Iíd spent the previous two weeks shouting abuse at singular Magpies. Not because I had a vendetta against the birds
in general, but a very superstitious friend told me of his ritual: whenever he saw a Magpie he had to salute and
proclaim "Hello Mr. Magpie. Howís Mrs. Magpie?" Spitting behind your shoulder at this point was a matter of debate
but it was decided it was optional. As a keen cyclist, he also had the extra problems of remaining in control of his
bike whilst simultaneously spitting, saluting and addressing a singular bird. If he didn't, it would be immense bad luck.
I thought this was utter rubbish and told him so. I also took it upon myself to tell lots of Magpies exactly what they
could do; and what they could do to Mrs. Magpie as well. The offensive gesture was optional. Luck was what you made;
it wasnít in the control of a black-and-white bird which just happened to cross your view.
The superstitious would've said I'd built up an apocalyptic amount of bad luck by the time of my next trip to
Pyestock. Not that I was resting on my laurels on our way there; Tom was surprised when I broke
off mid-sentence to wave two fingers at a bird and shout expletives at it.
Initially, it did not go well. First there was the small matter of Tomís punctuality. The Cambridge
Beer Festival wound up the previous night and I expected him to be slightly late, but when he eventually
roared up the drive two hours late then it basically knocked all our plans off-kilter. Secondly, Iíd watched
the sky go blacker and darker and was worried about the light; so leaving at one o'clock didnít help.
Thirdly was the old perennial vehicular nightmare of the M25, which was wearingly predicatively clogged up. Luckily
I spied the problem from the flyover and decided to make an impromptu break into North West London, leading Tom to
the mercy of my crumpled and five-year-out-of-date A-Z, which got us resolutely lost somewhere in Watford. After forty
minutes of wrong turns and dead ends we eventually rejoined the M25 to find it congested but slow moving. How many
of these problems were due to my flippant nature with a few Magpies was yet to be ascertained.