A life worth living..
Posted Friday, 31 July 2009 at 00:51
After a few hours sleep I shall be leaving for my holiday. The last thing I did tonight was a last minute interview with the BBC regarding the decision taken today by the Director of Public Prosecutions to clarify the law regarding assisted suicide.
Many elderly and disabled people often feel vulnerable; however, they have always felt safe and protected by the law.
As a result of this ruling this may soon no longer be the case. The elderly in care homes up and down the country may have felt perturbed to hear tonight’s news.
As I have said before, sometimes the next of kin may not be a loved one, it may be the state and it may be someone who has a reason to take note of how much a day your care is costing the tax payer.
Unfortunately talk of assisted suicide is becoming commonplace and the subject is now becoming mainstream. A worrying situation and one which may one day have consequences.
How to make an MP vomit
Posted Tuesday, 28 July 2009 at 14:53
I haven’t broken up yet and whilst working in Parliament yesterday, noticed lots of other MPs working too.
Today I have been to ‘Fusion’, a summer holiday activity scheme run by Ampthill Baptist Church and its amazing staff and volunteers.
I think it’s probably the best summer play scheme I have ever been to and I’ve run plenty myself in the past.
Can you imagine the wall of noise as you walk into a room where there are 115 children laughing?
The activities are fast and furious. One almost caught me out though. Following on from a huge wall mounted Wii session, the teams were invited to win an additional 5 points. To do this a team member had to suck custard through a sock, that so, so almost got me!!
Last year they bought 160 catering cans of baked beans for one activity!
They really are all crazy mad at ABC!
The dedication of the staff was something else, after the children had left the staff remain behind rehearsing, planning and a big group de-brief. No one in any particular hurry to get home.
Although the scheme is run by ABC it is a churches together initative and the army of wonderful staff includes members from all the Ampthill churches.
I loved it. I loved the prayer at the end of the session too.
‘Let God’s light shine out of us and onto everyone we meet’.
Thanks Adrian. I’ve completely, totally failed in that one a number of times over the last year.
Well done to all at ABC, you all deserve a medal.
Just visited a poorly constituent and off to the Marston Vale centre next.
Don’t worry. I’m no martyr, my month break beckons with relish.
What is the opposite of a King Maker?
Posted Monday, 27 July 2009 at 13:07
You would have to know Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP for Huddersfield, to understand the importance of his statement in which he warned that Gordon Brown really needs to up his game by the end of the summer or face a series of resignations and by-elections in an attempt to force him out.
Barry is the ultimate, extreme party loyalist. Slavishly loyal to his leader he is frequently the butt of 'teachers pet' derisory comments in the commons.
When selected at PMQs he frequently used his question to congratulate the PM on his wonderfulness, which creates much mirth on our side of the house.
He will not have done what he did last week without a huge amount of agonising soul searching; that and the knowledge that a swing similar to what we had in Norwich during a general election may wipe out his own majority and the remainder of the Labour party.
Labour MPs want Gordon out and now. Out before conference so that they can call a leadership election and put someone else in place.
Someone in place who will maximise a honeymoon bounce. Would the people insist on a general election being called? Depends who replaces Gordon. If it's Harriet Harman almost certainly, if it’s Alan Johnson, I'm not so sure; he would be more likely, given his general sanguine demeanour to push the date for some time.
An interesting summer ahead. Barry given his loyal adoration of his masters may have achieved what has, until now, eluded Charles Clarke. Gordon Brown will be far more concerned with what Barry said than he has been with many of the noises off up until now.
It’s a known fact that the last MP to see Margaret Thatcher before she stood down was the Labour MP, a man I hugely respect, Frank Field. He knocked on the door of No10 and was asked "what are you going to tell her" he replied (according to my sources) "to go" and so they let him in. He met her in private and shortly after, she went.
Who will be Gordon's Frank?
I don't believe it is Barry, but he is certainly the fore runner. Who is the messenger who Gordon would listen to?
Surely it has to be Pat McFadden? A quiet, friendly, lovely man. Party loyal, principled, trade union, Scottish. Worked at a high level within the party in the background for many years.
