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.
Eight for a wish,
Nine for a kiss,
Ten for a bird,
You must not miss
Eleven is worse
Twelve for a dastardly curse. (Old English Nursery Rhyme. Modern version)
There are other versions of ‘Magpie’ – as already discussed a type of crow, my self-appointed nickname, not only associated with an attraction for ‘glitter’ but also perceived as a bird of ill omen. (It’s relevance to the diary will emerge later. I am about to go on a digression.) The earlier the version, the darker the ditties become. Not exactly a bundle of laughter, more of threat. Someone I used to see wrote to me yesterday. She told me she was about to enrol on a course to become a ‘Laughter Leader’. Someone else then elucidated that there is a popular ‘Laughter’ form of Yoga. Either way, even a smile requires a lot of energy these days:
Some claim it takes 43 muscles to frown. Some, it takes 26 to smile and 62 to frown. Others claim it’s quite the opposite, that in fact it takes more muscles to smile than to frown.
I did smile when I received the unsolicited and unexpected email from the ‘Laughter Leader’, who I have not seen now as a ‘patient’ for many months. A smile of pleasure because she was in my Skype address book. Every time Zoom collapses and I return to Skype her name automatically appears. It is not ‘respectable’ for a therapist, or this therapist, to go off-piste and write to enquire after a departed patient. It was good to hear her news. She also mentioned she had finished my last book, which had felt good to be included in. (With her permission of course.) I would like to have invited her to tea, Opps! to Zoom but once therapy has ended the therapist disappears into passing mists of time. Formally, we never had an official ending as she was away on tour. Who knows… a Zoom closure might still happen. She is floating into mind again just now … I remember she was never inclined to sit face to face across the room, she sometimes found it easier to think by dancing herself into thought and pirouettes across the room into free associations. I was distracted from those magpies by the Laughter Leader, but yesterday I had an uncanny experience.
Chaucer’s pal the fourteenth philosopher Boethius who wrote a treatise on The Consolation of Philosophy spoke often about the ‘Great Chain of Being.’ Human being and the serendipity of connection. I have always thought Boethius’s concept was an inspired early presentiment of the Internet…
I was talking to my ‘patient’, Rapunzel (of the trumpet serenade for the National Youth Orchestra). She also plays cello and piano although she is not a professional musician. When we Zoom I can see her piano as backcloth. Rapunzel tells me they are Beethoven Sonatas, number 15 to be precise.. Another consequence of Zoom is that I now not only (sometimes) see into unconscious minds but also into homes! I cannot believe the resilience Rapunzel, (my nickname) has shown being shut up in her Canary Wharf tower without physical human contact for over 5 weeks. I cannot believe her courage and inner resource. It’s true we didn’t have Birthday Letters, instead there were some exquisite birthday tears. It was her birthday on Friday. She is thirty three. (I write with her permission.) COVID is doing some extra-mural extraordinary things to extraordinary people.
My grand daughter Bell had been running up and down the stairs all afternoon hoping to catch me to show me a poster she had made for her school project about ‘Inventions’. After my call to Rapunzel she succeeded in getting my attention. We discussed her poster, then she said, ‘You must come downstairs Granny, I have been working very, very hard teaching Granddad a new song! It took him a long time to get it right.’
What was the song?’ it was the Magpie ditty, or nursery rhyme: One for sorrow. Last year, by coincidence Granddad had bought a CD by the haunting vocalists The Unthanks singing their version of the magpie rhyme. Yes a Great Chain of Being afternoon of co-incidence, indeed.
In 1846 this version appeared:
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.
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