I walked under a ladder earlier today. Does that shock you? I hope not in today's forward-looking, progressive Scotland. Anyway, the only reason I did it was because there was a crowd of people walking toward me and, being on the short side, I was able to dodge under and keep my distance from them, in compliance with the Covid code. Just as well I am not superstitious.
Made me think though. Have we shaken off the old ways, the crazy things your mother used to do? Like when she spilled salt she would throw some over her shoulder to ward off a vaguely perceived form of ill luck or another? I am personally not superstitious in any way and the fact I seem to wear the same pants every time Celtic play is nothing more than sheer coincidence.
This time of year conjures up the thought of myths and fables, and I am not talking about what some people consider the central one around Christmas. You won't catch me stepping into the controversy around the existence of the main man. I will leave that for the academics and learned people who can pontificate about it in the other serious parts of this publication. I would say though that the most popular canticle sung in his honour confuses me. I know he is revered as being omnipresent, but seeing you are sleeping and knowing you are awake, knowing you are good or bad… all seems a bit uncomfortably intrusive to me.
Looking at some of the evidence around whether we still harbour groundless and illusory beliefs does suggest that we do seem to have retained a number of the older rituals. One such immutable tradition is the Hogmanay First Foot, which is constructed wholly around superstition and irrational fear, as well of course as being based around an exceptions and exclusive practice. In order to for me to qualify for this role, I would require to obtain stilts and Grecian 2000 (see above). Then there is the Guising (okay, not really Christmassy, but a very Scottish tradition) where weans you have never set eyes on in your life knock your door and stand around awkwardly looking at their feet for a few minutes, before demanding sweeties or small silver coins – but never fruit – in recognition of their lack of effort.
One of the strangest superstitions I am aware of though is the tradition of planting a rowan tree in your garden to ward off evil spirits and maybe even Old Nick himself. I mean, c'mon, to believe the Prince of Darkness, the instigator and conductor of all evil in the world, could or would be repelled by a wee, insubstantial tree, which produces clumps of red berries in late summer. The rowan tree's primary function was said to be focused on protection against witches and come to think of it, we did have a couple in the garden of my childhood home. In all honesty, I do not ever recall having been troubled by any witchly behaviour or carry on, so you never know there might just be something in it!
Seasons Greetings to you all! I can't believe that another year has just whizzed by and here I am bringing you up-to-date on everything that has happened at No. 22. As you can imagine, it has been a 12 months like no other.
We had to abandon our annual trips this year. Blackwaterfoot on Arran has been such a jolly place every July but, regretfully, we had to cancel in late June because the ferries were just not reliable enough for Angus to keep travelling back to his office in Glasgow. For some reason, Mrs Macdonald, our long standing renter, thought we could have advised her earlier. As if anyone could crystal ball MacBraynes...
The winter break in Puerto Banus went as well although we have never been completely comfortable there in recent years. The all-day British breakfasts had not lost their quality but there seemed to be more and more foreigners – Germans, Spanish. Angus reckons we have got out in time before Brexit ruins it.
On the home front, we have been truly blessed. After wisely stopping his CA examinations (far too limiting for his international aspirations), Kevin has gone to sea with the Merchant Navy. Angus and I love looking after baby Fergus and quite understand that his mother needed time alone in Penicuik. Or if not Penicuik, nearby. Sylvia is still barnstorming her way through college. The switch from media studies to reflexology was not easy for her but, in so many ways, a truly rewarding choice. We can hardly believe it is seven years since she left school with all those dazzling grades.
Big news was in August when Nanny finally retired and went back to Skye. We had hoped she would be able to stay on and help with Fergus but I think she had lost her vocation with little children. Kevin going to sea may have been the turning point.
As many of you will already know, we lost dear Aunt May in September. She seemed to be doing really well in her Bearsden mansion although it must have been lonely in the 10 rooms and the marble staircase was getting difficult. We thought about her a lot so it was a little surprising when Milngavie Cat Home was designated as sole beneficiary. Obviously, her mind wasn't quite as it should have been and Angus felt, for her sake, we had to contest the will. Let us hope that her true wishes come true in 2021.
And that is just about it for 2020. We do hope your year has been as deeply fulfilling as our own and that the New Year brings us all more health, happiness and wealth. (If any of you would like to pursue the last, Angus has an interesting new offshore fund he is launching with friends in Edinburgh.) Happy Christmas!
If you would like to contribute to the Cafe, please email your comments to email@example.com