Today is bad for your health according to a report published in the British Medical Journal.
Researchers collated information about the volume of motor accidents on two different days over a number of years – the dates were Friday the 6th and Friday the 13th.
They report that while fewer people chose to drive their cars on Friday the 13th, the number of hospital admissions due to vehicle accidents was significantly higher than on normal Fridays.
“Friday 13th is unlucky for some,” they conclude. “The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52%. Staying at home is recommended.”
This particular coincidence of day and date has caused consternation among the superstitious ever since Eve tempted Adam with an apple in the Garden of Eden. Legend suggests this happened on Friday 13th.
“Go on, Adam. It’s a Friday night. Start of the weekend. Be a devil.”
And he was and we were kicked out of paradise and have all had to endure bad weather, hard work, low wages and high taxes ever since.
In America, some cities prefer not to have a 13th street, tall buildings miss out a 13th floor going straight from 12 to 14 and people with 13 letters in their name are said to have the devil’s luck: Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy, Albert De Salvo (better known as the Boston Strangler) and Osama bin Laden are among them. My name adds up to 15 so I’m OK, but to show how daft this superstition is, other names that add up to 13 include Pope John Paul I, Mahatma Ghandi, Mary Magdalene and Georgio Armani.
Another story was that if 13 people sat down to dinner at the same time one would die within a year.
Mark Twain was warned by a friend against attending one such event as the 13th guest.
“It was bad luck,” Twain later confirmed. “They only had food for 12.”
In Paris, a city of gastronomes, they take no such risk. If only 13 turn up for dinner they avoid bad luck by hiring a professional 14th guest known as a quatorzieme.
The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina suggests millions of dollars are lost each Friday 13th because of people who avoid doing business, travelling or flying on that day. But that’s America and here in Britain we have more commonsense.
Which is why I shall be spending most of the day in bed with a good book until it’s time to walk to the pub.
Tombstone humour always makes me smile. The epitaph of former cowboy Russell J Larsen, carved on his headstone in Logan Cemetery, Utah, that was sent in by reader Rodney Liversidge gave me a chuckle.
Five rules to follow for a happy life, it said:
“It’s important to have a woman who helps at home, cooks, cleans up and has a job. It’s important to have a woman who can make you laugh. It’s important to have a woman who you can trust. It’s important to have a woman who is good in bed. It’s very, very important that these four women do not know each other or you could end up dead like me.”
It led me to look at other epitaphs that have found an unexpected new lease of life on the internet. Such as: “Here lies an Atheist, all dressed up and no place to go.” Or: “Here lies Ezekial Aikle. Age 102. The Good Die Young.” Then there is: “Here lies Ann Mann, Who lived an old maid, But died an old Mann.”
Johnny Yeast was a gentleman with a sense humour. His gravestone in New Mexico says: “Pardon me for not rising.” A headstone in Boot Hill, Tombstone, tells a story: “Here lies Lester Moore, four slugs from a 44. No Les, no more.” As does that for Owen Moore in Battersea: “Gone away – Owin’ more than he could pay.”
The most often quoted of the lot is probably: “Here lies Henry Blake. He stepped on the gas instead of the brake.”
Which is the sort of quote that sounds made up rather than an inscription that has actually been carved in stone. I suspect many of them are. The first one I started with, for instance, is fictitious.
There really is a Russell J Larsen buried in Logan Cemetery, Utah.
He lived from 1921 to 1983 and served in the US Navy during the Second World War. Carved on his real headstone is a short poem written by Gary McMahan (inset) known as The Singing Cowboy. It reads: “Two things I love most, good horses and beautiful women. And when I die I hope they tan this old hide of mine and make it into a ladies riding saddle so I can rest in peace between the two things I love most.”
Another one to make me smile – but this one is a least real.
Have you got your central heating on yet?
We switched ours on to make sure it was still working and now Maria will not let me switch it off.
Summer is definitely over and winter is gearing up just the other side of September. The days will get colder and shorter, rain and clouds will make it miserable and I long ago gave up enjoying snow and ice. Particularly when you dig out your drive only for another prolonged fall of snow to cover it again.
Even if the weather does perk up for a few days, our heating is on for the duration. My wife has already commandeered the radiators and draped them with washing. Much more convenient than risking it on the line in the garden.