Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Trouble with Ice-Cream

This afternoon, I’ve been going mad. 

Every day, at lunchtime, the ice-cream van arrives close by and all I can hear is that damned jingle playing the same tune over and over. In my youth, it was Greensleeves; now, it’s something I don’t even recognise, but it’s certainly something that jolly little men called Mr Tonibell or Mr Softee or Mr Whippee don’t mind hearing a million times over. 

Every time I hear it, however, I want to run out and punch their lights out (why could they never spell their names properly, anyway? That was another thing that always bugged me).
I have a weird relationship with ice-cream. I know that my first was in the Kardomah café in South Wales in Cardiff, the closest city to Newport, where I spent my early childhood.
A trip to Cardiff was a big event. Mum used to buy coffee from the Kardomah and, having chosen her beans, would wait to have them ground to dust while my brother Nigel and I ate ice cream from a small steel tray and with a tiny metal spoon. I can still taste that metal and feel the joy of the wafer as it sculpted the perfect dome to a melting pulp. I remember the sadness of loss, swirling the last of the warm, liquid yellow, that meant it was time to go home.
Ice-cream was a big treat, but it came with its stresses. My parents couldn’t always afford to buy it, especially at the seaside, where everything was extortionate. On the rare occasions when they could, I craved the choc-ice but had to make do with an Orange Maid lollipop. When I had my first choc-ice, it was a bit of a letdown, anyway. 

First the chocolate melted, and the crisp exterior was quickly ruined by the ice cream seeping through the cracks. Before you were halfway through, your hands were juggling chocolate, cream, sweat and sand – and, often, tears, when you dropped the whole thing onto the beach when the soggy mess slipped from your hand. 
As a child who used to constantly come in from the garden, holding out my grubby hands and moaning “Dirt, dirt” and demanding that I be washed, the whole choc-ice thing was never going to work for me.
I didn’t have money to spend on ice-cream during my school years. I could just about stretch to a Tip Top – a long piece of flavoured ice that was wrapped in such strong polythene, you had to bite the top off to get at the stick, often resulting in the whole thing then leaping out of its packaging and onto the pavement. 

My mum made me very healthy packed lunches (a Penguin chocolate biscuit was her only nod to junk food) and I used to look on with envy at my friends who could not only buy chips from the Ranch fish shop in Bridgend (where we had moved), but follow it up with a mountainous swirl of white ice cream on a lollipop. How I craved that disgusting brick.
The doyen of ice-cream, though, was the 99 – an ice cream cone with a flake of chocolate stuck in the top; or, even better, with two flakes. I bought my first one out of my student grant when I went to university (there were books as well, but I remember this as being the first moment I realised what it felt like to have your own money an do what you liked with it). They had to be Cadbury’s flakes, too.
What I liked about cones was that they were easy constructions. All the melting goo would seep nicely through the cone and you would never have to get your hands dirty. But they don’t make cones like they used to. In my youth, they were the size of buckets; then, along came posh people like Haagen-Dazs with their sugar cones, designer clothed cones et al, and wiped out another chunk of my childhood.
I actually like Haagen-Dazs – but heck, it’s expensive. And sometimes, it’s too soft. I like my ice cream just so: not so hard that it looks as impenetrable as Iceland at Christmas; nor so soft that I might as well have bought it in a can and drunk it.
In fact, so fussy have I become about ice cream that I bought myself an ice cream maker. If anything stayed still long enough, I froze it. But now it lies in the back of a cupboard because, surely, the thing about ice cream is that it’s supposed to be a treat, not a chore: something that someone does for you. Your only task is to enjoy it - and not in that ghastly way that American TV characters do by diving into it head first every time a crisis beckons.
Like everything else, though, it melts into nothingness; it’s actually the one food that is the perfect metaphor for life. It looks promising and appetising at the start, but you don’t have to dig very far below the surface to know that it doesn’t take much for it to disappear.
But hey, folks, that’s okay. There will always be more ice-cream. Just as there will always be more life. 

