I Ain’t Superstitious

In which The Author’s days might be numbered

Geoff E. and I had a most enjoyable day out in Swansea yesterday (full story and photos to follow), cunningly disguised as a visit to the West Glamorgan Archives.
The little shop near the exit sells a nice range of souvenirs. I decided to treat myself to a rather natty jute ‘bag for life’ bearing the WGA logo, which would have been ideal for shopping and/or lugging stuff to and from the library.
I also bought a limited edition WGA mug. My cousin Mary and her husband Les taught me a useful tip just over thirty years ago: the more mugs you have, the less frequently you need to wash up.
Anyway, this so-called ‘bag for life’ didn’t even make it as far as my house. I was halfway up the Gadlys hill last night when one of the handles broke loose. I was passing Park School a couple of minutes later when the other handle came off in my hand. Fortunately I wasn’t carrying my Netbook at the time. It would have been a very expensive ‘bag for life’ otherwise.
This morning I decided to have breakfast in Thereisnospoon in Aberdare. As it’s Saturday, there was a decent chance that they’d have a couple of vegetarian sausages left from Thursday’s delivery. I still have a few of the ‘student discount’ vouchers left, so I decided to cash one in at the bar. I also ordered a glass of Pepsi. Call me old-fashioned, but 10.30 is a bit early for a pint – unless, of course, you’ve been drinking straight through the night, which happened a couple of times when I was young and foolish.
I’ve known a fair number of students from the Far East during my time, and I know very well that the word for ‘four’ (si) sounds like the word for ‘death’ in a lot of Oriental languages. It’s considered extremely unlucky.
Can you picture my horror when the sale came to £4.44?
[A digression: On the other hand, the number eight is regarded as a sign of good fortune. The word fa sounds like both ‘eight’ and ‘wealth’. Quite a number of years ago, I was selling a pile of Welsh history books, Welsh dictionaries and maps of the country to a charming Japanese couple. We started chatting across the counter, and they explained that they were translating Prof. John Davies’s Hanes Cymru into Japanese. (Goddess only knows why!) As I was scanning the items through the till, the lady picked up The Little Book of Wales from the counter display.
‘Can we have this as well?’ she asked.
‘By all means,’ I said, and added it to their pile. That extra item (£1.99) made all the difference. The transaction came to £88.88.
I pointed to the till display and said, ‘This has got to be your lucky day!’
They both burst out laughing, and he said, ‘This is a very good sign.’
I said, ‘I know.’
I don’t know whether they were more impressed by the grand total, or the fact that I knew something about their language and culture.
Anyway, the premature death of my ‘bag for life’, coupled with the subsequent appearance of 4.44, has got me a bit worried.
The book I’ve been proofreading this week contains a worrying number of references to pistols, rifles, shotguns, tactical assault weapons, grenade launchers, armoured vehicles, aircraft, and assorted military hardware. There are also a few USAF bases and other facilities namechecked in the text.
Of course, being me, I wasn’t content to just let them go unverified. I had to go online and check that each and every one was correct. That meant a visit to Aberdare Library. I was about ten minutes into my search when I turned to Judith G. and said, ‘I’ve just had an awful thought.’ I explained what I was doing, and she laughed.
‘If you go for lunch and find the whole building on lockdown, with snipers on the roof of the JokeJobcentre and the Con Club, that’ll probably be my fault,’ I said.
Yesterday, at just after 11 a.m., Geoff and I were on the 28½th floor of Swansea’s tallest building, admiring the spectacular panorama of the cityscape and the bay. I took a few photos, and then turned to Geoff.
I explained about my paramilitary online shopping list, and then said, ‘To make matters worse, I’m taking photos from the tallest building in Swansea.’
Then I told him about the time Naj and I almost caused a terrorist scare (see ‘The Armchair Anarchist‘) on the train to Cardiff.
I don’t think I’m being unjustly paranoid here. My track record of counter-cultural and political activity since my first student days, over three decades ago, has almost certainly flagged me up on a Special Branch watch list. I might not be high priority, but I my details must be on Big Brother’s database somewhere. To cap it all, I spent a couple of hours this week drawing up a virtual shopping list that any US militia group would be proud of.
Yesterday’s rather disappointing ‘bag for life’, coupled with the row of fours earlier on, were the icing on the cake for me.
If I don’t make it through the weekend without taking a few rounds, or (at the very least) being spirited off to Belmarsh via Paddington Green Police Station, you’ll know why.

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