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69. A letter to Terry ✒️ #13
High treason, musical seagulls and some thoughts on superstition.
Thank you very much for your recent letter.
I am alarmed that again you have referred to our shiny new King and Queen as ‘Chas and Cam’, and as a result I suspect that this reply of mine might need to be forwarded to your new address in the depths of the Tower of London. Despite your as yet unproven claim to be a member of the aristocracy, I fear that even with your Lord Terry
coronet badge on, you are not immune from being clapped in irons for such blatant overfamiliarity towards your betters those ranking above you.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the TV coverage of the coronation. Wasn’t it great? In the many hours of preamble was an interview with the Right Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, who divulged that for practice for the big day he had been ‘crowning everything that stayed still long enough’ with a replica of St Edward’s crown. I kept a close eye on the Archbishop when the moment of coronation arrived, in case he somehow managed to crown one of the many other folk who seemed to be sitting around in all their finery: they were all keeping very still, after all.
Terry, I know you have a first aid certificate which of course renders you *coughs* medically qualified, but I’m nevertheless deeply concerned about the connection you have made between a UTI, which is a bacterial infection of the waterworks, and gout, an inflammatory joint condition affecting the foot. Is the medical profession yet aware of this link? If not, I strongly recommend that you write up your findings for publication in ‘The Lancet’ in anticipation that you might actually be on to something new to science.
I am disappointed to learn that despite their obvious fondness for Elaine’s keyboard as a comfy spot from which to view the world outside, your cats are not yet using it for its intended purpose.
Animals can play musical instruments, you know. I remember that when my brother first started learning to play the recorder he would invite an entire flock of seagulls along to join in with his practice. I was so disappointed to later discover that the seagull sound was a direct result of his pulling the two halves of the instrument apart, discarding the bottom part and then blowing into the mouthpiece at the top of the remaining half at full steam while bashing the palm of his hand repeatedly against its other end. His eventual graduation from the recorder to the cornet was a relief, if only from the seagulls.
Terry, I’ll admit it: you’ve finally rumbled me! How had it taken you so long to notice that all of the general knowledge crosswords from the Saturday edition of the Daily Telegraph I have ever pictured in my letters to you have been at least a week old, a wheeze that had been allowing me to sniff out the solutions in the following edition and fill in the grid after the fact?
Cards on the table: here’s how my crosswords look when I don’t have access to the answers:
And don’t think I haven’t noticed that you’re trying to blind me with your vastly superior vocabulary again. ‘Abstruse’, Terry? Really?
*heads for Google*
Ah yes. I remember now.
Difficult to understand; recondite.
‘Recondite’? I give up. 🙄
Well, when the weather has allowed, it’s been nice to get outside walking again in the last couple of weeks. Trouble is, if it’s not raining, it’s either about to rain, or it’s only just stopped raining. Now, I’m not against puddles on principle – just as well, given the pothole situation in the lane – but I much prefer clean ones to claggy, sticky, muddy ones, if only to save considerable time and effort with a scrubbing brush and a bottle of boot-cleaning gel every time I come back from the wilds. Of course, once my boots are dry I then have to set about proofing them with my tin of boot wax and trusty sponge. Yawn.
Still, I’ve learned to my cost that not looking after my boots properly leads to wet socks, dissatisfaction and expense, as well as the need to take photographs like these to send back to the manufacturer in connection with my failed warranty claim.
‘Failed?’ I hear you ask. Yup. Because I clearly hadn’t looked after them. Fair enough, and lesson learned. I shall wax away.
So, in light of the amount of standing water (teamed with imminent threat of rain: yes, the weather is really out to get me at the moment) I gave up on my thoughts of woods and fields to stride through on my latest walk, instead sticking to the (holey) tarmac of the local lanes that encircle the village. It was fine in the sense that I didn’t have to hose myself down from my knees to my toes on my return, but the walk wasn’t nearly as interesting as one that got me right into nature would have been.
This letter is my thirteenth in our series of correspondence, Terry. Are you superstitious? I am absolutely not, feeling that most superstitions – for instance, that it’s unlucky to:
Walk under a ladder
Break a mirror
Open an umbrella indoors
– are simply based on common sense. Let’s look at the whys around doing any of those things might be a less-than-sensible idea:
Something might fall on you from the top of the ladder, or you might trip against the ladder and cause harm either to yourself or to the person at the top.
Mirrors used to be so expensive that it would cost the parlourmaid of yore around seven years’ worth of wages to replace a mirror that her carelessness had broken. To claim seven years of bad luck as the result of breaking one today is, well, nonsense.
Umbrellas are pretty big, and the opening of such items in a confined space like a room in a house is likely to cause all kinds of mayhem. Look out for that china shepherdess on the mantelpiece, the cherished ormulu clock on the side table, and that antique heirloom mirror next to – yes – the umbrella stand.
But what about the number thirteen? What is that all about? Should I have titled this missive “A letter to Terry ✒️ #12a” instead? I gather that there are hotels without a floor number 13, and residential streets where the house numbers jump from 12 to 14. And Friday 13th takes things yet further: it’s a date that sees many folk too afraid to even leave their house.
A fascinating article on the subject of triskaidekaphobia – the fear of the number thirteen – on Wolfram MathWorld ends with the following lines:
…it has been suggested that $800 to $900 million are lost each Friday the 13th as a result of people avoiding travel, wedding plans, moving, and so on.
Wow. I had never imagined that people’s fear of Friday 13th would lead to such an immense impact on the economy. Now if that isn’t scary, I don’t know what is.
Well, Terry, if you are a ‘triskie’, as those with triskaidekaphobia apparently like to be known, you’re in the excellent company of writer Stephen King. You might enjoy this New York Times article of his from 1984 – a year with three Fridays the thirteenth rather than the more common two – in which he sets out plenty of evidence for why the number thirteen might not be everybody’s favourite number. He even divulges some of the ways in which his phobia manifests itself in everyday life, including this one:
When I am reading, I will not stop on page 94, page 193, page 382, et al. - the digits of these numbers add up to 13.
Ah, well. Rest assured, Terry, this thirteenth letter of mine in our ever-growing canon of correspondence brings with it no bad luck at all, but good fortune all the way.
Fingers crossed. 😉
All the very best,
If you’ve enjoyed reading this letter to Terry, please let me know by clicking the heart. Thank you! My next ‘Dear Reader, I’m lost’ post will be published as usual on Saturday. See you then!
You’ll find the rest of my letters in this series by clicking the ‘Letters to Terry’ tab on the top bar of my home page. Terry and I take it in turns to write to each other on alternate Wednesdays, and I really enjoy our light-hearted correspondence! You can access both Terry’s letters and mine using the index below:
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