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Sunday, 24 November 2013


I had lunch with a close friend this week but I didn't ask her if she was looking forward to Christmas. The reason?  I know she isn't. Despite her forced good humour and pseudo smiles she is one of many  who regard the coming season as another cruel reminder of what they have lost. My friend is a widow with no close family and though we'd love to see her at ours on 'The Day,' she prefers to stay at home.

Wouldn't it be great sometimes if we didn't have to follow etiquette? If we could just tell each other how we feel, especially at this time of the year?  It may be very un-English but I'm sure it would do us a lot of good.

One of the most moving blogs I have ever read belongs to Ben Brooks Dutton who lost his wife in a car accident in November 2012 after less than two years of marriage ( and one adorable son.)  Ben has found empathy through 'Life as a Widower'  connecting with many thousands of bereaved families, most of whom whom he has never met.

In his usual direct  manner he says this week '....I realised that I’ve spent all year gearing up towards calendar dates that ultimately don’t matter – a series of ‘firsts’ since my wife’s death including birthdays and anniversaries – and Christmas is just another. I just don’t think that I need to be reminded every day for the next month that Christmas is coming because I already know. And I’m as excited about it as the turkeys waiting to be slaughtered. I don’t begrudge anyone else’s fun at all, I just don’t feel much like being a part of it.'

So here's a challenge. Over the next four weeks, ask someone you know how they  feel about Christmas  and give them a chance to be honest.  It might make you feel better. And it just might make them feel better, too.

You can find Ben's blog on

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Psy-chic? Me? I'M TOO BUSY WRITING...

I've always wondered if I was a little bit psychic.  So when I saw this notice whilst in Cumbria earlier this year, I couldn't help but take a photo (with apologies to the real psychic Marilyn, of course.)


It all started when I was very young and I used to sense what other people were going to say to me, or know what was going to happen next. It was quite a while before I realised that this didn't happen to everyone. Then I began to get feelings about where I was going to live or work in the future - often  it was somewhere I'd never been before.  By the time  I was in my thirties I'd developed the knack of knowing who was on the end of the phone when it rang.  This proved very useful  in business as I could  often practise the answer to the question in advance!
If all of this is true though, of course, it doesn't make me psychic. The true test came when friends and family started to ask me what was going to happen to them in the future. Quite simply, I had no idea!
Which, thankfully, is why I became a writer. The amazing thing about writing is that you can imagine
anything you like to get the words down on to the page.
It's easier than looking into the future. And so much more
productive. Now where did I put my crystal ball point pen?

Monday, 11 November 2013


 I switched on my local news  channel today to see Lytham Crematorium in Lancashire packed with strangers - all of them honouring  a man they never even knew. Harold Percival, who  died recently aged 99, had few remaining friends or family to attend his funeral. Until, that is,  the funeral director appealed for mourners to come forward. The story was soon picked up by Twitter, Facebook, Buzz Feed and finally by the national press - with amazing results. Hundreds of people from all over the country turned up to pay their respects on a cold wet and miserable day, giving the veteran the farewell he deserved. Here are just some of the headlines:

A Veteran Died With Nobody To Attend His Funeral — What Happened Next Was Incredibly Moving

RIP, Harold Jellicoe Percival. posted on

Harold Jellicoe Percival, a veteran of Bomber Command in WWII, died last month aged 99. The death notice in his local paper said that there was nobody to attend his funeral.  

Twitter picked up the story, in the hope that somebody might be able to attend.

I hope this newspaper listing means some service personnel attend this guy's funeral.

They did, of course. And the rest is now just history.

Monday, 4 November 2013


Get Involved
Image and copy courtesy of BBC Radio Four

A 12-year-old girl who wants to 'join the FBI' entertained the nation yesterday in a light-hearted chat with her mother on national radio.

Twelve-year-old Ayesha and her mother, Ghazala, took part in Radio Four's The Listening Project which has been dubbed  'capturing the nation in conversation.'  People of all ages and from many different walks of life are recording their thoughts  and uploading them on to the station, to be curated and archived by the British Library.
Ayesha, whose  abusive father left home when she was a baby, has a mature relationship with her mother, her enthusiasm for life positively bursting over the air waves, despite the hardship she has suffered. And so special is that relationship that the daughter wants to 'cut and paste herself' in the future so that her mum can have the pleasure of looking after a baby all over again!

Mum Ghazala would love to buy her daughter expensive clothes but, she says, 'we don't have that kind of money, adding 'You're a girl, we're Asian and we're Muslim.' Undeterred, Ayesha plans to buy a house, go to university, then join the FBI!

BBC radio producers have been gathering conversations from across the UK, covering everything from living with Alzheimer’s to falling in love in the front seat of a Reliant Robin.
The Listening Project covers all age groups in every part of the country.  If you would like to record your own conversation go to:

'We are asking people up and down the country to share their thoughts and feelings in a recorded conversation with a loved one or relative. What you talk about is up to you.'