Three is the Magic Number


Fridge needs a new thermostat,  washing machine springs a leak, and you find yourself warily eyeing the other kitchen appliances wondering what next. These are not recent occurrences in my life but I’m sure you’ll identify with the concept of things, good or bad,  happening in threes.

The reason we buy into this belief is ‘the rule of three’ phenomenon.  It is common in both the literary (Three musketeers, Three little pigs, Goldilocks and the three bears) and spiritual worlds (mind, body and spirit or Father, son and Holy Ghost) and in rhetorical devices used by writers as a way of engaging readers (Friends, Romans, Countrymen …).  So strong is the power invested in the number three that it is often used as a persuasion technique in advertising (remember the Mars bar slogan: ‘helps you work, rest and play’), and in speeches; who could forget Tony Blair’s “Education, education, education” pledge?

The number three has figured rather nicely for me recently. In the past few days, I have celebrated three pieces of good news:

1. Proud mum moment: Last year my son decided to return to university to complete the final year of his degree, abandoned sixteen years ago. With a full time job and his two youngest children just fifteen months old and newborn (actually born the same week as his course started) he began his studies. I’ll be honest here, I thought the timing could have been better (understatement)! Working late into the evenings, crying babies through the night and 7.30am starts at work and assignments submitted with only hours to spare took its toll; although he mostly denied it, I could see that he was pretty stressed out. But he did it and a few days ago his determination and hard work was rewarded when he heard that he had gained a very respectable  2:1 . We’re now looking forward to his graduation in September .

2. Sigh of relief moment: I  received the all-clear following a biopsy on two breast lumps.

3. YES! moment: I have a new job. Thanks to the changes in pension age, I now have to wait until I am 66 before drawing my state pension so this meant that after completing my degree last year I needed to return to work. There’s not a great deal of choice for a sixty year old woman who has been out of the workplace for several years and is seeking part time hours over three days. In fact, at the time, I could find nothing so had to compromise my ideal and take what was on offer – a mixture of afternoons and all day Saturday as a supervisor in a shoe shop. One of the largest independent shoe shops in the UK, it has around fifty, mostly part time, staff. Yes, it’s a big one! And it’s busy. I have spent my days going up and down the 42 stairs over and over and it’s played havoc with my knees and ankles. BUT, on 1st August I will be going back into a HR role for three (that number again!) ‘long’ mornings on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Three is the magic number (Blind Melon)

“Three is a magic number
It is, it’s a magic number
Somewhere in that ancient mystic trinity
You’ll get three
As a magic number
The past, the present, the future,
Faith, and hope, and charity,
It’s a magic number”

Real books


It was Christmas 2013: ‘Never, ever,’ I said when asked if I would like a Kindle. ‘Absolutely not,’ I replied when again offered one, this time as a birthday present. It simply wasn’t going to happen despite the fact that my insatiable appetite for the written word means that, on even the shortest holiday, I cannot relax unless I know I have ample reading material readily available. I like books. I like the feel of books, the smell of books, books which are cherished, books that I can share with my grandchildren, books that may be inscribed and given as gifts … real books.

Strictly speaking, I still don’t have a Kindle, but the following year , I reluctantly downloaded the Kindle App onto my ipad, and the reason for this unenthusiastic volte-face? Stena Line Ferries.  Anyone who knows me well is aware that I detest flying. Unfortunately, my personal preference for boats over aeroplanes, held little sway when Stena decided, in 2015, to end the 180 year old passenger service to Dun Laoghaire which I used to visit my family. Notwithstanding the admittedly much reduced travel time, the only positive aspect, so far as I was concerned, is that a return flight costs barely more than half the ferry cost; that is, so long as you opt for hand luggage only … and therein lay the problem. Whilst I perfected the art of packing clothes, hair styling paraphernalia and the various cosmetic enhancers necessary for me to face the day, into the tiniest of suitcases, I failed miserably in working out a way to carry several books without exceeding the weight limit. Aer Lingus don’t even allow a handbag as an extra so no leeway there. Ryanair, in case you’re wondering, are a little more reasonable in this respect since they allow a small handbag, but with the best will in the world, the space in a small handbag is … well…small.

E-books are the answer, of course, but I am saddened by the way in which digital print media has had such a profound effect on the publishing industry. In 2012 almost one hundred publishers and seventy independent bookshops ceased trading. Already challenged by discount stores and internet sales of printed books, their problems were exacerbated by high sales of e-books which, of course, benefit from vastly lower production costs. Apparently, in 2014 only three hardback adult fiction books sold more than 100,000 copies.

But all may not be lost. Commercial digital media companies are driven by the need to satisfy shareholders who demand a good return. This means that independent publishers are still needed for niche books which don’t have mass appeal. To add strength to this admittedly tenuous lifeline, we can hope that the e-book phenomenon might replicate what happened in the 1980s when the advent of the compact disc decimated the vinyl music market. A generation later, in 2013, sales of vinyl records were at their highest for fifteen years and last year, it was reported that Tesco have started selling vinyl. The real book is not yet dead.

There was some talk of another company running ferries on this crossing but I have no idea whether this ever happened. I have since resigned myself to air travel on grounds of cost.

Chill-out time


We’ve been to Telford today. Possessor of the dubious title of ‘fastest growing town in the UK’ it’s not the prettiest town centre but it’s not bad for shopping and has a large and very attractive town park. It is also set amid some of the loveliest countryside in the Midlands. Foregoing the quickest route (motorways), we enjoyed a leisurely drive through several pretty Worcestershire and Shropshire villages.

After a delicious early lunch provided by my daughter who lives not far from Telford, we drove into the town where I stocked up on some Bare Minerals items I needed (said daughter keeps me well stocked with Debenhams vouchers for Christmas, Birthdays etc. for this very purpose), and bought a few tasty treats in the M&S food hall for later. The rest of the afternoon was spent in her lovely old cottage lazily doing not very much.

I have a few days off work. Nine to be precise. Whoopee! We have outings planned and I shall be enjoying lots of chill-out time with plenty of reading material to hand:
*Power Lines -an quarterly industry publication for staff, to keep me linked to my past career
*Saga Magazine – we have a monthly subscription
*Healthy – purchased today in Holland & Barrett
*The Lady -several back copies picked up at the ladies gym where I am a member (we have a bookshelf where members donate items for which others make a voluntary donation to raise funds for the local hospice – around £6,000 to date.
*Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriaty – also picked up at the gym
*Two e-books – Confinement and The Woman in the Picture by Katharine McMahon (author of several excellent novels including The Rose of Sebastol and The Crimson Rooms).

And, of course, the daily and Sunday newspapers.