Does he have the political courage? Or will the duty once again, fall to Frank.
What is the opposite of a King Maker?
Drones Not Clones!!
Posted Sunday, 26 July 2009 at 19:31
Having had a lovely weekend doing lots of non political things, I was really amused this evening to read in full the Sunday Times article in which I am quoted as saying all MPs are like clones.
I had been woken this morning by a laughing whip (via a telephone call obviously) and a freind who alerted me to the fact that I thought he was a clone!
I have just clicked onto Conservative home and the comment thread has made me laugh even more.
During a busy Friday afternoon when telephoned by a journalist I was asked what two pieces of advice did I have for Chloe? I will give you my answer at the end of this blog.
We then went onto talk about her chances of promotion.
I did not say Conservative women are passionate (although I am sure we all are!) I said that women are more passionate about individual issues and tend to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in, whereas the men operated more like drones who worked away at the agenda. I even described how sometimes I looked at the men en masse in the voting lobby, all dressed the same, all buzzing around and how the women really stick out as no two of us are alike and we all could be identified for the individual issues we champion.
I did, however, say that although we want to see more individual people in politics with personality, if a party leader is faced with the choice of an interesting individual woman or a dull man for a promotion, the dull man would win out, it’s safer.
It was a mobile and not a good line and I didn’t do what I normally do, which is email the quote. A lesson learnt!
My two pieces of advice to Chloe were;
1. Never talk to journalists.
2. Never talk to journalists.
Silence, followed by an embarrassed laugh.
I rest my case!
Norwich North Campaign
Posted Thursday, 23 July 2009 at 14:03
I'm in Norwich North. Just left a buzzing campaign centre where I was sent out to be a teller.
Typing this sat on a wall with a Green and Labour teller feeling like I would rather die!
Apparently, I'm sat with the first Green teller of the day who isn't a university professor.
I can't be a teller!!! I can't sit still for two whole hours! I want to be out delivering with all the other boys and girls.
One compensation is that the weather is lovely. A perfect day for an election.
Posted Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 23:08
I was telephoned today by ITN and the BBC and asked to appear on various programmes and comment on what I thought of the internet based, post university, nerd who knows absolutely nothing about an MPs work and his campaign to ‘track MPs during the holiday’. I declined the offer. I just didn’t trust myself.
It really is worrying as to what degree the dead tree press manipulate the public and how as a result of their own cost cutting, they no longer print real stories but instead almost fabricate something to fill up a page.
‘MPs take 85 days holiday’ is one example. I don’t suppose the headline ‘MPs hammer the constituency work during the month of September’ is really eye catching enough, but is the truth ever as good as the fiction?
I am taking August off, as I do every year. The truth is that MPs of all parties work very hard on behalf of their constituencies and work very, very long hours in a stressful pressure cooker.
It’s easy to track the deteriorating health of MPs, easy to look at their faces and see how much they age and how quickly.
Would you ever see a newspaper headline ‘teachers take six weeks summer holiday? Never, because there are too many teachers who buy newspapers, not a good commercial move.
I will be away all of August, like I am every year and unlike every other year, this time I won’t be phoning the office twice a day as I have for the last four years. Those days are over. I’m taking a holiday. I need it, my family deserve it and I can’t wait.
The MPs Story
Posted Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 12:25
The Becky Milligan documentary, the MPs story was broadcast at 9am this morning on Radio 4.
Becky, the daughter of a Vicar, is probably the only BBC employee any MP would have trusted at this time and if it weren’t for Becky, I doubt it would ever have been made.
I was very proud of my daughter who became upset during the interview and I regretted letting her contribute, but really, she was just one of hundreds of children and families who were all experiencing the exact same feelings and emotion.
Posted Monday, 20 July 2009 at 18:11
Damian McBride gave an interview today during which he admitted that he wrote the smear emails during his lunch hour. So, given that the content was political and he worked at No10, one can safely assume that they were written on the No10 computer, during his working day.
He also admitted that Gordon Brown asked him “if Government computers were used, who else knew?” And, ludicrously, he said, “one thing I can’t be responsible for is putting them in the public domain”.