Now, excuse me while I go to practise my Greensleeves jingle. 

Miss Jackee has a job to do.  


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Just Life

Yet another crisis week. 

The usual thing: a time in which I crawl into my shell, pull myself off all social networking sites, send texts and e-mails I don’t mean, throw the baby out with the bath water, because life just seems easier without having to deal with emotions. Or people.
A time in which I remember being nine years old and opening the cream tea-set I had been given as a birthday present and wishing that all my party guests would quickly go so that I could play with it.
A time in which we went to the sea-side as a family and the greatest joy was my first sighting of the slim silver of sea in the distance; the smell of salt; the rush of warm sand between my toes.
But, as Ecclesiastes 3 said much better than anyone ever did: There is a time for everything.
Not many people know that I was once a Baptist lay preacher. At one point in my life, I was going to enter the church full time. Now, I regard that period as an emotional stumbling block, as I do most religions (Buddhism remains, for me, the only logical belief), but especially Christianity. I wholeheartedly embrace the notion that people can believe whatever they want to believe to enable them to get by; the man in the sky is just not for me (do watch Ricky Gervais’s masterpiece The Invention of Lying; there is no better movie about the deception of belief).
So, where do you go in a crisis without religion as your backer? Ironically, there are still great lessons to be learned from the Bible (Be nice to people! DUH!), but to me they are philosophical ones, which is why I found myself turning again to the Book of Ecclesiastes after thinking that this was another moment that I like to call “just life”: There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, and this was just another weepy time.
It’s a bit of a strange passage, though, nonetheless. I’m not happy about the “time to kill and a time to heal” bit, nor the “time for war and a time for peace” – killing and war never having been high on my agenda. I also would never embrace the idea that there is “a time to search and a time to give up”, because I am not, nor will ever be, one of life’s giver-uppers.
The existential crisis of mankind (to me – you can choose your own) is the battle between what we want and what we can’t have: our expectations, versus those expectations not being met. Our expectations (personal or professional) come from our parenting and society at large; their not being met from our frustration at not being able to fulfil them, for whatever reason. Call me Socrates (without the beard; and the suicide bit, obviously).
Let’s look more closely at a few more of these statements. 

“There is a time to be born and a time to die”: the former is easy; the latter, horrendous (which is why people need the construct of religion and the notion of “everlasting life” to help them deal with the thing they cannot acknowledge as fact i.e. That’s it, mate. Its over. Nada).
A time to plant and a time to uproot. I have spent most of my adult life uprooting. For most people, their planting is marriage and children, and I would not deny anyone the joy that those two things can undoubtedly bring. I just never met the right seeds; just managed to purchase some awesome hoes.
A time to mourn and a time to dance. Yes, I get that. Just try telling that to the Irish at a wake.
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. Nope. Throw your arms around that guy while you can.
A time to tear and a time to mend. I have a tendency to self-destruct. It’s really a time I could do without.
A time to be silent and a time to speak. Yep. Usually that moment when you say “What do you mean, the bar’s closing? It’s only 4am.” That’s when you really need to shut the eff up.
A time to love and a time to hate. No, there is never a time to hate.
One of the things I have learned during my weeks of existential crisis (excuse the melodrama; I’m a writer. Live with it) is that it is always a time to love. I have, as always, been overwhelmed by the outpourings of love and support, many of them from complete strangers, on social networking. I haven’t gone into the details of what brought the latest meltdown into being, and nobody probed me for the reasons why.
I don’t know myself. The actions I take during these times are symptoms, not causes. I don’t believe in the man in the sky, but maybe, as Ecclesiastes says, we are tested so that we may see we are “like the animals”. In the end: “Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.”
So, in that brief time we have from dust to dust, we might as well enjoy love. Yes, love. 

There is always a time to love.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Mirror

A funny thing happened on the way to the mirror. 

