family had got planned..

 I have always believed that we all worry too much about the past, the present and the future.  They all exist of course, but not always in the same order.

It's a pity George Orwell isn't still with us. I'm sure he'd have a few timely things to say about the end of the world.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Forty million free books!

Forty million  free books for children! That's the proud legacy of the Booktrust Charity in the twenty years since its inception.  To writers and readers alike, it sounds  like a miracle. So why do I feel uneasy? Because the charity, which is backed by the deputy Prime Minister's wife,  has just had its £6 million a year funding  fast-tracked by the Education Department.

Mrs Clegg, otherwise known as Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, 'hosted a lavish reception for Booktrust in October at one of London's most grandiose venues, the historic Lancaster House,' according to today's Daily Mail.  It goes on to say 'There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Booktrust, which has given away 40 million free books to schoolchildren in the past 20 years.'

Very impressive, of course. ButI can't help feeling it would have been so much better  if they  had raised some of the cash themselves.