Adventures of a Writing Life

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The cure for sixes and sevens

The cure for sixes and sevens

Last Tuesday was publication day in the U.S. for The Game of Hope. I told my husband that I’d been walking in circles all day. “I’m at sixes and sevens.”

He’d never heard the expression. I explained that it meant feeling out of sorts, disordered and in confusion.

In search of the origin of the expression “being at sixes and sevens”

Where had the expression come from? Certainly it makes no sense. There is nothing I like better than digging into history to find the origin of a curious expression, especially on a publication day when I am, in fact, at sixes and sevens.

And so, from Wikipedia:

An ancient dispute between the Merchant Taylors and Skinners livery companies is the probable origin of the phrase.The two trade associations, both founded in the same year (1327), argued over sixth place in the order of precedence. In 1484, after more than a century and a half of bickering, the Lord Mayor of London Sir Robert Billesden ruled that at the feast of Corpus Christi, the companies would swap between sixth and seventh place and feast in each other’s halls.

The two guilds, the taylors and the skinners, have continued to swap the sixth and seventh place to this day, resulting in seven centuries of confusion. Impressive.

Unlucky 13?

Another theory is that 6 + 7 = unlucky 13, but this seems a little simplistic to me.

Gambling away your life’s fortune?

A third explanation is that the expression originated in a 14th century game of dice: when betting on six and seven risked your losing entire fortune.

From Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, 1374 — “Lat nat this wrechched wo thyn herte gnawe, But manly set the world on sexe and seuene.”

Given all this, my favoured explanation remains the ever-quarreling taylor and skinner guilds.There is nothing quite like a muddle that endures for centuries.


Part of the confusion about publication day for writers is that it is usually a quiet day, with little happening (especially if you live out of the country where your book is being published). There’s often quite a bit of commotion and stress leading up to that one day, and then bam! Nothing.

I am part of a wonderful fiction-writers’ collective; we support each other, consult about titles, covers, and various woes, but mainly we help broadcast news about member publications. As these posts started appearing on Social Media, I felt heartened: something was happening! I especially liked this post:

“Sandra hits the sweet spot, a book for young adults that adults of all ages can’t put down. And it’s fascinating.” — Martin Fletcher, author of The List, Jacob’s Oath, and a soon-to-be blockbuster Promised Land.

The Game of Hope in the Wild

I also was greatly cheered receiving this photo taken in the US by Karen Salvatore, Evidence!


And now?

An ATM machine in New York city.

An ATM machine in New York city.

Half a week later, my husband and I are in New York/Brooklyn with our son, Chet, and his girlfriend, Kendra (daughter of Karen mentioned above).

We’ve been eating fabulous food, drinking fabulous drinks and having a merry time. On Monday I will lunch with my PenguinRandomHouse publicist, Jennifer Dee, and then go to Books of Wonder to sign some books

Some New York highlights, so far:

Dinner at Le Cou Cou. Delicious!!!

We followed this memorable meal with cocktails at Attaboy, considered one of the best cocktail bars in the world. (Check out this article in the New Yorker.) You wouldn’t guess its popularity from its secretive locked door.

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Inside was a small (very small!) dark bar with a lovely vibe. One tells the bar-tender — I would say drink creationist — the mood or flavour of the drink you have in mind, and are then surprised by an entirely original result. The cocktail I had was amazing!

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Follow this up the next day with a leisurely and supremely tasty brunch at Dumbo House (our son’s club), followed by a three and a half hour nap (!), followed by yet another delicious meal at Metta in Fort Green, Brooklyn, and I have to conclude that a foodie holiday in New York and Brooklyn is a perfect cure for being sixes and sevens.

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