Little Miss Magpie


A friend of mine once told me that when it comes to people, she thought of me as something of a magpie. By that, she meant that I collect people – characters to be precise. Now, before you go getting it into your heads that I am some kind of narcissist who constantly needs people around me, or craves attention, let me attempt to qualify what she meant by her statement.

Last year, I wrote a piece entitled “Doctor Who and the Epitome of Exaggeration“. It concerned the fact that, as a writer, I am prone to jot down interesting snippets of overheard conversations. These can often be as gold dust to a writer. The other thing that I am prone to do, is people watch. I can sit for hours in a cafe or train station, or outside on a terrace, just watching the world go by and making mental notes of the curious characters that make up the every day. This is what my friend meant in calling me a magpie. I collect conversations and characters with which to adorn my work.

And yet, I felt compelled to correct her. For you see, a magpie generally collects shiny things, glittering objects that glint and reflect the light around them. I don’t just collect those shiny characters, however. To me, there is a great fascination in the darker, dirtier, more unseemly side of life.

Take, if you will, the example from today. Whilst shopping in my local supermarket, I stopped my the meat counter. I was thinking of making chilli meatballs for dinner tonight, and I noticed that the minced beef that they had looked particularly appealing. Behind the counter stood two men, both engaged in conversation. One of them quite clearly had a cold, and kept blowing his nose on a handkerchief as he talked. Seeing that I was standing by the counter, the guy with the cold looked up, smiled and asked if he could help me. I smiled back and said that I would like a kilo of the minced beef, please. Without missing a beat, he put his handkerchief down onto the meat counter, before proceeding to grab a handful of the minced beef with his ungloved, unwashed hand! I stopped him before he could go any further, and asked him if he thought that what he had just done was either (a) hygienic and (b) appropriate. The look on his face couldn’t have been more befuddled than if I had happened to have grown two heads! No matter how many times I explained to him why what he had done was wrong, he seemed totally incapable of grasping it. Eventually, the penny dropped for him, but rather than apologise, he simply responded with, “Oh, and I suppose you do everything perfectly in your kitchen?”

“Not necessarily,” I replied, “but I’m not inviting people in to come and pay for food.” I walked off to find the manager, who, I feel it is only fair to say, was most apologetic and agreed wholeheartedly that it should not have happened. He promised to go and speak to him about it right away.

I paid for my groceries and left the supermarket. A few minutes later, as I sat in my car in the car park, I jotted down what had happened, together with the words “Revolting butcher. Fat, greasy, unhygienic – sneezes on the food before he wraps it.” Another character was born.

And so it is with my life. Little Miss Magpie, collecting characters, keeping them safe until they are ready to come to life in some tale or other. The world is full of stories. I just need the time to write them!



I Didn’t Know We Had A Choice


I love quotes. I collect them like some people collect stamps, or butterflies, or rare antique coins. Quotes can be a great spark to get the fire of conversation going, and they are wonderful for after dinner speeches (not that I have ever given an after dinner speech, but if I did, I would definitely include a quote or two).

My favourite source of quotes is Oscar Wilde. I delight in his fascinating mental celerity and humorous charm, and some of his witticisms are rather apt for our modern day. Take a look at the America’s Trump administration and it is difficult not to think of Wilde’s observation that “I think that God, in creating Man, somewhat overestimated his abilities.” Wilde even had a quote that is applicable to the subject of this post – “Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.”

Recently, however, I came across several quotes from Winston Churchill. If ever there was a man who was a master of insults and witty comebacks, it was Winston Churchill. Take, for example, his reply when he was disturbed whilst on the toilet in the House of Commons. A messenger had been dispatched to inform him that the Lord Privy Seal wished to see him, to which Churchill replied, “Tell the Privy Seal that I am sealed in the privy and I can only deal with one shit at a time.” Yet even this remarkable retort pales in the witty glow of Churchill’s interaction with Lady Nancy Astor. The pair often came to blows, and at a dinner party at Nancy Astor’s home, a frustrated Nancy declared, “Sir, if you were my husband, I’d put rat poison in your coffee!” to which Churchill, without missing a beat, retorted, “Madam, if I were your husband, I’d drink it!” 

