I have asked countless, intelligent women how many men ask them , say at dinner, about their lives and the answer is always:
“None! They never do anything other than talk about themselves! They bore us rigid with their stupid views and stories about their tedious careers and they even yap across us to the man on our right or left.”
Let me tell you some more about my views and stories…
Icebergs on a Sunny Day
Walked from Brockenhurst through the New Forest on what must surely be the hottest day of the year. Yet again I try to outwalk my friends Anthea and Christopher Piggins, and once again Chris’ cantilever legs make mincemeat of me. Also in the party is a new friend from Zimbabwe – an escapee from illegal farm seizures – Nicky Millbank, and delightful company. We lunch at the New Forest Inn. I see above the cloakroom door a plaque that proudly proclaims that this inn was the last stop of Captain Edward Smith before he boarded the Titanic to command its only voyage. I don’t think I want to know that somehow, particularly when I see another sign in the car park wishing passengers a cheery “Good luck on your trip.”
Makes me think, we are always only a step away from tragedy.
There but by the Grace of God…
Along with millions of parents, I have always been desperately sorry for families whose beloved children suddenly disappear. The default position of some people appears to be to condemn parents of missing kids as seriously negligent. I disagree, for I cannot see how anyone who has ever been involved in bringing up children could do anything other than admit how easy it is to lose them.
Hide and Seek
We all have our own horror stories of near misses and lucky escapes. Here are couple of ours. At more or less the same time as the tragic case of Madeleine McCann was playing out in the news headlines, our youngest daughter, Milly, was visiting friends in Kensington. At the height of the rush hour, she led her two young sons, Isaac and Silas, down the teeming escalator and towards the crowded platform. Trains were coming and going and Milly was stressed. She arrived on the platform with Isaac in one hand, Silas holding the other – and then she suddenly realised with horror that two-year old Silas had let go and she could no longer see him. She called his name, but no reply. She then shouted with increasing tempo, as he failed to appear. The crowd parted as if she was carrying the plague, and then officials materialised. They tried to calm Milly down as she rapidly approached full-flowered despair.
The tube manager searched the platform, exits were closed and trains were stopped: station officials were sent up and down the tracks in case Silas had gone for a walk. The police arrived: by this time Milly was seated in the station master’s office head in hands, silently weeping and fearing the worst. Then – at last – a phone rang. The spokesperson from Gloucester Square Tube station (one station down the track) said that a little lost boy with red hair had been just been presented to the station manager by a kindly passenger. Silas had stepped onto the train just as its doors were closing and for the next few minutes had been walking up and down the crowded tube politely asking passengers for his mummy.
Last Boxing Day, my son Oliver and his French wife, Lois, were shopping in a crowded mall in Perpignon. After they left a clothing shop, four-year-old Amelie was missing. They called and searched, and as their anxiety levels rose they called again; then they shouted. The police were alerted. No Amelie. More police arrived, the mall was closed, and footage from various CCTV cameras was fetched. More shops were visited, questions were asked, and announcements made.
Half an hour later, the entire mall was at a standstill. Then as if by magic, a smiling Amelie suddenly appeared from the clothes shop. It transpired that as Mummy and Daddy were shopping, she had decided to play her favourite game of hide and seek. She thought that a clothes box sited under a counter where returned goods were occasionally collected was as good a place to hide as any, so she opened the lid and snuggled down. She grinned to herself when she heard Mummy and Daddy calling her name, then she had a snooze.
Amelie wasn’t in the least surprised by the throng of police and people. And she informed her parents, “You never found me, so I won. Can we go on playing?”
Well of course, all’s well that ends well, and now the stories have entered Benyon folklore. But all self-aware parents who read this may also reflect, “There but by the grace of God go I.”