He wrote, he clicked send down the line to a spin doctor who was about to use them on a sear website, who was responsible then?
The most interesting comment he made as far as I was concerned was,
“Derek was a mate”. Trouble is, I can’t tell you why.
No Eco and a lesson learnt
Posted Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 13:29
Confirmed, no Eco Town for Marston Vale.
It’s been a tough battle, however, one worth fighting.
Congratulations to everyone. We did it!!!!
I think this calls for a celebration. Over to you Hugh.
I learnt something last night. Never attend three functions in a row and then arrange to meet a friend for a last quiet drink. Appologies to John who must have thought I was spaced out by the time we sat down and Happy Birthday to the well preserved, Iain Dale :)
And so, It came to pass.....
Posted Wednesday, 15 July 2009 at 09:37
A strong feeling of De Ja Vue overcame me this morning as I listened to the Today programme.
This mornings revelation that Swine flue is about as potent as seasonal flu and milder than some other specific flu bouts, reminded me of the personal attack upon myself by Evan Harris MP and responded to by Alan Johnson, then Health Minister, during a Health debate called as Swine flu began to take hold.
I think I was described as being irresponsible for suggesting that it was nonsense to close down schools and far better that as a population we build immunity to this flu now, rather than wait for it to mutate later in the year and become something much more serious and difficult to treat by Winter.
The general thrust of my comments was that the DoH, the government and the media were massively over reacting.
The press reporting has been at times totally irresponsible. The headline in Monday's paper announcing that a six year old healthy little girl had died from the virus must have put a chill in the heart of every parent, and yet, you would never read a headline which announced 'six year old healthy girl dies from flu' which they do, every year - it was the word 'swine' which gave the press something to splash on the front page.
Sensationalism at its worst, when achieved at the cost of a human life.
I was also struck by the protestations of those who claimed that the true picture of the swine flu outbreak can not be truly known, as many people are not seeking medical help and therefore we need some form of large scale testing to obtain a true picture of the scale of the outbreak. The inference being that on the contrary, this is not something simply as mild as seasonal flu, it’s much worse?!
Er, no, surely not? The reason why people aren't seeking medical help is because in the vast majority of cases, the symptoms are so mild that they don't need to, possibly tipping the scales well over to the point of fact that swine flu is demonstrably milder that seasonal flu and in most cases as severe as a mild cold.
And that brings me back to my original point. Many will be building their own immunities and anti bodies via a natural process. The virus appears to have outwitted the authorities who would prefer to see us all in a dramatic sterile quarantine, puffing around in space suits and oxygen tanks wrapped up in masks and eating anti virals for breakfast.
I have always believed that the biggest danger to the survival of man is not war or terrorism or the threat of a nuclear bomb, but a virus which really will out wit mans capabilities, however; I think we are safe to assume that it won't be the Swine flu virus.
We don't need no...
Posted Tuesday, 14 July 2009 at 18:37
As a mother who has ushered her children through almost all forms of education, from pre-school through to university, in the private sector and in state, I have to say that I was dismayed to read in today’s Independent that two of the five fee paying schools so far assessed by the Charity Commission, with regard to their element of ‘public benefit’, had lost their charitable status.
This will inflict a financial blow a time when fee paying schools will be struggling to exist.
I have never felt a seconds guilt for using the private sector as and when I have needed to. I receive no tax rebates when I opt out and I am more signed up than many, with passion, to wanting to see a British world class state education system alongside an equally good NHS under a new Conservative Government.
I would go further and say that only the Conservative party can deliver a state system we could be proud of because we are not bound by the shackles of political ideology.
In the time I served on the Education select committee I witnessed first hand, in a way which surprised me, the prejudice of Labour MPs towards the private sector and shockingly how that prejudice transferred to any individual group outside of the homogenous one size fits all inclusive ideology, such as children with special needs or gifted children.
With Labour the mantra for education is inclusion.
No child can be special or needy and parents who choose to spend their hard earned cash however they want are frowned upon.
