The Everyday Lore Project

21 February 2020 – Treading On The Cracks

21 February 2020 – Treading On The Cracks

Today I have been trying not to tread on the cracks in the pavement. When I was little, we used to say – tread on a square marry a bear, tread on a line marry a swine. It was generally accepted in my social circle that bear was a better catch than swine, so much thought was put into where we would place our feet. Our tiny feet. Not our giant Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything sized feet. And just when I thought being an adult couldn’t get any worse.

I thought I would start my sidewalk sashay on a trip to the supermarket. All was going well until I found myself standing outside the shop with a craze of stone parquet between me and the entrance. Inside was even worse. Inside, the square lino meant my feet would only fit on the diagonal. So I abandoned my challenge until my next foray out.

At some point this year I will actually think ahead before starting an experiment. My next journey was a 30 minute walk to work for which I’d only given myself 25 minutes to complete. I got to the end of my path okay and to the end of my road is a scabby mess of tarmac so that was okay too. And then it got a bit complicated. 

For reasons of aesthetics the next road I turned onto had tiny cobble like slabs that only a three year old could have navigated successfully, so I started walking on the curb which was only just wider than my boot. And even without vertigo, my balance is not the best so I wobbled along the side of the pavement, head down, oncoming traffic in my peripheral vision until I was able to cross (avoiding the actual cobbled traffic calmer). 

The next road didn’t look too difficult, a mixture of tarmac and slabbage. Except the slabs were just the wrong size for my natural gait, so I either had to trip along, mountain goat style, or stride two slabs at a time like Joyce Grenfell leading a Girl Guide pack. I went Joyce. And when I couldn’t go Joyce, I went road (avoiding the double yellows. And the cars). 

Sometimes both tiptoeing and skipping became necessary navigatory tools, like for instance when the tree roots had burst the tarmac leaving tiny fissures streaming over the humps. However, on the smooth bits of tarmac, I positively sped to make up for lost time. But mostly I kept being frustrated by the lack of continuity. A broken slab here, a bit of bitumen there, a manhole cover, curbs, trees, other people walking even more slowly than I was, so I could never quite get into a proper rhythm. But despite all of this, I was holding my own until I came to the bridge with the stripy safety grips on the stairs. And with a heavy heart I trod all over those lines as I went up and over. After work, I took the bus home. 

When I was a teenager I always used to look down when I was walking, probably something to do with me thinking it was super cool to walk the streets of Brighton with no shoes on (Narrator: It was not). That and being too shy to look anyone in the eye. The walk today reminded me just how much I now like to look up, look at the architecture around me, what’s hiding on a person’s roof, or slung about a branch, how much I miss when I’m staring at the ground. I was also quite surprised that what is usually an easy, straightforward walk became unfamiliar, fraught with pitfalls and dangers. Well at least to my fevered imagination anyway.

But, then they do say that cracks are liminal spaces, places to watch out for in case you fall through. And with The Ladies’ Oracle prediction still ringing in my ears, maybe I should be thinking a little more carefully about where I step…

Now, on closer inspection there seems to be a few variations to my childhood pavement rhyme. So, were you like me, and worried about interspecies marriage? Or did you live in fear of crippling your parents? Or maybe you preferred to bait the Devil? Let me know in this handy poll below, and if you used to say something else entirely, let me know in the comments.


Header picture – Midnight Granite Crazy Paving Flagstones, from Granite Tiles Melbourne.

Waksler, F.C. (ed) (2003) Studying The Social Worlds Of Children: Sociological Readings, London, The Falmer Press

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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