A wrinkle here, a grey hair there, a little extra weight around my hips, a sagging of the eyeylids. Yes, a very funny thing happened on the way to the mirror.

got older.
And I hadn’t even noticed.
I pulled out boxes of old photos to try to recognise exactly when and where that change took place. Eighteen, with the bouffant hairdo my mother constructed on my head that made me look 55? Twenty-one, in the brown crimplene dress, when my grandmother came to tea to celebrate, and my mother’s only concern was whether our menstruating poodle Emma would soil the Maskreys suite and/or worse, my grandmother’s “Sunday best”?
Did the stress start to show when I moved to London in the early Eighties, living on State benefits and having to steal chicken drumsticks from events I gatecrashed? Or that first doomed love affair . . . and the next, and the next, and the next?
In which part of my ageing face lies the grief of losing my father, my dear cousin Sarah, and the many, many friends who died way before they should have? Are these new wrinkles the result of my own stresses over the past few years, largely financial, but marks that also bear the indentation of those close to me who have suffered far worse in terms of health?
I see the things I should have done: paths wrongly taken, things I should have said and didn’t, people I should have loved more, people I should have loved less. Paintings and music I should have enjoyed, books from which I should have learned, walks my legs should have taken, both literally and metaphorically, when other steps didn’t work out.
Yes, a funny thing happened on the way to the mirror.
But it’s a house not just of one mirror, but many; and they are, quite simply, life. If you stare straight into one, it’s possible to see only the things you have lost - but stare into your house of funny mirrors and see the full picture.
I see the laughter of my father in my eyes, and also my mother, who is still with me. I see every wrinkle and line of a life that, despite its up and downs, is better than most could ever conceive of. Behind every mark of sorrow is a line of resurrection – not in the Biblical sense, but in the sense that I know I came through, and, if I have to, will do again. It hasn’t always been easy, and it might never be again, but all our faces, that are the reflection of our spirit, hold the hope and the knowledge that all is possible.
And I see my faults. Oh, yes, and they are many. Times I should not have got my tits out for the lads (oh, dear lord, yes); moments when I was insensitive to the points of view of others; jealousy, childishness, obsessive behaviour. Every which way I turn, another distorted vision of myself looks me in the eye. And d’you know what? That’s okay: because it’s all part of a very complex package that’s called being human. The mirror – or, rather, mirrors, never lie. But what really, really matters?
During the past few years, I have spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about whether I will lose my house; but in that time also, I have seen family and friends suffer both in their own health and in those of others close to them, in seemingly insurmountable circumstances. I have lost dear friends through illness. I am watching others endure pain because they don’t know what the future holds. Our health really is everything, and no bricks and mortar in the world can compete with the joy of a living heartbeat.
We live in a society in which people try to hold back the ageing process in so many ways: they look in the mirror and don’t like what they see. One young woman – beautiful, as it happens - died this week as a result of a liposuction procedure, which, weeks later, was deemed to have been the cause of the respiratory arrest that allegedly led to her death.
We spend too long looking in the mirror: looking to that which we can no longer change and looking to that over which we have no control. It is, ironically, though (and I am speaking only for myself), that lack of control I have come to embrace. We have none, and surrender is the best therapy.
So, while, today, I acknowledge that a funny thing happened on the way to the mirror, an altogether better and more extraordinary thing, happened: walking away from it. 

At the end of the day, we all end up as broken glass anyway. 

Let the reflections do what they will. 

And let’s have fun with them while we can.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Dr Who Celebrations with Steven Moffat - watch the live interview here

Dr Who. New York. Cardiff. 

