Me and a giant Magpie

Two For Joy

“Somebody told me and I think they’re right
There is a change on its way tonight
And I feel it’s so
But I fear it though”

  • Nothing But Thieves

We were stopped at Hasty’s Cross waiting to make sure that the traffic was clear when I saw a Magpie in a tree across the road, “One for sorrow.” I said instinctively.
“Pardon ?” My Soulmate replied.
“One for sorrow.” I repeated, nodding in the direction of the Magpie in the tree across the road.
“That’s two Magpies. Two for joy.”
“No it’s one, look.”
She looked. “That’s two !”
“It’s one. Although, granted,” I said straining to look closer,” it is a rather large one. I wonder if that means even more trouble ?”
“Have you had your vitamin D tablet today ?”
“Yes. Why ?”
My Soulmate didn’t answer, she went back to the sanctuary of her phone as I argued with myself out loud whether if one rather large Magpie was the same size as two regular ones , metaphysically did that mean that I could decide myself whether it was lucky or not. I decided that it did and that I was indeed lucky.

I grew up with this version of the nursery rhyme:

One for sorrow,
Two for Joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.

It was many, many, years later that I discovered , after listening to the Unthanks referring to a Magpie as the devil’s bird,   that the original rhyme was :

One for sorrow,
Two for mirth
Three for a funeral,
Four for birth
Five for heaven
Six for hell
Seven for the devil, his own self.

Now that’s a nursery rhyme ! I wonder if the person who came up with it would hate the modern version, or perhaps they wouldn’t care ?

Similar to every creative person ever born, I was once involved in a project where we came up with a story, characters, and logo which we allowed others to use for free. It later transpired that someone gave all that labour of love to someone else who tinkered around with it, watered it down, butchered parts of it and then got paid for their efforts by the very person we’d given it to for free in the first place.

Was I angry ?

Not really, deflated, disappointed and frustrated which can appear as angry to others. But that lasted a day or two. Would it stop me doing the same thing again ? Not really.

 I like making things. Stories mostly.

Last week I was asked to do a story for TenX9 and I wrote it in about an hour. ( It’s Podcast #187) During that hour my Soulmate wandered into the kitchen, the creative hub of the house, and without me saying anything, she commented “ You’re in full flow, aren’t you ?“ I just smiled and grunted ‘Mmhmm’.

We have a u-shaped staircase in our house with a large window that straddles two floors, a Monaghan window my friend Eddie from Camlough used to call it. “What’s a Monaghan window ?” I asked him.
“It’s a big stupid window that everyone outside can see you going up and down the stairs and every fucking new house in Monaghan seems to have one !” he said…in 2005…and looking back , he was right ….in 2005.
Our ‘Monaghan Window’ is at the back of the house, looking out over fields where the sun sets in the evenings, so only cows, rabbits, and the occasional swan observe us through it. I was coming down the stairs this week and the as the sun streamed through the window a ray of light caught particles of dust as they floated about lazily and aimlessly. It stopped me in my tracks. I sat on the stairs , rested my elbows on my knees and my chin in my hands and got lost in thought watching the dancing dust in the sunlight. And I had the oddest thought.

“I’m not afraid to die.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in any hurry to. And thankfully the only ailment I’m currently afflicted with is  melancholy , which my Soulmate insists is just my dramatic version of Vitamin D deficiency. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that when we die every single atom that was part of us goes on to be part of something else , so in a way , we live on. It was simply that this week, sitting on the stairs I realised that I wasn’t afraid of the prospect.

I had a dream that night that woke me and I had to get up and write it down. I wrote snatches and prompts of the dream on my phone and emailed it to myself before it evaporated. I smiled and cried as I wrote it. It was happy sad, like ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’. And it’s sat there since Tuesday, unopened in my Inbox. I’m afraid to look at it. Is it as good as I remember ? Would it being as good as I remember be more terrifying still ? Should I just delete it ?
It would be easier to delete it. No one knows it’s there, well, you do,<< Test First Name >>, but , you know what I mean, it wouldn’t make the slightest difference to anyone, anywhere if it simply disappeared, or never even existed in the first place.

Or would it ?

I think it would.

It may be that I open it, write it down and then you read it and say ‘That’s shite ! I could do much better than that.’ and you could, and you do, and other people read what you write, and it changes someone’s life, and a movie’s made out of it and some kid gets her big break because you always liked that song she wrote and you insist that her song is the theme song and it changes her life and everyone else’s that hears it. And you also insist that the movie is filmed on location in Monaghan, and the producers argue with you that the beach scene will be difficult to film in Monaghan and you agree to let them film that bit in Gyles Quay, BUT that’s the last concession you will agree to, and then the movie’s a hit and lots of people want to visit Monaghan to see all the places that are featured in the movie and now you can’t get a table in Porky’s or a seat in McKenna’s and The Local is always sold out of those sourdough donuts, and there’s a three month waiting list for Dorota’s spinach cake, and people are going mad because you described one of your characters wearing a really cool retro t-shirt with the ‘Lavery’s Tip-top Sliced White Batch’ logo on it and they can’t buy one anywhere because you made it up, and people are writing letters to the Standard and posts on Sinead’s FB page moaning about how there are too many visitors in Rossmore Park and they’re ruining it for everyone…everyone local that is…all those tourists can fuck off back to wherever they came from , and why , oh why did that book EVER see the light of day ?!?!

Don’t worry.

 I just deleted it.

Phew !

I regularly write things and once I’ve written them and either filed them away or posted them in the blog or told them at TenX9 , I promptly forget them. And then sometimes, very, very, very, very  rarely admittedly…OK, ok, ok, I’ve probably written 500 pieces that were public at some point and twice someone, sometimes years later, and initially I haven’t a clue what they’re talking about , have said ‘Thanks, that made me laugh and I needed a laugh that day.’

And do you know if I never wrote another thing ever, that would be enough.

That would be enough….

Well, that, and a squeeze from my Soulmate, a table for two in Porky’s , a seat in McKenna’s, a sourdough donut from The Local, a slice of Dorota’s spinach cake and a ‘Lavery’s Tip-top Sliced White Batch’ tee…Oh ! And a parking space near the Coffee Dock in Rossmore Park on a Saturday.

So , for you, do that thing you’ve been afraid to. I need it ! The world needs it !


P.S. Here’s a link to the Tenx9 podcast featuring that story wot I wrote.

P.P.S. The Unthanks ‘Magpie

P.P.S. And here’s a video of me reading the Pasta Experiment for TenX9

Author: paul

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