Having dipped in and out of the fee paying, state and public sector, one question which has burned in my thoughts and has never been answered is this - take away the posh buildings and beautiful grounds, what is being done in fee paying schools which isn't being done in state schools given that at certain points in their education, all children sit the same GCSE's and A levels and are taught the same curriculum?
There are a number of points which have struck me when comparing the two which provide a clue, discipline in the fee paying sector is rigid and ordered.
The school uniform code is equally rigid, it’s about standards and expectation (and just in case Mr White is reading this, you can speak to me later!)
There is much we can learn which is transferable from the fee paying sector to the state, with the results they attain it could be said that in itself is a public service.
My ideal society is about small state and big people, a society of true diversity which can only exist with an acceptance of the fact that parents will always want to choose how to educate their own children themselves.
I don't see the situation improving over the next few months for fee paying schools as they take the backlash from the tail of a dying government.
The sooner this particular animal is put out of its misery the better and in the meantime, I am sure my party will rise above the trap that Labour have set and ensure everyone knows we are not a party of limited choice and petty jealousy, that we are equally committed to ensuring that everyone has access to a world beating education regardless of whether they want to pay for it,or not.
Lady Lynn Forester De Rothschild
Posted Thursday, 9 July 2009 at 16:29
When I wrote on yesterday’s blog that having supper with Lord and Lady Rothschild should be fun, I hadn’t quite realised how much fun it would be.
Last night I chaired a meeting of the Henry Jackson Society and Lynn Forester was the speaker. The room was packed and we didn’t even have any standing room left as Lynn rose to speak.
A close friend and supporter of Hilary Clinton during the recent American elections, Lynn changed sides and supported the McCain and Palin ticket once Hilary was knocked out of the race.
She is no fan of Bush, which was apparent by the number of times she mentioned that Bush’s personal rating stood at 15% on polling day. However, regardless of her opinion of Bush, she certainly does not have Obama’s name on her Christmas card list.
This is what makes Lynn fascinating; you just can’t pigeon hole her. On a number of occasions during her talk she referred to ‘Scoop’ Jackson and his bi-partisan approach to politics. A Democrat who inspired the Republicans, she also quoted his line “the best politics is no politics” during her speech. Indeed, the reason why she flipped from Clinton to McCain was because she so admired his desire to reach across the Isle and work with the Democrats on key issues and Bills. Not a quality apparent in Obama
Lynn obviously felt very strongly that Obama had taken the Democrats way over to the left in order to freeze out Clinton, who she essentially regards as a centrist. She also believes that the American people are fundamentally non-political and ‘centrist’ in their approach to both life in general and politics in specific.
It appears that the Clinton supporters have become ‘Obamacons’ and you couldn’t help get the feeling last night as Lynn took off all of Obamas political clothes and sat him naked in the middle of the room, that she was beginning a one woman fight back on behalf of her friend.
And what a fight back it was. Refreshing, because I don’t know about you, however; I’m becoming slightly nauseated by the Obama worship and lack of scrutiny being applied to his leadership following his razzmatazz election victory.
Lynn believes that we can now join the Obama dots together. Not easy as this man is deliberately evasive. No accident of course as almost everything he says leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy, even thought his words often lack clarity in purpose.
Her dot joining has amounted to a belief that Obama has four main objectives
1 To create a European style-social democracy
2. Remove the risk of the free market economy and create Government intervention in sectors from energy to health and banking
3. Subject trade agreements to US labour and environmental standards (protectionism)
4. Redistribute wealth.
She believes that if he succeeds in attaining these four objectives, he will undermine America for generations - probably forever.
I was really taken by a story she told of an American she had recently met who was from Haiti. An immigrant who had arrived in the US with nothing, he had worked hard and saved hard and put his two kids through college who were both doing incredibly well.
Lynn asked him would he, instead of having had to work so hard to elevate his family, have preferred help from the State?
The man replied, “No, for two reasons. The first is that the state doesn’t know what I want and the second is what the state gives me the state can take away”.
So, on the basis of that analogy, if that man is your typical American living the dream then maybe Americans won’t want what Obama gives, will they even notice it has happened? Or will that occur when he takes it away?