They are not words I ever imagined I would be uttering in the same sentence. But on Thursday night, on Broadway in New York, I found myself on stage saying those very words.
I wasn’t in a show. I was actually in the Institute of Technology’s Auditorium on Broadway and, despite having a microphone in my hand, I was managing to resist bursting into song.
I was in New York interviewing Steven Moffat: showrunner, executive producer and chief writer of Dr Who, which, in March this year, celebrated its 10 year revival. In 2010, Moffat took over from Russell T Davies, who had resurrected the series in 2005. And on 21st May, it will be 10 years since Moffat’s first Dr Who script, The Empty Child, starring Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, hit the screen (to many, it remains the scariest episode of all time). Courtesy of the Cardiff Business Council and Bafta Cymru, the auditorium was packed with an eclectic mix of die-hard fans, both US and UK.
‘Before Dr Who, I had never been to Wales,’ Moffat confessed, but declared passion for the revitalisation of the TV and film industries, particularly among young people. ‘It used to be the case that if you wanted to do something in either, you had to go to London. But now, there is whole generation who don’t have to do that. And the future is always more interesting than the past – because we don’t know how it ends.’
Moffat is one of the easiest interviewees one could have – and yet, ironically, one of the toughest. He speaks so easily and with such fluidity, it would be easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. He cares passionately about the Doctor and is fiercely protective about the show; he is also very, very focused about what really matters.
We are talking about criticism he has received about his female characters who, to some, are perceived as weak, and needing a macho man to “rescue” them. ‘These are strong women,’ he argues. ‘If anyone needs rescuing, it’s the Doctor. As for “macho” - Matt Baker, David Tennant? Really?’ (At this, he does a really hilarious, rather camp Dr Who action that is all 12 Doctors rolled into one).
Moffat’s background in comedy has, he feels, given him a good grounding in writing drama. ‘In comedy, you have to be doing something all the time. Have we done anything is always the question. Everything is about the next laugh. And the change in comedy has been that the audience now knows how it works. In the kind of comedy we do in Dr Who, you need to surprise the audience: do something you didn’t tell them you were going to do.’
It was a childhood dream of Moffat to work on Dr Who, and he still emanates an innocent glow when he talks about working on the show – a show that has come a long way from the one that, back in 1963, was conceived as an educational programme to explore scientific ideas and famous moments in history – ‘Well that lasted all of five minutes,’ he says.   
His latest episode, Listen, is an extraordinary piece of work, with no monsters and just three characters. It’s a beautiful, lyrical piece that focuses on childhood fears – what’s under the bed. The truth is, like the Doctor’s “demons”, as Moffat calls them (oh yes, and ‘The Doctor’s also mad’), those things still lurk within all our lives. It’s a brilliant metaphor in the writing of someone whose subtlety often escapes people seeking an agenda.
Having just signed up for another year of Dr Who, and with the ongoing success of Sherlock, Moffat’s place in the Tardis of broadcasting in Wales looks secure. And for that, we really can be very grateful.

You can check out the interview at


Saturday, May 9, 2015

It Would Never Happen in LA - How to Avoid Becoming a New York Corpse

Every so often, I go into shutdown mode.

It’s usually because someone has upset me, and my first reaction is to come off Twitter and Facebook and go into hibernation. Although I don’t mind drama in my own life and even thrive on it, I don’t like it in other people’s and, when they involve me in things that don’t concern me and cause trouble, I clam up. I stay indoors, watch wall to wall Law and Order: SVU on the telly, and sit pondering why people have to be so horrible.
I keep forgetting how much this upsets people. They worry. When you spend a ridiculous amount of time on social networking, as I do, disappearing from it altogether makes people fear the worst; it’s all they can do to stop themselves sending out search parties when they see your locked down Facebook page.
But I don’t like confrontation. People might find that odd for someone who has spent over 30 years of their life in journalism and broadcasting. But I’m lucky enough, in that world, to have had very little confrontation. Coming from the UK, where satire dissipates aggression in many areas of the media, I’ve been lucky enough not to become involved in huge arguments. We discuss, debate, laugh; we take what we call “the piss” out of each other. I know people who do thrive on more heated confrontation; I just never have. A raised voice can reduce me to tears.
Following the latest upset, my friends have been trying to coax me from my apartment for a week, to no avail. Last night, one said that he was going out with a great group of people, one of whom was very keen to meet me (I have reviewed her on TV). They were at a bar I didn’t want to go to and so I arranged to meet them at an Irish bar close to Times Square.
When you’ve been hiding from humanity for a week, people can seem very scary. Especially very large sports fans watching an ice hockey game sitting on the stool next to you. Let’s call him Gerald, to try to bring the tension down a bit.
Gosh, was Gerald a fan. An ex ice hockey player himself, he filled me in on the gruesome details of the joy of feeling ice shards on his face, and blades and whatnot . . . He told me who he was supporting, but I had to ask whether it was the men in white or the men in blue. It was the blue ones. 