My most favourite Churchill quote so far though has to this. While at a dinner reception in Canada, Churchill found himself seated next to a Methodist minister. At the end of the dinner, a waitress came around, bearing a tray of glasses filled with sherry. Churchill took one and then the tray was offered to the minister, who indignantly declared, “I would rather commit adultery than take an alcoholic drink!” As the waitress walked away, Churchill called to her, “Come back Miss, I didn’t realise we had a choice.” 


Transient Dawn


To me, this photo represents transience.

I had woken early one morning last summer. As is my habit, I had stepped outside to check the mail, and paused to breathe in the cool morning air, the kind that is slightly humid as the fallen dew evaporates under the warm fingers of sunlight. At that moment, a dragonfly alighted upon the aerial of my car. For a moment, I held my breath. There was something so ethereally beautiful about the scene in front of me. The hazy sunlight breaching the top of the roof, catching the gossamer, silver wings of the delicate dragonfly as it paused for a moment.

All too soon, this would be gone, never to be seen again. Never again would I see the sun in exactly this spot. Soon, the dragonfly would have completed its cycle of life, so perhaps never again would I see this beautiful creature, shimmering in a perfect point of light. I felt quite emotional as I reflected on what was before me; a depiction of the transience of life. For isn’t that what life is? A series of perfectly placed moments that will never come again?


Paper Dolls

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. It was hot and humid, the cooling fan wasn’t working, and the minute I opened the window, the entire cast of “A Bug’s Life” flew in for a reunion! By 02:30 a.m. I had all but given up, and so got out of bed and went to the living room. Not wanting to put on the main lights, I instead flicked on a small table lamp in the far corner, before going to the kitchen to get a cool drink. On my return, I was startled by how strange and eerie the living room appeared, lit by the single bulb of a small lamp. As I sat on the sofa, I started to think of something that Soul Gifts said to me in a comment on my short horror story Awake, in that things can appear so scarily different in the nighttime. In that moment, the line “Ethereal shadows playing tricks with the light” came into my mind, and from there, this following poem was born. 

Paper Dolls

Ethereal shadows playing tricks with the light,

Inanimate objects come to life in the still quiet of the night.

Scary is as scary does, are the thoughts that weave and wind,

In never ending circles in the recess of my mind.

The light fades ever further, and over in the corner,

A shadow moves – I’m sure it did – and a voice says “You should warn her”

“Warn me? Why?” I think out loud, as the rising ebony mass,

Unfolds itself from the shadows and preens in the looking-glass.

I hold my breath, my mouth goes dry; perhaps too scared to swallow,

And in my midnight fancy I hear a voice so deep and hollow.

“We are what we sow. What ye sow, so shall ye reap”

I turn my face to the pillow to hide the tears I silently weep.

The candle on the window-sill gutters; on the wall, shadows leap and dance

Like paper dolls in grotesque arabesques, as I pray for an end to this trance.

A breeze alights from the shutter, the candle flickers once more and then dies,

And I am plunged into darkness to await my fate, to come before the sunrise.

Seconds pass like minutes, the minutes tick by like hours,

I close my eyes and imagine a field filled with infinite flowers.

I pick one and inhale its perfume, as a voice says “The cockerel! He crows!”

And I open my eyes to the blessed sunrise, as the light through my window it flows.

The light emboldens my spirit; I raise myself from the bed,

To face the terrible ebony mass that had inflicted such fear and dread.

In spite of myself I cannot help but smile; a laugh takes the place of fright,

For there is naught to see but discarded clothes, and things that go bump in the night.


Stand Together!


Earlier today, I read a story about a teenage girl called Maddi Runkles. Maddi was a high school senior, a straight-A student, president of the student council and a member of the school soccer team. She was also pregnant. And at her school, that was taboo. So taboo in fact, that the school barred her from attending her graduation ceremony, because, heaven forfend that school dignitaries should see a pregnant teenager. Maddi’s friends and loved ones ended up giving her her own graduation ceremony in a local church, and although she didn’t get to wear her cap and gown, she was overwhelmed by the effort that those who loved her had put into the day.

As if I were being pulled back through time, I recalled a very similar incident when I was at school…though it ended rather differently.

