Newsletter no.132 December 2018

It’s a question of etiquette – not that we talk about etiquette nowadays, but I don’t know what else to call it. Good manners, perhaps? It goes like this; you ask for something in a shop, or attend a clinic for a check-up, and the butcher or the nurse says ‘That’s all right, darling!’ Or ‘My pet,’ or Sweetie-pie,’ or some other term of endearment. It gets my back up, and I say, with as much of a glare as I can manage, ‘I am not your darling, your pet cat or your sweetie-pie!’ I think it’s a matter of respect. Perhaps you disagree? Perhaps you think it doesn’t matter in an era of Free Speech?

Well, here’s a twist on the above. Recently I spent a few days on holiday in Bruges. One of my favourite restaurants has recently been sold to a young couple who are trying very hard indeed – and mostly succeeding – to live up to the standards set by their predecessors. Naturally I asked how they’d been doing, and they told me, and when the husband brought me my plate of excellent food, he said, ‘There you are, dear!’

Now, how do I feel about that? No, I didn’t spit in his face. I didn’t say, ‘Call me Madam!’ But I did feel slightly put out. I’m old enough to be his grandmother, and I realise he appreciates my interest in how he’s doing, but . . . well, what do you think?

About breaking down doors, which I flagged up in my last newsletter. Ellie managed it once, but not the second time she found herself on the wrong side of a locked door. I feel one should be realistic about what a sixty-ish lady who is not in the peak of training can manage to do. It seems best to have someone rescue her second time round. Yes, that seems to work all right.

I had to come up with not one but two short stories for Christmas. Usually I get an idea and think about it, and say to myself, ‘What if . . .?’ and turn it over and over in my mind till I get the kinks sorted out. Then I write it and cut it down to size and re-write, etc., maybe four or five times until it’s due. This time I hit a problem. Perhaps it was because I had to deal with two story-lines at once, but though I wrote and re-wrote, I wasn’t satisfied with either. Eventually I decided to put aside one till I’d finished the other and I asked the Recorder if I could focus on New Year rather than Christmas. This story actually starts with Sally taking down the Christmas decorations and ends in the New Year, looking forward to the future. I think that will work. It’s called ‘Not Everyone’s Happy at Christmas’, and will be out in the combined Christmas/New Year edition of the Methodist Recorder. If you can’t get a copy in the usual way, send me an email and I’ll send you a copy, free.

And the other story? I ditched the first story-line, thought up another, and I’ll be reading that one out at our choir’s Christmas concert in mid-December. Sometimes these things come easily. These two didn’t. But I think they’ll pass muster.

A blessing: In all the hustle and bustle that goes on before the Day, may you never lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas.

Veronica Heley