“Who are the others?” I asked. “Fucking ISIS! Bunch of beheading bastards.” To be honest, “Washington” would have sufficed.
The men in white scored. “PUSSIES, PUSSIES! THE WHOLE FUCKING LOT OF YOU!” yelled Gerald.
I find the linguistic retardation difficult to take in New York. I don’t mind swearing and, indeed, have been known to partake of the odd expletive myself. But in LA, it just doesn’t happen on the same scale. I have been years without hearing so much as a “Damn”. But in New York, everything goes, and usually when a lump like Gerald is sitting in front of a TV screen.
So, back to Gerald and his blood pressure. The next great event was when the men in blue scored. I kid you not: Gerald picked up his chair and threw it. He also shouted a lot of things about cosmonauts that I didn’t understand. To me, it was just a few men on ice waving sticks. I had to move when Gerald’s next chair threatened to knock me out.
When my friends arrived, we moved on to Rudy’s, a dive bar in Hell’s Kitchen where the drinks are cheap and they give away hot dogs. We had a lovely time and it was good to meet some UK journalists who were in town. It was like finding my own kind on Mars. When they said goodbye to me on the corner of 43rd and 9th, there was a guy in front of me on the sidewalk of 43rd who I thought started to walk more slowly. I slowed my pace, too. Then he slipped behind a truck where I saw him lurking. I turned quickly to go back to 9th

“You fucking bitch! Whore! Fuck you, bitch!” I heard, as even more expletives followed me up the street.
Having lived in a lot of major cities, I consider myself pretty streetwise and I am used to being out late at night by myself. But call it gut instinct, this just didn’t feel right. I returned to Rudy’s, where one of the security staff walked me halfway down 44th until I felt I was safe.
Then, I nearly got killed. There were still double figures left on the lights on the crossing, but a yellow cab came speeding up at such a pace, I froze. There was a screech of brakes and a yell of “Fuck you!” (That one was from me, though). I was an inch of being wiped out – and I am not exaggerating.
I hate the car versus pedestrian laws in LA and NY (I have no idea about the other states). It’s very easy for cars in the UK: red, you stop, green you go. No “If I fancy turning left I’m allowed to even if the light is red” kind of nonsense.

So, I’ve decided never to go out again (again); it’s much simpler that way, even though I have to deal with the stresses of being indoors. Today, some organ sounding thing 27 floors down in the street was playing Oh Come All Ye Faithful, shortly followed by Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. 

Maybe that taxi did run me down and I’ve been in a coma for seven months. 

If that’s the case, Happy Christmas, everyone. 

Excuse me for not sending you a card.

May Day May Day - US TV's Seasonal Cull

Would Amanda/Emily (Emily VanCamp) ever get to smile for longer than five seconds without resorting to jaw reconstructive surgery? 

Would Nolan (Gabriel Mann) ever meet a man who knew how to take his underpants off? 

Would Margaux (Karine Vanasse) ever meet more than one journalist in her media empire? 