I can recall the incident as if it were yesterday. Three school friends – Michelle, Donna and myself – gathered around our tearful friend, Zoe. We were all 16. We had finished our exams, gotten our results (we were all thrilled by them), and were looking forward to the exam ceremony when we would get our exam certificates presented to us by the mayor. (For my dear non-UK friends, I should point out that in the UK, we attend high school from the age of 11 up to the age of 16. We can then choose to either stay on until 18 or go to college, or simply leave and go into work). The only fly in the ointment as far as the school was concerned, was that Zoe was 6 months pregnant. This meant that there was no hiding the fact. All you had to do was look at her. She was pregnant alright.

That morning, Zoe had been called to see both the headmaster, Mr Hill, and deputy headmistress, Mrs Laverock. They were a puritanical pair, and I don’t mind admitting that I had my own run-ins with them from time to time, but that’s a whole other story. When Zoe emerged from the meeting, she stumbled into the school-yard in tears. Mr Hill and Mrs Laverock had both told her that there was no way she would be allowed to attend the exam ceremony. It would “be an abomination for the mayor to see you in that state” they told her. To add insult to injury, they had told her that she could come to the school on the day of the ceremony and pick up her certificate from the headmaster’s office. Their treatment of her just felt so unfair. Zoe was a perfect student.. She had never been in trouble, never put a foot wrong, never been given school detention, nothing. And yet she made one personal error of judgement and she was being treated as a pariah.

I’m not entirely sure where it comes from, but I have always had a deep-rooted sense of standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Perhaps it comes from the fact that my Dad was a union man, or maybe that I was surrounded by strong women who absolutely refused to be walked over. Wherever it came from, it came rushing to the surface that day. So while Michelle and Donna put their arms around Zoe to comfort her, the words “Well if you can’t go, I’m not going” thrust their way from my lips. Zoe, Michelle and Donna looked at me, Zoe blinking away the tears as she said “How will you get your certificate then?”

I’ll come to the office with you and pick up mine at the same time.” I can remember saying it so matter-of-fact, as if it were the most natural response in the world. I hasten to add that I hadn’t given a moment’s thought as to what my parents would say! There was a moment of silence between us, before Donna and Michelle said “Well if you two aren’t going, we’re not going!”

Almost simultaneously, Michelle, Donna and myself got the same idea. What if, just what if, we could get more students in our year to join us? What if we could get them all to join us? Or even just most of them?

The high school grapevine is, by far, the most alacritous way of passing information. There is no quicker method known to man. Honestly, a lie can half way around the school before the truth has a chance to get its pants on! So, for the rest of the day, the three of us made it our goal to tell as many people as possible that as many people as we could think of weren’t attending the exam ceremony. Little white lies were told, sure. For example, we told several people that their best friends had said they weren’t going before we’d even spoken to them, and then told their best friends the same thing. By the end of the day, more than half of our student year had joined us, and, as we arrived at school the next morning, we were relieved to hear that practically the entire student year was on side. When we assembled in the yard at break time, we were missing just seven students. All that was left to do now was to go and tell the headmaster the good news.

Even now as I write this, I can see his face as he opened his office door and saw practically the entire final student year assembled in the corridor outside. “Mr Hill” I said, as confidently as I could, “we, that is, all of us, would like to put you on notice that if you do not allow Zoe (surname) to attend the exam ceremony, we, that is, all of us, won’t be attending either.”

For a moment, the blood drained from his face, before he finally regained his composure and told us all we were acting very foolishly. He then asked us whether we were all in agreement, and we all nodded. Perhaps emboldened by the seeming power shift, Michelle – who was standing next to me – said “What’s more embarrassing, sir…a pregnant Zoe or an empty school hall?”

I don’t actually remember his response to that, but I do recall that two days later, our student year was called into the school hall to be told that after taking advice from the school governors, Mr Hill and Mrs Laverock had decided that Zoe could attend the exam ceremony. We quietly and respectfully said, “Thank you, sir. Thank you, miss” although I know that I for one was tempted to shout, “Yes! In your face!”

Later that month, we all attended the exam ceremony and received our certificates from the mayor, who, didn’t even bat an eyelid when he saw Zoe.

I guess that was one of my first important life lessons, and one that I have carried with me ever since. You can intimidate one person, but they all stick together, you can’t intimidate everyone.


