While Friday 13th is considered unlucky in the UK it’s the reverse here in France. Many people will put off buying their lottery tickets until that day, hoping luck will be on their side. It didn’t work out that way for us. We were about to climb out of bed when Madame received a text message from our neighbour to say her husband had been diagnosed with the coronavirus. We’re not superstitious about Friday 13th, but this news woke us up with a jolt because we had been in contact with him earlier in the week.
We’d been sitting on the terrace having coffee when he came in through the garden gate, without a mask, to discuss an estimate. If we had been prudent we would have fetched masks without delay. But there are times when logic eludes you and this was one of them. We did what we would have done in normal circumstances, offered him coffee and biscuits, which he was happy to accept, and we then discussed the devis. He sat at the other side of the table but leant forward occasionally to emphasise a point or two.
After he had gone we replayed the meeting and ticked off, too late, what we should have done. Mugs were thoroughly washed, the document was wiped with a disinfected cloth and we hoped for the best. It was a calm day and the sky was cloudless so we trusted that the virus hadn’t leapt in our direction.
We waited a week before being tested.; that presumably being the dangerous period. Our médecin traitant emailed us prescriptions to avoid going to the surgery. You couldn’t just pitch up and expect to be checked. It was efficient; the swimming pool changing rooms had been converted into testing rooms, you didn’t pass anyone else and we were seen on time, surprisingly, as midday is French lunchtime and the world stops. The negative results were received with relief by internet that evening.
Today completed the two weeks after meeting our neighbour so we ventured to the supermarket to pick up the shopping ordered on-line. The fruit shop was closed and the cheese shop; even the boulangerie was on half time. The town was uncannily quiet and parking was no problem. It’s compulsory to wear a mask, not that we saw one gendarme. The police have been drafted to hot spots in the larger towns.
Are you superstitious? Glad that the cat you nearly ran down was jet black? Hang that horseshoe on the stable door like a U so that the good luck doesn’t drop out? Over the border in Spain walking into a room with your left foot first will bring you bad luck. Don’t walk on manhole covers; going home one night in the pitch dark someone had stolen the manhole cover from the road in front of the house. It could have been a wet drop and, possibly, a broken leg!
Maybe you cross your fingers or touch wood, as many of us subconsciously do; superstitions are so deep-rooted. Take not walking under a ladder. Apart from the practical reason of not wanting to be hit on the head by a tin of paint, to the ancient Egyptians a ladder against a wall formed a triangle which was sacred. (Look at the Pyramids) If, as an adult, you still avoid walking on the cracks between paving stones, as you did when a child, people might well look askance you.
There’s even a word for those who have an irrational fear of Friday the 13th. No prizes for pronouncing it correctly. Paraskevidekatriaphobe, from the Greek words for Friday and thirteen, with phobia tacked on the end for good measure. A variation of this is Friggatriskaidekaphobia based on the name of the ancient Scandinavian goddess Frigg (Anglicised Frigga) who was associated with Friday (the witches’ sabbath). It makes her sound a cold person, an ice queen, but Norse mythology depicts her as a woman who was generous with her favours. End of lecture.
Inevitably masks have become a fashion accessory. Are they this year’s ‘must give’ present?
This is one that you won’t be able to afford. It’s made of 250 grams of 18c gold and is set with more than 3,000 diamonds, which makes it the most expensive mask in the world. That’s unofficial, but no one else has come forward with a similar claim. The mask is made with an opening to insert a disposable protective mask. A lavish fashion accessory.