In ‘Audacity of Hope’, Obama wrote by way of a criticism of Bush “We say we value the legacy we leave the next generation and then saddle that generation with mountains of debt”.
As President, he inherited a deficit of 3.2% US GDP. Today it stands at 13%.
If Bush was saddling a generation with debt, what is Obama doing?
Lynn went on and on, it was like Obama policy ducks lined up in a firing range and she took out one after another.
Her speech over, she took an un-limited number of tough questions from the floor. I know what that’s like. You wish every question to be the last because you have no control and don’t know what’s coming next. She was totally unfazed and answered each and every question with relish.
The hard part over, I extracted her away from adoring fans and managed to steer her and Evelyn into the dining room where we had supper with Alan Mendoza, a selection of MPs, Lords and journalists.
Dinner was so good. I felt as though we were on the dining room naughty table. We laughed so much and everyone was, in that usual political way, vying to be heard. We had the most massive discussion regarding the relationship between Britain and America. On at least two occasions I had to try desperately in between laughing, gasping for breath and trying to be heard, to get everyone to shhhh a little.
Lady Lynn Forester De Rothschild. You know, I should really hate that name shouldn’t I? Me, from the Liverpool council estate who spent her childhood, youth and early years ridden with mistrust for anyone who as a result of privilege and favour represented in what was my world, the architects of social suppression.
And yet there I was last night, totally captivated by one of the wealthiest and most influential women in the world whose main passion is social justice and equality of opportunity. She was fearless and spoke the truth as she saw it - despite the fact that the rest of America, or indeed the world, are still on a blissful honeymoon with the subject of her analytical appraisal.
I just love that bravery. And yet I imagine there will be some issues that we would differ hugely on. I can imagine Lynn is pro-choice, whereas I want to see a reduction in the upper limit at which abortion takes place and yet I know we could have had that discussion and respected each others views and opinion.
Lynn, I just know you are going to be reading this (I’m laughing as I type!)
You were a blast. I wish there were more brave and outspoken women just like you engaged in politics on both sides of the pond.
Thank you so much for last night and once again thank you to the Henry Jackson Society for bringing such an enigmatic and fascinating speaker to the commons.
Mandleson, Vauxhall and the Henry Jackson Society
Posted Wednesday, 8 July 2009 at 15:40
My day began with a meeting with Peter Mandleson. As I walked up to the front door of 1 Victoria St, I was slightly taken back to see a familiar sight right outside the front door.
Alan Sugars car with the famous AMS1 number plate.
It parked in pride of place totally un-ashamed that it had not been elected to do so.
Unfortunately, I can’t really blog what was said at the meeting just yet.
The discussion was focused on the future of Vauxhall in Bedfordshire.
Lord Mandleson was at least able to provide re-assuring guarantees, at least in terms of how the bids are being handled and evaluated.
Watch this space as things are going to move very quickly.
This evening I am hosting and chairing a meeting organised by the Henry Jackson Society
The principle speaker is Lynn Forrester, Lady De Rothschild. Who prefers to go by Lynn Forester De Rothschild, not ‘Lady’ (It’s her inner American speaking!)
The meeting is to discuss the six months Obama has been President of the Unites States and to evaluate the impact he has had in a number of areas, including the recession and foreign policy.
Was it Obama rhetoric, or has he fulfilled his promise of action?
I am having supper with Lord and Lady Rothschild in the Strangers dining room following the event which will be fun.
PMQs today were muted. Not just because the PM and David Cameron were not present, but because proceedings began with the names of the seven servicemen who died this week in Afghanistan.
I don’t think I have ever attended a PMQs when it hasn’t begun with the name of a British life lost in the battle for freedom.
It makes you think.
Posted Tuesday, 7 July 2009 at 18:51
Last night I held an adjournment debate regarding the consultation process Bedford has embarked upon with regard to altering the Bedfordshire education structure from three to two tiers. The Minister responding was Iain Wright, Minister for Schools and Families.
Alistair Burt dived in at the end rather than intervening to make his own points.
