Somebody asked me if I was superstitious, the other day, and my answer was, “No. But …”
There’s nothing magical about avoiding walking under a ladder. There may well be things dropped from above.
I don’t mention Shakespeare’s Scottish play. I don’t eat fast food from the Scottish restaurant and I don’t whistle in the wings.
Whistling was how the flymen signalled backstage. It was code for Pull the rope. Remove the set. Now.
Nils Bohr, the Nobel Laureate physicist, when challenged about a good luck charm, a horseshoe hanging above his front door, observed that just because you don’t believe in a superstition, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work.
There you have a triple negative.
My father reduced it. Don’t tempt the gods.
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As I write this, it’s a couple of days before Christmas and I don’t want to put the kibosh on this one by remembering a favourite Christmas.
Christmas is the annual custom of offerings to those who are close.
For me, it is the constant apprehension of somehow misreading the recipient and weathering their false insistence that it was the perfect gift.
The only time I ever felt that I got it right was buying my youngest a faux-shark swimming outfit in a $2 shop. It had a dorsal fin sticking up from the cap.
He strewed wrapping paper around the floor and got an instant laugh at the absurdity and never subsequently wore it.
A moment’s entertainment and the job done.
Half a century ago, I lived in a shared house in the slums of the inner city. The slums have since become gentrified and we have become the gentry.
When the summer holiday came, everyone went back to their family homes.
The whole suburb became deserted.
Even the roads were free of traffic because no one was driving to work.
In a house that six or eight people had occupied, in which the living room was always full of strangers, there was now only silence.
There were just the two of us.
She had been disavowed by her parents for running away with me, the feckless ne’er-do-well.
I did eventually come good, in their view, a few years later when I became of sufficient note to be presented in the Women’s Weekly.
My family were going through their own uncertain complexities. I left them to it. We had the house to ourselves and no rituals to perform.
This, my most memorable Christmas, was simply she and I alone in the house on a hot day in the deserted inner city.
I can’t remember any presents. I can’t remember any food.
I could invent something entertaining, but right now I’m dreaming of a blank Christmas … just like … the one …
What I do remember was that we briefly left the house to sit in her broken-down car.
It hadn’t moved for months but it was a pleasant diversion from lethargic lolling inside.
As I look back, it seems that the best Christmas is no Christmas at all.
Christmas is the solstice, the longest and coldest night of the year.
It’s a time to huddle inside in warmth and eat the leg of ham, the Christmas pudding, with hidden sixpences, the food that has been preserved whilst anticipating longer days and fresh supplies.
It fortuitously coincides with the birth of the deity.
It doesn’t quite make the same sense in the Southern Hemisphere.
Red Symons is a musician of the ’70s, TV vaudevillian of the ’80s and ’90s, radio voice of the new millennium and a sprinkled condiment in the theatre and print