Admiral Birthday

One of the great cricket spectacles has caused me angst. The late cricket umpire, David Shepherd, would raise one leg whenever a batting team or individual player was on the score 111 or multiples thereof. He performed this ritual as he considered it bad luck to be stuck on a “Nelson”. The Nelson 111 pertains to Lord Nelson who lost an eye, an arm and a leg. However, Horatio Nelson had both legs intact. Seemingly Chinese whispers had invented the legless myth.

When I heard of Mr. Shepherd’s superstition (and saw it a few times) I started to believe that the “Nelson” was an indication of doom. The only way I come across Nelsons is when I read a book. Therefore I never bookmark on pages 111, 222,333 etc: (for the record, I also never stand with one foot raised while on these pages). Going the full Nelson I also refuse to stop reading on pages 11, 22, 33 and so on and so forth. Even if a chapter ends on say, page 155, I will read one more page.

Previously I had only looked on the pages 67, 167, 267 …as bad omens and hastily scan these abominations. Nineteen sixty seven was, of course, the year of the fluke. I have never ever read a book of 2,000 or so pages length and I dare say if I did, the page 1,967 would be ripped from the spine, quartered and burned. My moral outrage would bring about a new bonfire of the vanities.

These days I try and steer clear of any new numbered portents as I’m running out of good karma pages and will soon have to read a book all the way through. Worsening my odds of stopping on a positive page, an esteemed colleague remarked that, you should never stop reading a book on an even numbered page. His reasoning is that even numbered pages are on the left side and the left hand is connected with the Devil. Soon I will be selling all my book markers on E-Bay.

My paranoia is getting worse as the countdown ticks closer to doomsday. I am referring to the book of life. This November will be a “Nelson” birthday for me, my first since finding out about the David Shepherd rite. A whole year of gloom is forecast. Luckily, the year 2011 of our Lord is not a leap year so there’s not an extra day to worry about.

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2 Comments on “Admiral Birthday”

  1. JM Says:

    Well, I’ve always seen maths as a mere language, JW. A very precise language. Mathematicians have the gift of being wrong about everything ; but they are exactly wrong.

    There are fixes for that hang-up about page numbers, you know. One way is to practise mentally multiplying each page number by the square root of two.

  2. theroyalist Says:

    Square roots? I’m still struggling to cope with long division.

    As we are talking about statistics, my favourite cricket statistic concerns the great W.G Grace. In a match played in 1898 W.G had made 93 and then promptly declared denying himself the chance to make a century. W.G’s rationale for this strange decision to remain 93 not out was that the history books will now credit him with obtaining every number from 0 to 100 in first-class cricket. W.G didn’t have any unlucky numbers.

    Meanwhile, to ward off bad luck, I have to read a book from cover to cover. Skimming is a lot of fun.


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