The debate, for me personally, and I believe both parents and children was a huge success as the Minister made certain points very clear indeed.
With regard to the £340 million required to effect the change, supposedly to be provided by the ‘Building Schools for the Future Fund’, the Minister was quite clear.
It is therefore vital that any plans that Bedford brings forward are predicated on responding to the educational needs of its pupils, and not on how much funding it gets. If a change of school organisation is proposed, the educational rationale for doing so must be clearly established.
Providing the educational rationale would almost be impossible for Bedford Council to do as there is no evidence to show that the two tier system produces better educational outcomes, in fact, the evidence is the opposite. In areas where the change has been made from three to two there is demonstrable evidence which proves a sharp dip in standards with recovery taking a very long time indeed.
The Minister also stated;
Local people should decide what provision should be like in their area. In the case of Bedford, local people have until 24 July to have their say, and I encourage all those concerned to do so.
Education was not in the Mayoral remit when the existing Mayor took office; therefore he has no mandate to take this decision. Local people have the right to decide and if such a decision is to take place, it should do so via a referendum of all parents with children up to the age of 18, all teachers and governors, and as the Minister said, ‘local people should decide’.
I hope parents who read this will also note the procedure highlighted by the Minister for the consultation process and check that it has been adhered to by the letter.
The link for the whole debate is here;
The Minister also strongly indicated that the Government has no preference with regard to 2/3 and that is because, sensibly, it is down to local culture, leadership, the relationship between parents, teachers and councils as to what works best and in fact the provision of education at a local level is quite complex in terms of its organisation and delivery.
Having seen standards of education rise across Bedfordshire for three years on the trot, within the three tier system, it will be very difficult indeed for Bedford to make the case for change.
It should aslo be more honest in the evidence it provides to parents. The Bedford consultation document tries to compare apples with pears. When comparing educational atainment in Bedfordshire, the document removes fee paying schools from the equation, however, nationaly,fee paying schools are included. The document then compares the results on national level. How stupid does Bedford council think parents are?
If the Mayor, who incidentally has not attended one single consultation meeting to hear the views of one single parent, would just listen to the views of parents, as the Minister stated, then education in Bedfordshire is a done deal. It stays three tier, because it's working well as the last three years results show.
I am not a name..
Posted Monday, 6 July 2009 at 19:41
I am not Nadine, I am Mid Beds. I do not represent me as an individual, nor do I want to. I represent 77,000 residents. When I stand up to speak, I speak on behalf of Mid Bedfordshire and the people who sent me here, not myself.
The Speakers idea to drop the title of honourable member and ‘personalise’ debate has gone down like a lead balloon. The chunnering of MPs is that this is something they do not want, need or like the idea of and the converstaion is usually followed by what the **** is it all about anyway?
The idea to have a new election for Deputy Speakers in October when they have already been appointed for the lifetime of a Parliament has also gone down in a similar fashion. The move has just been described as ‘graceless’. That was by a Labour MP who voted for the present Speaker.
We have lovely Deputy Speaker’s, from both parties. Already elected for a Parliament. So, what is this all about?
I have just spoken in a debate on how the recession is affecting young people and have to prepare for another now. Will post links to speeches in the morning.
My Jenny got her degree today and I am a very proud mum. I just slipped it into the speech on Universities . I couldn't help myself, I want to burst with pride!!
New Blog Arriving Soon
Posted Monday, 6 July 2009 at 19:41
Spectator Summer Party
Posted Thursday, 2 July 2009 at 12:35
My spare thoughts each day are for my blog. Today they are totally devoted to what I am going to wear for the Spectator Summer Party tonight.
I will confess, this is the second event this week. The other was on a rooftop in Mayfair at a cosy climate change fundraiser. George (Osborne) spoke in front of a Brazilian band and I tasted a sea breeze for the first time.
The very small rooftop was full of Nancy Dell’ Olio, Tamara Beckwith and the Ground Force team.
I found it quite surreal. I imagine tonight’s party will be even more so.
It’s interesting how celebrities see a rising political party as a way to enhance their own profile. We saw it happen in ’97 with New Labour and the whole Cool Britannia schmoozathon.