Awake – (A Short Horror Story)

James was always a late sleeper. More often than not, his mother would put him to bed around 8 o’clock, and then, for the next few hours until she came to bed, he would lie awake, creating strange and fantastical stories in his head and occasionally whispering with his imaginary friend. Of course, whenever he heard his mother coming up the stairs to check on him, he would invariably pretend to be asleep. His door would open just a crack and his mother, silhouetted against the light of the landing, would peek her head around the door, see that he was asleep and then quietly close the door again as she left. James knew all this because whenever his mother would peek around the door, he would open one eye, just a fraction, so that he could see her. Until now, she had never guessed that he wasn’t asleep.

Then, one night, everything changed.

The night began as usual. James had finished watching his programs on TV and his mother, in her usual singsong voice had said “Come on little man, time for bed.” James yawned and stretched and then held up his arms so she would pick him up. She groaned as she hauled him onto her hip. “You’re going to be too big for this soon.” she said. Once upstairs, she tucked him snugly into bed and then turned to leave. “Straight to sleep now, James” she said.

Yes Mum” he replied, blowing her a kiss as she closed the door.

For a few hours, James lay in bed, dreaming about monsters and faraway lands and whispering to his imaginary friend about why his mother hadn’t peeked in to check on him yet.

Suddenly, he heard footsteps outside his door. Quickly, James closed his eyes just enough so that it would appear that he was asleep. Immediately, his bedroom door swung open. James stifled a gasp as he saw a large man framed in the door, holding the lifeless body of his mother in his arms. Still pretending to be asleep whilst looking as much as he dared, James watched as the man brought his mother’s body into the room and propped it up in the small rocking chair that stood in the corner. The man then glanced over at the bed, before turning and scrawling something on the wall. James closed his eyes tight, trying with all his might to act as if he were asleep, as he saw the man turn from the wall and head over to the bed.

For a few seconds he could sense the man’s presence next to the bed. Finally, he heard movement and, listening as hard as he could, he heard the man cross the room again and close the bedroom door. Unsure as to whether he had left or whether he was still in the room, James lay perfectly still.

Eventually, he summoned up enough courage to open his eyes a little. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he could just make out his mother’s form on the chair in the corner. Looking over to the wall on which he had seen the man write something, James tried to make out the words. It was no use; the room was just too dim to read what was written there. He still didn’t know whether the man was still in the room with him, so for what seemed like hours, he lay perfectly still, wondering what he should do.

Just then, outside, the moon came out from behind a cloud, illuminating the room through a crack in the curtain. With the aid of a little more light, James looked again at the wall. He gasped as his eyes focussed on the words – I know you’re awake. His eyes filled with tears and his breath caught in his throat, as under his bed, someone moved.


Triumph Over Adversity


I was around twelve years old when, one bright summer day, I accidentally walked in on my Mum getting changed. I can see it clearly even now. She stood with her back to the bedroom door, slipping the top she had chosen to wear over her head. She had a bra on, but still, I had never seen Mum without her top on before. That being said, it was not that which arrested my attention. As I stood there, I was transfixed by a huge scar that ran diagonally from her left shoulder to the right side of her waist.

“How did you get that, Mum?” I asked. She spun around, a look of surprise crossing her face. Quite obviously, she had not known I was there.

“Oh, I had an operation many years ago” she said.

“I didn’t know that,” I replied, “What kind of operation?”

She walked towards me and sat me on the bed. Sitting next to me, she told me the following story.

My Mum was born in 1939 with a hole in one of her heart valves, something which only became apparent when she was christened at two weeks old. As the vicar poured the holy water onto her head, she had a seizure; her body went completely rigid and she stopped breathing. She was rushed to hospital where, once the seizure had passed and after extensive investigation, she was diagnosed with a hole in her heart valve.

Of course, back then, medical science was not what it is today. There was no known cure for my Mum’s condition. My nanna and granddad – my Mum’s parents – were told that it was unlikely she would live into her teenage years. It was the cruelest blow. Just seven months earlier, in July 1938, my nanna and granddad had lost their nine-year-old son, Peter, to diphtheria. My Mum said that she recalled going to see him in the hospital, and telling him that he had to get better for his birthday in a couple of months. She asked him what he wanted for his birthday, and he said “I want a little sister.” When he died, just just a few days later, my nanna had no idea she was pregnant with my Mum. Very few people had a phone back then, and so, on the day he died, she had travelled to the hospital to see him, only to find his bed empty. When she asked one of the nurses where he was, the matron came over and said, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. Has nobody told you? Peter…” My nanna didn’t hear anything else. She collapsed.

