Sunday, 16 February 2014


Were all pavements actually paved back in the 1950s?  Or were they tarmacked?

(Sorry, I’ve just been away for a few minutes to see if spellcheck has the spelling of ‘tarmacked’ right.  It doesn’t look right.  But it is.)

(I’ve been away for longer than that, I know; this is mainly because too much of my time over recent weeks has been about boring medical stuff, which I really don’t want to impose on you.)

My reason for asking is that I was reminded the other day of the rule that it’s unlucky to step on the cracks between the paving stones, because you’ll fall down them into hell or something.   I was taught this, aged about eight, by another boy when we were walking home from school; I can picture the moment, so that suburban side street in Bournemouth must have had slabs, not tar.

My real reason for remembering all that is my reaction.  I wasn’t a rebellious child in any overt way whatsoever; but I did like to harbour satisfying little mutinies in my head, possibly to be deployed at a later opportune moment.  (I still do that.)  So eight-year-old me decided, there and then in Watcombe Road, to step on every pavement crack I could manage.  I was reminded the other day that I still do that, I still step on the cracks. 

That led me to remember my grandmother, who had a superstition for every occasion.  I’ve googled, and she had all the usual ones – black cats, ladders, crack’d mirrors and so on – but also one or two entirely of her own.  (Quite probably of her own making.)  Because she died before I’d learnt the importance of remembering trivial detail, I can only recall one of these, but it’s worth passing on:

“If you see an ambulance, you must touch your lapel until you see a dog.”

I don’t actually obey that one anymore, but can anyone top it?  I’d hate to think I was ignorantly putting myself at risk.


  1. Tricky if one is in it.

  2. I think they were all paved. I remember deliberately stepping on the cracks too. I also remember that a white horse galloped alongside the car on long journeys, but he wasn't allowed to gallop on tarmac so he had to be very good at jumping long distances.

    I hope you're better now and it hasn't been too unpleasant for you. Hope you can come to this year's blog party.

  3. I was taught the ambulance superstition! It was something similar in any case. Maybe we are related?

  4. Well that proves it. Never heard of the ambulance & dog one. I have seen loads of ambulances & they have never brought me bad luck. But maybe it's only if you see one then a dog without the lapel thing that you get the bad luck. What happens if you are wearing a jumper & don't see a dog?
    How long is it after you see a solitary magpie & fail to salute before the risk of bad luck is assuaged?
    Can't help with the Bournemouth pavements, I have no recollection.

  5. Glad to see you back in bloggy-land Timbo.

    I don't take a lot of notice of superstitions but I do remember my first husband's mother forbidding him to use her washing machine on New Year's Day because one of her daughters was having a minor operation the following week and she said "If you wash on New Year's Day, you will wash a member of your family away."

    I remember a thing about not stepping on the edge of paving stones from my childhood but I thought it was to avoid being eaten by bears as per "Lines & Squares" by A A Milne. I still have my copy of "When we were very young" and I was going to type up "Lines and Squares" here, but as it is longer and less amusing than I remembered, perhaps I wont.

  6. Eliz - welcome back! That's a deep philosophical question ... I'll ask the next dog I see.

    Z - I'd somehow guessed you were a fellow crack-stepper. As for that horse ... I thought I saw him overtaking me the other day, but it turned out to be a Ferrari.
    Is there a date for the party yet? Mail me.

    Ms S - well, we're all related if you go back far enough. But it'd probably be before ambulances were invented. But who knows ...?

    Richard - I'd forgotten about saluting sole magpies. That must have been one of Granny's too.

    Liz - he wanted to do washing on New Year's Day??
    It's a crap superstition, though. Doesn't even scan.

  7. I avoided the cracks at all cost:
    "Trittst du auf die Lücken,
    bricht's der Mutter den Rücken!"

    Sorry, I have no clue about the ambulances.

  8. The cracks had to be avoided for the Bears - the relevant lines are "..... And the masses of bears,
    Who wait at the corners all ready to eat
    The sillies who tread on the lines of the street" Sorry!!
    Another of granny's superstitions was about the colour green because I remember she was horrified that I wanted green icing on my birthday cake. As she was brought up in Ireland (I don't know where exactly) I think a lot of the superstitions must have come from that part of her life.

  9. Spent a short time in the Midlands when v. young (1940s), and remember the "see an ambulance, cross your fingers till you see a dog". Don't know how old it is, but there were horse drawn ambulances.