It’s happening with the Conservative party, only there is a difference.
In ’97 New Labour actively sought the endorsement of celebrities. In ’09 celebrities seek the endorsement of the Conservative party. They want to be associated with us and ‘to help’.
The nice thing about David and George, is that it does all seem to run off them like water off a ducks back. They aren’t star struck in the way Blair, Campbell and Mandelsson appeared to be.
Some of the celebrities I have spoken to are full of enthusiasm, however, have zero knowledge of politics. Not that that’s a bad thing, however, when one asked me the other night “do you work from home?”, I have to say, I was stuck for a reply.
“Not usually”, I answered and did that things celebrities do best; I scanned the room for someone slightly more enlightened to speak to, who was obviously far better dressed than I!
Posted Wednesday, 1 July 2009 at 11:08
Last night I had supper with the Conservative Party equivalent of a 'press Baron'.
On my way to collect him from Central Lobby, I noticed that once again, the dis-affected Labour group had gathered around a table.
Hazel Blears, Caroline Flint, Siobhan McDonough, Jackie Smith and all the others who have nowhere to go and nothing to do, for now.
You know the rule, more than two MPs gathered together in one place and it’s a plot. Only, it didn't look much like a plot. They were all obviously just friends having a good time out together. It was more like they've just given up - for now anyway - as though they were waiting for something to happen.
Now, what could that something be?
Two votes last night, missed the 23.11 West Hampstead to Harlington train literally by 2 seconds. My hand reached out for the button as the doors slid shut in my face. I then had to wait for the 23.26.
I had to leave the house at 6 this morning and didn't get home until after 1, so those extra 15 minutes really matter!
The train was packed and there was only one seat available, no one had taken it and lots of people were standing.
I sat down and immediately noticed why he seat was free.
A young lady was sat on the seat opposite. In her mid 20's, long dark hair, glasses, mildly attractive and smartly dressed. Her shoes and handbag were made of good quality leather. Blood was dripping onto her emerald green satin blouse from a badly grazed chin and face.
She was talking to someone who wasn't there, in the air just above her. Blood plopped onto her hand and she looked confused, as though she couldn't work out where it was coming from, she lifted her head to look at me. Her eyes asked me 'did you do that?’. I noticed she was wearing a wedding ring. She was roughly the same age as my daughter and belonged to someone and somewhere.
I immediately wondered if she knew where to get off. She wasn't looking at the signs out of the window and appeared to be unaware when the train stopped.
I look over at a lady sat to my left; mid-sixties, glasses, reading intensely, sensible sandals, mid-calf summer skirt and buttoned up blouse. She is older than me, surely wiser? Should I follow her lead, keep reading and ignore the bleeding young woman? She looks at me and mildly tut tuts. I can bear it no more. I decide to dive in.
I lean over and touch the un-bloodied hand. "Are you ok?" I ask. "Where are you going? Do you know where to get off?" She started to cry. I could make no sense of her words and even worse, I had no tissues for either the blood or the tears which were mingling together nicely, no tissues? What kind of mother am I? That question sounded strangely familiar. I wanted to look in the good quality handbag and see if she had a phone. Maybe the someone she belonged to was looking for her?
Aware I could be accused of mugging, I carried on talking to her and she began to calm a little. I had initially thought she was very drunk, however, she was mildly hallucinating, her pupils were much dilated and as I felt her pulse whilst I held her hand I realised it was racing. This was more than a girl from the office who had had too much to drink.
Suddenly, the older and wiser lady leaned over and offered some tissues and we helped the young lady to dab the steady flow of blood from her hands and chin. The man sat next to me, who had feigned sleep so well he deserves an Oscar, asked if he could help.
I eventually found out her stop (train ticket very useful) and that her husband was meeting her and made sure she got off the train. Later, as I collapsed into bed, I was so grateful I missed the earlier train. She could have been anyone’s daughter or wife.
But what is it about we English; that when faced with something out of the ordinary, something which we may not have encountered before or be confident to take on, we look deeper into our books, searching for words, or worse, close our eyes even tighter.