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April 2009

Monday, 06 April 2009

How do you put on your socks?

Hi everyone,

Last week I was reading in a book that, when getting dressed, the majority of people put on their left sock first, and then their right sock. It was something I'd never thought about before, but the next morning, sure enough, I put on my left sock first!

That started me thinking about other strange habits and superstitions. For example, did you know that at Wimbledon, Bjorn Borg (who won Wimbledon 5 times) wouldn't shave from the first day of the tournament until the day he was knocked out? But he shaved during most other tournaments. Goran Ivanisevic did even stranger things in 2001 when he won Wimbledon: he had 10 different rituals he had to perform before every match - one of which was to watch the children's TV programme Teletubbies. Apparently his favourite character was Tinky Winky!

Tinky Winky

I wouldn't say I was very superstitious, but there are some things I do without fail. If I spill salt, I pick up a pinch and throw it over my left shoulder (in the eye of the devil). If I see a magpie - just one magpie - I say "Good morning (or afternoon) Mr Magpie. How and where is Mrs Magpie today?" This makes me look a bit mad if there are other people around! However, if I'm with friends, it's OK, because they all do it too. By the way, it's fine if you see two magpies together, because that is supposed to be lucky. There's a rhyme about magpies that goes:

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 time of joyous bliss

My Mum thinks it's very unlucky to put a pair of new shoes on the table and I have numerous friends who won't walk under a ladder (although that may just be being sensible, rather than superstitious.) Actually, the most superstitious person I know is my Auntie. If she sees a white horse, she has to lick her finger, mark a cross on her shoe and not look back at the horse! That has to be one of the strangest rituals ever: I wonder how it started?

Anyway back to my original question: how do you put on your socks? And do let me know about any strange habits or rituals that you have.

Take care


a habit: something you do all the time, usually without even thinking about it e.g. she has a really bad habit of biting her nails
without fail: to make sure you do something every time; without chance of failure

P.S. Have a go at our crossword about superstitions here

Friday, 17 April 2009

Socks, superstitions and traditions

Hi everyone,

Thank you all so much for the comments. I don't know about you, but I found it fascinating to learn about all the different superstitions from around the world. It got me thinking about what the difference is between a superstition, habit and tradition. I guess a superstition is something you do to bring good luck or ward off bad luck. A superstitious belief can be personal or held by many other people in your village, city or country. A habit is something you do because you've always done it that way. It's personal: something you do. The book I read (the one which said that most people put their left sock on first) meant this was a habit, rather than a superstition. Nothing bad will happen to you if you put on your right sock first (which is just as well, as most of you put on your right sock first, it seems!) Like Happyma, I put my left sock on first because it's easier to balance on my right leg than my left. I'm right handed: maybe that makes a difference!

I guess all superstitions and traditions have to start somewhere. We tend to think that superstitions are old. I'm not sure. I've been trying to think of superstitions that involve computers or cars, but I can't! Do you think there are any new superstitions?

Traditions, on the other hand, can start at any time. As we've just celebrated Easter, I thought I'd quickly tell you about a new tradition we have in our church. I'm a Methodist: that's a protestant denomination: it's a breakaway church from the main Church of England. Instead of having a vicar or a priest, we have a minister who leads our church. The minister can either be a man or a woman. Every 5 years or so, the minister moves to another church, so when a new minister arrives, they bring new ways of doing things. Our current minister has started several new traditions in our church: this is my favourite:

At Christmas we have a real Christmas tree (as opposed to an artificial tree). It's a big tree, as you can see!

It stands in our church from mid December to 6 January, when we take it down. The branches are then chopped off and the trunk is stored in the garden until Easter. Just before Good Friday, the trunk is cut in to two pieces and made in to a cross, which is then taken back into the church.

On Easter Sunday morning, during the service, some of the children come in with baskets of flowers. Everyone in the congregation is invited to come up, take one of the flowers and put it on the cross

The cross is transformed from a bare, dead tree in to something beautiful, symbolising that from death comes new life. It also shows a link between the birth of Jesus at Christmas and His death and resurrection at Easter.

Finally, after the service, the cross is carried outside

and put up facing the street, so that everyone going by can see it

Don't you think that's a lovely tradition?

Do you have any traditions? Maybe a family tradition that is unique to your family? Or maybe a tradition from your school?

Take care


DZungTran: What happens if you go back home, come out again and see another lady: do you have to go back home again?

Anita: Hmmmm. Not sure on your brother-in-law's logic ;-). I also believe that bad luck comes in threes! Thank you for your Easter wishes to us all.

Anita and Vladimir: isn't it interesting that you both have similar superstitions: Anita has to sit down if she comes back to the house and Vladmir has to look in the mirror.

Daria: Glad you liked the socks. As you can see, I've worn them so much, I have a problem. I've just washed them one more time and am now going to get the Rangers to turn them in to puppets!

Olya: Someone once gave me a horseshoe (made of glass) for the office and we had a long discussion about which way it should hang. He thought, like you, that the ends should be up to stop the luck running out. But someone else said should point downwards so that the Devil couldn't sit in it! Oh dear.

ward off: to protect against
congregation: the group of people who attend a church service

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

A great adventure

Hello everyone, how are you? My name’s Callum and I’ve been working for BBC English and BBC Learning English for over 10 years, but this my first blog.

Life is full of adventures and I want to tell you about my latest adventure. The greatest adventure I’ve ever embarked on. The adventure of parenthood.

Just over 5 weeks ago I had my first child. Well, I didn’t have him, my wife did – but you know what I mean.

11 minutes

At 3.40 on a Thursday morning James arrived into this world peacefully and quietly. I was expecting there to be lots of screaming and crying, but he was very calm.

The emotions of those moments after his birth were overwhelming. Physical and mental exhaustion, elation, relief and a tidal wave of unconditional love. He was so tiny and cute and helpless and he was ours, we had made him.

You realise at that moment life has changed forever; nothing will ever be the same. All your priorities have shifted because now this little baby is the most important thing in the world and everything you do from that point forward is for him.

Being weighed

As we’re discovering it’s not easy being the parent of a newborn. There are so many things you have to learn really quickly, like how to hold him, how to feed him, how to change him, how to clean baby poo from the carpet, how to get him to sleep and most importantly – how to stop him from screaming and crying!

With dad

There is so much advice out there and so much help available that it’s actually confusing. A lot of the advice is contradictory. So we’re trying to find our own way mostly and find our own routine. It’s still very early days but we think we are getting there. However, if you have any really good tips on how to get a baby to sleep I’d be interested to hear them!


Now he’s five weeks' old and getting bigger every day. He loves his food. He’s beginning to react more to his surroundings – following things with his eyes, for example. He seems to learn new things every day, as do I.

The next days, months and years will be a real adventure. I’m sure it’ll be a roller-coaster ride. I’m looking forward to his first real smile (he does smile now, but it’s more than likely just wind at his age!) his first words, his first steps etc etc.

But I have to be patient, these things will come soon enough, until then there’s a lot of feeding, cleaning, changing and cuddling to do!

Some vocabulary from this blog:

embarked on

so strong that they couldn't be controlled

great happiness

a tidal wave of unconditional love
a very powerful feeling of natural love

your priorities have shifted
the things you thought were important are not the same

saying the opposite

a roller-coaster ride
an experience with many emotional high and low points

April 2009

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