Now, just a few months later, she was being told that they were going to lose their little girl too.

My Mum was never well enough to go to school. She attended once when she was five-years-old, but had a seizure after being made to sit on the cold floor during assembly. After that, the doctors told my nanna that it was best if she kept her little girl at home.

As the years passed, it became all too apparent that my Mum was becoming increasingly poorly. She was breathless after walking from one room to another, her lips and fingers were blue, and her seizures were becoming ever more frequent. While my nanna and granddad expected the worst, they hoped for a miracle.

Their miracle came in two parts. The first part took the form of a surgeon by the name of Alexander Graham Bryce. He worked at Guy’s Hospital in London, and was specialised in thoracic conditions. He believed he knew how to surgically cure conditions such as the one my Mum had. I say “he believed he knew” because the operation had never been tried before. Nevertheless, it was unlikely that my Mum would ever have the operation. Although they wanted her to live, was no way that my nanna and granddad could ever afford such an expensive procedure, not on a miner’s salary.

Fate wasn’t quite done yet though, and the second part of the miracle came at government level. In 1948, Aneurin Bevan, the Minister for Health, spearheaded the creation of the National Health Service, which would provide free healthcare for all at the point of use.

Under the auspices of the National Health Service, Alexander Graham Bryce offered to perform the operation to save my Mum’s life. Still, however, there was a stumbling block. Mr. Bryce said that the operation would take place at Guy’s Hopsital, London. My nanna and granddad said that although they wanted their daughter to have the best chance, they could only afford a ticket for her to go to London. They couldn’t afford to with her. There was no guarantee that the operation would be a success, and my nanna said that if her daughter was going to die, she wanted to be with her; she didn’t want her dying alone, miles away from home. Upon hearing this, Mr. Bryce asked if they could get to Manchester – just a few miles away from where they lived at the time – he would travel and do the operation at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Naturally, my nanna and granddad jumped at the chance.

The operation took place in 1948, when my Mum was nine-years-old. It took four hours, of which my nanna said were the longest four hours of her life. It was not known how to open the chest, and so to access the heart, Mr. Bryce opened up my Mum’s back and removed one of her ribs, hence the scar.

The operation was an overwhelming success (I guess I wouldn’t be writing this otherwise) and, when my Mum was ten-years-old, she attended school for the first time. In one year, she learned everything she should have learned from the age of five, including how to read and write, and after passing her exams, went to high school at the age of eleven.

In 1958, my Mum married my Dad, the love of her life. They have now been married for 59 years, and have four children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

So, when it comes to admiration, I need look no further than my Mum and my nanna, two of the bravest, strongest, most courageous women it will ever be my pleasure to know. They taught me the essence of triumph over adversity, that no matter what life throws at you, miracles do happen if you just believe.

NB: I will add as a side note that the National Health Service (NHS) is currently under attack from the Secretary of State for Health. He is punishing junior doctors, accusing them of being greedy, not working hard enough, and, insultingly, lacking vocation. I say this: How dare you, Mr Hunt! Without the NHS my Mum would not have survived; she would not have had me or my brother and sisters, one of whom went on to be a nurse in the NHS! The NHS is not perfect, but it is the best we have and it is the envy of the world. You should treasure it, Mr. Hunt, treasure it and protect it, not destroy it. Who knows, it might just save the life of someone you love!


What Doesn’t Demolish Me…

Thus far, it’s been a bit of a day, I don’t mind telling you.

The day started off well enough. In fact, it began on quite a humorous note. My husband and I take it in turns to feed our cats each morning. It isn’t so much a rota system, as something we just fell into doing. Sometimes we forget whose turn it is, and so the question “Whose turn is it to do the cats?” is not an unusual one in our house. This morning, as we awoke at around 07:30, my husband asked me this very question, to which I replied that it was my turn. Pulling the covers up to his chin and snuggling back down to sleep, he muttered “Oh that’s wonderful. That’s the best news I’ve had all day.” Cheeky bugger!

