Irrational Encounters With The Modern World


Crossing Pedestrians At Pedestrian Crossings.

It is fortunate that the UK does not have the same legislation as the US when it comes to the “crime” of jaywalking.

In Glasgow especially, traffic lights are provided more as a decoration, or as a suggestion, rather than as a mandatory crossing point. Crowds of people will cross the main city centre roads, regardless of traffic volume or colour of light. It is made very easy to position yourself in such a way that you have people to either side of you.

This is a useful tactic, independently recognised and adopted by some of my friends, that ensures if a car does plough into the swathe of pedestrians at least someone else will take the brunt of the impact.

Although I still have, somewhere, in some forgotten box, the badge signifying my membership of The Tufty Club, it seems this was not covered in the road safety advice doled out to schoolchildren in the early eighties:


It is such a common occurrence, and sight, to see people crossing using their own judgement that if it were to be made illegal they would be as well to just wall Glasgow in – given the size of a prison that would be required.

Any time I am with friends who shy away from crossing at undesignated points, or with traffic approaching, I tell them “they’re not allowed to knock you down.” This stems from something I was told once.

I was at a crossroads in the north of the city – where Cambridge Street meets Renfrew Street – and was, using my judgement and then-firm knowledge of the sequence of light changes (I studied in the area), awaiting the green man.

Over the street, a jakey (a young local with a taste for tracksuits and – gauging from his demeanour – tonic wine, cheap cider, and narcotics) began crossing towards me.

A bus turned the corner, narrowly missing him as he refused to let it impede his progress. As it passed he looked at me and confidently told me, with a swagger and in that infamous nasal whine adopted by those of his ilk, “They’re no’ allowed tae knock ye doon, mate. They’re no’ allowed tae knock ye doon.”

I admired his faith. I wouldn’t trust Glasgow’s bus drivers to not knock me down.

As one of my friends later said, when I related the story, in his head the law beats physics.

That was at least six years ago now. To this day, if anyone questions my judgement in darting across streets or in walking halfway across roads and waiting for further traffic to pass before completing my journey, and it has happened twice in the past fortnight, I tell them the same thing: they’re no’ allowed tae knock ye doon.

Strange how a chance encounter can leave such an impression.



What’s In A Number?

I’m writing this because I don’t like the number thirteen. I’m not scared of it, or by it, I just don’t like it – it is an ugly number.

This is pretty irrational – how can a number be ugly, or aesthetically pleasing? I don’t know, but I do know that I like numbers that are multiples of 5. I can’t have the TV or the stereo volume set to an odd number, with the exception of eleven – the level at which the stereo gets set at night when it is too late for twelve (or higher) but too early for the winding-down levels of eight or nine. Eleven and nine are the only acceptable odd numbers for the stereo volume to sit at, and only late at night or early in the morning when I don’t want to disturb my neighbours. I wish they showed me the same consideration.

Anyway, my point in writing this is, I can’t have the number of blogs posted sitting at thirteen – so this will be the fourteenth.

When I studied Psychology, for one year as part of a degree I later dropped out of, we discussed phobias. Our lecturer was a funny guy, who would anthropomorphise animals when telling us of practical experiments and tests, and he made the classes hugely entertaining by telling us, for example, how you can make pigeons superstitious. To listen to him, his style was comparable to Eddie Izzard’s, so his classes were informative, interesting, and often hilarious.

This particular day, we were all encouraged to shout out things people might be scared of, which he then listed on an overhead projector. Someone said spiders, so he drew a crude one, then a thread coming from it leading up and off the sheet of acetate. He positioned the sheet in such a way that, when he pulled it towards him on the projector, it looked like the spider was animated and descending from the top of the screen. Simple, but quite funny. “Vertigo,” someone else shouted, and he asked if they were okay sitting at the top of the lecture hall, or if they wanted to come down the front to a seat at floor level.

In amongst the list of other fears, the number thirteen inevitably cropped up. He started to write this down, but in a deliberate gesture he stopped, rubbed it out, and wrote instead “12 + 1” – just in case anyone was scared of seeing it written down.

The really stupid thing though, given that I don’t like the number thirteen, is that it was the street number of the house I grew up in. I lived at number thirteen for twenty-three years, and I still have family living there.

Like I said, irrational.