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2005-08-23 Junk mail and silly old superstitions?

I wish people would desist from forwarding me internet chain-mail. You know, the sort of thing that claims to have travelled around the world ten times, and should you refuse to send it further (thus breaking the chain), something very bad will happen. Or, at best, everyone you know, and are about to know, will die.


Before it informs you that your life is about to take a dramatic downwards spiral, it suggests you should always `respect yourself and others, and be responsible for your actions' - there goes the `delete' option. It purports that `a true friend is someone who reaches for your hand, and touches your heart' - ah yeah, whatever, a true friend is someone who lends you a fiver and doesn't charge you interest.


The last chain-mail I received suggested I forward it to 15 friends, or risk receiving an unpleasant surprise. I dithered, sweated, then pressed `Delete'.

And do you know, when I left my house five minutes later - my neighbours were spreading slurry in the next field - incredible.


Why have people always had this illogical fear of the unknown, this tentative trust in magic, and chance? Why do intelligent folk harbour superstitions? My mother refused to look at a New Moon through glass. A ladder against a wall forms a triangle - if we walk under the ladder, we are symbolically violating `The Trinity'.


"God Bless you" is said after a sneeze, because one Pope (following the Great Plague) suggested blessing sneezers. A bee in the home signals the arrival of a visitor - does the bee count as a visitor? A dog eating grass is said to bring rain. Well then, we Irish ought to train our canines to ease off on the green stuff, and maybe our climate will change.


It is bad luck to change a horse's name - I wonder what Shergar was christened. It is good luck for a frog to enter a house, though presumably bad luck to enter a French house via the kitchen?


A rabbit's foot brings good luck, though I'm sure all those the three-legged rabbits wouldn't necessarily agree.


Surely our lives cannot be held in the balance by a single black and white bird with a rattling voice, and yet, we salute (and even talk to) magpies.

Killing a spider (especially one doing a spot of morning spinning) will bring rain - that explains my wet summer.


A naked woman on a ship is said to calm the seas, though whether the sailors remain calm or not is another story.


By unhygienically kissing the Blarney stone, you can obtain the gift of `persuasive eloquence', and I hope that is all you obtain.


I once whistled in a Gaiety dressing-room, and was forced out of the room by an elderly colleague who made me turn around three times, knock on the door, and curse - silly old superstitious eejit.


It is unlucky to wear green onstage, or fresh flowers, and whatever you do - do not mention that Scottish play, the one with Mr and Mrs M. The Banshee (Bean Séa­dhe) wails to warn of death.


Opening an umbrella indoors can be fatal. A pregnant woman ought not attend a funeral - in my mind especially if the guy in the box is the father of their love-child.


An itchy nose indicates a quarrel, or perhaps just an itchy nose.

Whichever spouse goes to sleep first on a wedding night dies first. Calling all newlyweds - stay awake - consummate that marriage fully, work up an appetite for breakfast.


Speaking of beds, it is good luck to sleep on un-ironed sheets - see, I am not lazy, but sensible. We avoid pavement cracks, we avoid using one match to light three cigarettes, we knock on wood because good spirits live in trees, and we throw salt over our left shoulder to hit the evil spirits in the eye.


I don't like the idea of rats on a ship, but if they leave, so does the ship. If three people are photographed together, the one in the middle will be the first to depart this life - ok, I don't like this game anymore.


Surely it all has to be a load of ol' guff? Just in case, I wonder would you mind sending this column to 15 people, just to be on the safe side. Thanks.