Alas, it was very much downhill from there.

The first incident occurred while I was on my way out to do some shopping at the supermarket, and a guy failed to look where he was going and damned near drove right into me as he pulled out of a side street. To add insult to injury, he began gesticulating wildly and ferociously at the beeping of my horn, intimating that is was I that was in the wrong, and not he.

This was followed by a stop at the local pharmacy to have a prescription filled. On being handed the medication, I was smilingly told that “That’s €26.30 please” I queried whether that was indeed the correct price. The pharmacist, still smiling, insisted that it was. I, however, wasn’t smiling as I said, loud enough for the rapidly forming queue behind me to hear “That’s strange, because the last time I had this medication, the price was €16.30. Are you seriously telling me that the price has increased by ten euros?”

“You’ve had this medication before,” the pharmacist replied, “Let me just check that for you” A few taps on the computer keyboard later, she said “Oh yes, so you have. You’re right, it’s €16.30. I think the price has been wrongly added to the computer.”

“I think you think I was born yesterday” I said, as I paid for my medication and left.

Back home, I put my shopping away and then did some light dusting and swept and mopped the floor. The cats’ litter trays needed emptying too, so, as I normally do, I took a large black plastic bag from the cupboard, emptied the entire contents of the trays into the bag, tied it up and began to take it outside. I was mid-way between the kitchen and living room, when the bottom of the bag burst open, dumping multiple tray-fulls of cat litter all over the freshly cleaned floor. At this point, I believe I said something along the lines of “Piss poo arse wank bastard fucking bollocks!” before setting about cleaning up the mess.

And then the doorbell rang.

Sighing and wiping my hands, I tried to compose myself as best I could, and then answered the door … to be confronted by two very wholesome, very smiley, Jehova’s Witnesses. “Can we talk to you about the good word of the Lord?” one of them asked, beaming beatifically at me. Now, at this point I feel I should point out that most days, I would either politely say “No, thank you”, or engage with them on all the contradictory points in the bible. This, however, was not “most days”. So you can imagine the look on their faces when, to their perfectly nice question, I replied “Why are you asking to talk to me about god? I don’t come knocking on your door asking to talk to you about wine and dildos now, do I?”

The cat litter has been cleaned up, and now, here I sit, telling you about my day and how rude I was to two perfectly respectable people. As I sip my Earl Grey tea, I am contemplating how we all have days like this at some point, days where everything seems to wrong. The thing is, the things that have gone wrong today are inconsequential compared to the things that may have gone wrong in other peoples’ lives.

Oh well, onwards and upwards. That which doesn’t demolish me, will only serve to polish me.



From Whence You Came


The other evening, as I sat listening to music and drinking a glass or two of wine, a song popped up in my playlist. It was “No Woman, No Cry” by Bob Marley, from the album Natty Dread. I love that song, and have listened to it many times before; and yet, as I savoured the tasted of my Shiraz, one line suddenly jumped out at me.

“In this great future, you can’t forget your past.” 

With the song still playing, I thought about the line – what its meaning was. Was it like the quote from Oscar Wilde – “No man is rich enough to buy back his past” – or was it more than that?

As I sat there, pondering and listening, I thought too about what my nanna used to tell me. She would touch my face and stroke my hair and say, “Remember, never look down on anyone unless you’re helping them up.” In that instant, the line suddenly made sense. It was a call, a call to remember where you came from, to never forget those parts of your life that weren’t great; because no matter how good you have it now, those past experiences are what made you who you are today. In one line, Bob Marley – to me at least – was saying to enjoy the present, live and love for today, but never forget how you got to where you are.

Perhaps it was the memory of my nanna, perhaps it was the musical epiphany, or perhaps I had simply had too much wine. Whatever it was, I felt overwhelming emotion and was compelled to put pen to paper (I still draft my work in longhand) and the words flowed. This is the result.

No matter how good you have it now,

Remember, there was a time

When all you had was a dream in your hand

And a hell of a mountain to climb.

The road was tough, but you travelled on,

Persevering day by day,

And along the road were other folks,

All going the same way.

So you talked, and laughed, and shared your dreams,

Some stayed, some fell behind.

