Occasionally, when I create a good story I have trouble giving it a name. Other times the name appears well before the story, often with an image that accompanies it. The problem I have though, is that there are so many stories tucked away in my brain that it can be a struggle to let them out. It becomes a bit of a creative bottle neck, as it were. Usually when that happens I focus on something else until one particular story or character bugs me so much that I’ll put finger to key board ( Seriously, I only type with one finger, I’ve gone through nearly three different stints of education that way and I’m mega fast now. What can I say, I’m a weirdo, you have met me right?).
Anyway, I’ve had a story featuring my favourite detective , Harvey Laraine, bopping around the old grey matter for over a week and I even have a name for it. This is cool, as naming stuff can be tough sometimes. This particular name though, is tied to something I had a discussion with my 14 year son about.
On a short-ish walk into town one Sunday to collect our young man’s new reading glasses, we passed several lone magpies. After seeing each one I saluted it and carried on walking. After about the third time my son turned to me and said “Why do you do that ?” Now I’ll be honest, I’ve never really been sure why and I don’t really remember who encouraged me to do it either. It started when I was at secondary school and it’s something I’ve found hard to shake ever since. It has been the source of at least one conversation with my husband about superstition and how ridiculous it is ( he’s a scientist to the core). So my answer to my son’s question was “Yeah I know it’s stupid. Like your Dad says, we don’t salute black and white cows or black and white dogs or cats.”
So that made me think. Why are magpies considered unlucky? Who decided that a noisy, black and white bird, that’s interested in shiny stuff and enjoys fighting squirrels, was an omen of doom? It’s weird. We have quite a few superstitions that seem a bit daft to the 21st century way of thinking. I mean, I understand why walking under a ladder can be considered bad luck. Try spending your spare time helping out on a building site and it’ll quite quickly become apparent why it’s a bad idea. But black cats, magpies, stepping on cracks in the pavement?
As if life isn’t stressful enough, trying to avoid just that small list would be exhausting. But from talking to other people it certainly seems that superstitions can be a pick and mix belief system. I know some people who think nothing of throwing spilled salt over their left shoulder to avoid bad luck, but then will simply sweep up a broken mirror and pop to the shop to buy a new one, without worrying about it.
It’s strange, because from a scientific stand point we all know that these things have very little if, any, baring on the events which take place in our lives, and yet we give them influence by giving them superstitious value. After all, how could an innocent looking magpie, going about it’s business and paying no attention to humans,possibly have any influence on whether or not I ace a job interview or arrive at my destination on time?
“Ah,” I hear you say, “They don’t influence the situation they are just omens of what’s to come.”
Yeah, right. Has anyone told the magpies this? Did they get the memo?
Probably not, because maybe they would be dicks about it and take it in turns to turn up solo just for shits and giggles. They have to get their fun somehow, right?
Anyway, whether they’re bad luck or just a nuisance, you have to admit they look pretty cool and they make a good subject for a story, don’t you think?
Maybe, maybe not, but I think I’ll give it a go anyway. And I might even try to break my habit of saluting lone magpies just to see what happens…..or maybe not…..