Would Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) totally morph into The Addams Family’s Morticia?
These, and many other questions, occupied me throughout the four seasons of Revenge, which has finally succumbed to the cruel world of broadcasting euthanasia.
The writing was on the cards for the ABC show halfway through season three, when the actors started to appear as confused as viewers were as to what the hell was going on. One could only imagine the horror they felt when their eyes first alighted upon each new script, wondering how many more expressions of staring into the middle distance they could muster, while their brains tried to compute the machinations of the plot.
The last episode airs tomorrow night in the US (the UK has five weeks to go), and I have to confess that, for all its silliness, I’ll miss it.
ABC has also cancelled Forever, starring my fellow Welshman Ioan Gruffudd. I’ll miss that, too, but it’s not hard to see where it went wrong as viewing figures tumbled.
The basis premise was that Dr Henry Morgan solves crimes using medical knowledge he has gleaned over 200 years. Each time he dies, for some never quite explained reason he turns up in water, only to start life all over again – hence his living forever.
The series fell apart when they dropped the explanation from the start of each episode. If you didn’t know the basic premise, you would have been baffled as to why Abe (Judd Hirsch) was calling Henry “Dad” (Henry was his father in another life), or, even, what the flashbacks were to a young Henry. Revenge always set out its stall at the start of each episode, whereas Forever ignored a really important piece of dramatic advice – Don’t hide the ball.
May is a difficult time for US shows as they wait to hear whether the axe is going to fall. I’m sorry to see NBC’s Bad Judge go, because I found Kate Walsh in the lead very funny. It was a neat script, but I suspect caved in to complaints from the legal profession that it portrayed judges in a bad light. Hey, it’s a comedy, guys!
The Mysteries of Laura, another NBC show and an adaptation of the Spanish drama Los misterios de Laura, has survived. After a brief shaky start, when it didn’t seem to know quite what it was, it quickly settled into a very funny, quirky, feel-good, must-see show, in no small part down to the always compelling Debra Messing as Detective Laura Diamond.
NBC has also saved The Blacklist. I have no idea what is going on anymore, but I could watch James Spader turning up in a hat with no explanation whatsoever for the rest of my life. He is one of my favourite actors of all time.
Raymond “Red” Reddington is a fine creation, and viewers root for him no matter whose brains, or how many brains, he blows out (again, for seemingly no reason whatsoever). All you need to know is that there are a lot of bad people in the world who are afraid of Mr Spader in a hat and he wipes them out in order to help the FBI. 

Oh, yes. And he has some connection to the only officer he will work with, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), whose job it is to stare quizzically at Mr Spader in a hat and save him from the bad people as well. Maybe all we’ll ultimately discover is that she is his milliner and has just been trying to pin him down for a fitting for new head attire.
The Americans will be returning to FX for a fourth season – another must-see show starring Matthew Rhys (fellow Welshman, also – we are coming, people, and are already among you!) and Keri Russell as two Soviet Intelligence agents seemingly living a normal suburban life in the USA as Philip and Elizabeth Jennings.
It’s an extraordinary show (created and produced by former CIA officer Joe Weisberg), with even more twists and turns than Revenge, but all of them totally believable. The wigs bother me a little because, in a dim light, you could be forgiven for thinking you had alighted upon a canine rescue centre. 

It’s hard to concentrate on the sex scenes when Philip is required to sleep with other women when under cover, as I just fear for the poor pooch falling from his head into the woman’s foo foo. How either of them would emerge looking half decent without engaging the help of a topiarist is anybody’s guess.
The jury’s still out on CBS’s The Good Wife, starring Julianna Margulies as lawyer Alicia Florrick, but with slipping viewing figures, I am a little nervous. It’s still a great show, but it hasn’t been the same since the death of Will Gardner (Josh Charles). The Will they/Won’t they get together? that was so central to the plot, was removed in an instant and left a hole they still haven’t quite been able to fill. A bit like . . . No, no jokes, please.
But it still has the extraordinary Christine Baranski (Diane Lockhart) and, at its heart, a moral core that, every week (as well as overall), delivers a valuable message without being patronising or preachy.
If, with Revenge, it’s axed, Sunday nights as I know them will be over. I might have to start going to church. Or the pub. 

