Not being of a superstitious nature, I've always persuaded myself that Friday the 13ths were good days - and so it was for me this Friday - the 13th of November. Or it was, until I woke up the next day and the bloke told me what had hit Paris the night before.
Having read the news, I turned to facebook for some light relief and noticed that profile picture after profile picture were now stained with an overlay of the French flag, or displaying a simple graphic incorporating the Eiffel Tower into a peace symbol - all to show sympathy, empathy with our nearest neighbour - France.
I caught up with the news reports of the suicide bombing in Beirut much later and my response was "oh no, not again". For such a beautiful city, being re-built after decades of war - I felt a deep and genuine sadness for its people.
There has since been an outcry - what is being referred to as "flag shaming" - about the disparity in the public reaction to what happened in Paris and in Beirut. There are suggestions it is because France is first world and the Lebanon is not. These same suggestions were made at the time of the Charlie Hebdo attack, but I believe what is being missed here is the simple fact that so very many people around the world know and love Paris.
As just one example, I have wonderful memories of visits there. Visits of celebrations - my 40th, my daughter's 18th, my mother's 60th - all celebrated in Paris - and I am not a francophile.
For those of us in London, it's a short train ride on the Eurostar right into the heart of Paris. We genuinely are neighbours. So the shock is great, it feels close to home - closer, certainly, than Beirut.
I am sad never to have visited Beirut. My Uncle was based there before the war and his family photographs show an elegant and lively city. I imagine his response to these two events will be very different to mine - his emotions will be more with Beirut. But mine are with the city I know and love - and I believe others are too. After all, it is simply human nature for the heart to feel most where it is already engaged.
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