But through it all you held your dream

In the forefront of your mind.

And now, you’ve reached the mountain top,

And all that elation you feel,

Is that overwhelming sense of pride

That your hard won dream is real.

But don’t get too high and mighty,

That you don’t treat folk the same.

Don’t forget the helping hands;

Don’t forget from whence you came. 


Reeling? I Don’t Think So!

Once again, just two weeks after the horrendous bomb attack in Manchester, Britain last night found itself the victim of another apparent terrorist outrage. This time, the target was London. Seven people died and another forty-eight were wounded, when a white Transit van was deliberately driven at people, before three men got out and began stabbing people at random.

Yet, as horrific as this attack was, when the New York Times‘ report of the attack filtered through from the not too distant shores of America, the people of Britain were … well … outraged. Why? Because our American cousins had had the audacity to say that Britain was left “reeling” from the attacks on Manchester and London!

After someone tweeted this picture of a woman, sitting on the rubble which was once her home, calmly drinking a cup of tea during the Blitz, with the message “Dear @nytimes Please be advised, Britain doesn’t do “reeling”, Twitter was suddenly alight with ridiculous, moving, and downright hilarious tweets using the hashtag #ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling


Taking my cue from all those lovely tweethearts in the Twittersphere, I have taken the liberty of drafting an open letter to the New York Times, informing them of the many things which can leave Britain reeling.

Dear New York Times,

With regards to your article of June 4, 2017, in which you reported on the horrendous terrorist attack in London, I feel I must take issue with your assertion that the recent terrorist incidents have left Britain “reeling”. My dear, New York Times, there are many varied, and, dare I say it, inconsequential things that have the capacity to leave Britain reeling; however, terrorism has never, and will never be, amongst them.

Without a doubt, we Brits are a hardy lot. We stood, stoic and defiant, against the Nazi bombing campaign which struck London and other cities for a total of 8 months and 4 days between 1940 – 1941 (London was systematically hit for 56 consecutive days!). We smiled in the face of the IRA, UDA, UFF, and others who sought to push their agenda with bombs and violence for over 30 years. And now, we laugh at those total numpties who seek to try and change our way of life with bombs, knives and cars.

That being said, there are things which we absolutely cannot abide, things that do indeed, leave us reeling. Take for example our utter consternation when we, in an act of daring bravado, move from a long queue to a shorter queue, only to find the shorter queue takes even longer because Mrs I Couldn’t-Do-This-Slower-If-I-Tried from Number 42 insists on packing her shopping before getting her purse out to pay. Even this, though, pales into insignificance at the sight of someone with 11 items, standing in the 10 items or less queue! 

And on the subject of shopping, we become positively incandescent when we have just paid full price for an item, only to find that it is on sale for half the price in the very next shop. We find ourselves standing there, wrestling with our conscience over whether we have the nerve to go back into the shop, make some excuse as to why we have to return the item and get our money back, and then go and buy it on sale, or whether we just bite the bullet and bemoan our bad luck over a cup of tea.

Then there is the embarrassment felt when someone holds multiple sets of doors open for you and you discover that your vocabulary is deficient in words of gratitude. And on the subject of doors, we struggle to maintain our composure when someone holds the door open for us, but we are slightly too far away at the time and so, we feel compelled to jog a couple of steps rather than leave them waiting. 

Driving too can grate our gears, especially when someone has the audacity not to even acknowledge you when you stop to let them out in front of you. At that moment, my dear New York Times, our legendary politeness goes out of the window and we spend the remainder of the day not letting anyone come out in front us, because we couldn’t take the monumental rage if a second person failed to thank us! 

Our equanimity is most definitely disturbed when we make someone a cup a tea and they forget to drink it, but even this does not compare to the horror of finding you only have one teabag left just as the family pay a surprise visit. 

I’m afraid that you too, our dear American cousins, play your part in our loss of placidity, especially when you attempt to pronounce words such as “Edinburgh”. Please, for the sake of our sangfroid, may I tell you once and for all that it is pronounced “Ed-in-bruh” and not “Ed-in-burrow”. 

So you see, my dear New York Times, there are many things which leave us Brits reeling, but terrorism has never been, nor will it ever be, one of them. 

Yours Definantly,

The People of Britain