Funnily enough, the jury’s not out on that score.  


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Gift of Forgiveness that is Ursula Ward

She will never get to dance at her son’s wedding. 

In the dignified, compassionate words that Ursula Ward spoke about her murdered only son, Odin, they were the ones that had me uncontrollably sobbing.
Compared to this family, I have nothing to cry about and I am not trying to jump on the pain bandwagon. They have endured, and will do for ever more, not only Odin’s death, but a lengthy trial, six days of what must have been unbelievable pain as they waited for justice. It has been served. The killer has been sentenced to life without parole.
I don’t believe I would ever be capable of the dignity that Ursula displayed in her words of forgiveness. I am not in favour of the death penalty (and I have really struggled with the issue since moving to the US, and I continue to find it an interesting ethical debate), but I have no idea how that would change if I lost someone close to me in heinous circumstances.
I consider myself a fair person and try to be fair to others. We are complex creatures; most things are rarely what they appear to be on the surface. When I am wronged, however . . . when people cause trouble with their lies in order to protect their own backs (and you know who you are . . . I’ll say just one thing: large vessels that sail on water), the hair on my arms really does stand up. Our instinct is to protect ourselves under attack, and it manifests itself physically very quickly.
Years ago, a journalist very nearly destroyed a close friendship when she told a completely false story about me to him. Thankfully, because I am someone who has to deal with every upsetting situation NOW, it was all sorted. Years later, that journalist came up to me all sweetie-pie and I tore her apart (not literally). I don’t forget.
More recently, another so-called friend (now ex) tried to back up her case against me with a “And so and so said this about you, too . . . ” I never even brought it up with the “accused” because, quite simply, I judge people on who I see them to be. Everyone talks, and, regularly, behind someone’s back. But most people do so very kindly, or out of concern. I happen to like this particular friend and can imagine the spirit in which the words were spoken. But it’s still a dash of poison that I could have done without, and I will never speak to the instigator – or, shall I say, the administrator of said poison – ever again. 

Not only do I not forget. I don’t forgive. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"? It was a part of my Baptist upbringing that was never going to resonate. 
Forgiveness is, to me, a state of being (like that of grace) to which I cannot even begin to aspire. An ex-boyfriend, with whom I broke up on December 8th 1999, ruining not only Christmas, but the Millennium celebrations, recently got in touch. He was going through all sorts of woes, including the break-up of his marriage to the woman I discovered 15 years ago he was sleeping with. I queried why he would contact me and he said that he thought I would “understand”.
I wondered which part of “understand” he thought I would get. His pushing me against a wall in Soho so aggressively, I had passers by coming to my aid? His laughing when I fell flat on my face on the French holiday (one of many) I paid for? The exorbitant sum of money I had to shame him into paying back (well, his mother) when I wrote about it? The hysterics as I argued with the Dyson on Boxing Day as I cleared up after the most miserable Christmas ever?
Where did he think I was in my life? Did he think that I had been pining alone in a room just waiting for this moment? There wasn’t an atom of “I’m sorry, I really hurt you” in any of it. Just ME, ME, ME. Well, guess what, buddy? Since I knew you, I have met some amazing people, including men. Men who are much brighter, funnier, kinder. And taller. Oh, yes. Much, much taller. And thinner. And richer. Dear god, yes: richer!

So, you see? Forgiveness does not come easily to me. I wonder whether it does to any of us. And when I watched Ursula Ward publicly declare forgiveness – and ask for it from others – the magnitude of her spirit moved me to tears.

My stories are not in the realm of the sorrow she is feeling. Her life has been destroyed. But still, she found it in her heart to say Forgive. 

Would that I could ever be such an extraordinary human being. 

Odin, I am sure, would have been so immensely proud. 

You may not ever dance at his wedding, Ursula, but today, I feel certain you have danced in ways few of us could ever have imagined.