Tag Archives: Generation Gap.


10 Mar

I said goodbye to my father a few weeks ago at the very end of January, 2015. He didn’t speak to me as he was concentrating so much on his breathing but after I had finished, he moved his hand which I took as a sign that he had heard me. My sister and I had just been told that our dad was dying, so it was a sad and sombre last meeting. The phone-call came in the middle of the night telling us that dad had passed away. He was a couple of months beyond 91. Up to the last 2 years he had been in pretty good health. He had a long, good life. I know he was ready for the end when it came. Dad was a lifelong chapel goer and as my cousin put it :”He died in Christian hope.”
Despite his Christian beliefs, dad was very blunt and matter- of- fact about death. “Once you’re gone, you’re gone” he used to say. He sometimes challenged the premise of grieving, almost suggesting that it was a waste of time and emotion. I sometimes thought he sounded a bit harsh but it was typical of his unsentimental, no-nonsense approach to life ( and death), and I respected him for it.
Now dad is the one who has gone. It’s funny that he’s not there anymore sitting with mum in their bungalow, waiting to greet me when I visited them and ready to put the kettle on at a moment’s notice. He’s been an ever- present in my life from birth to retirement and beyond. It seems strange that he is now absent. It’s difficult to realise that I’ll never hear his loud, booming voice again. There is a silence as well as a big gap in my life.
I’ve not always been close to my father. At times, when I became a teenage rebel and then wanted to assert my independence as a young adult, we were even semi-estranged. For many years, the generation-gap was actually a chasm that was difficult to bridge. But bridge it we did. Bit by bit we became closer again. The arrival of my 3 children helped. Dad always enjoyed being a granddad. I have photos of us all out on trips together with dad smiling happily at the camera. We spent some good family times together and the clashes of the past gradually melted away.
My dad was quite a private person and didn’t like talking about his emotions. He was typical of many men of his generation. One wasn’t supposed to cry or talk about one’s inner feelings. It wasn’t the masculine thing to do. I regret not ever having had a deep conversation with him. I tried at times but he usually clammed up or changed the subject. I think he thought that the emotional side of family life was mum’s area of expertise and he didn’t want to trespass on her territory. That’s fair enough – I respect that. It was dad’s prerogative to keep his inner world under wraps. Thus I only ever got to talk to him about everyday matters. We would chat away about the fortunes of the family, the news, sport, holidays, the weather or our jobs. Even after he had retired, dad used to love talking about his time as an engine driver on the railways. I don’t blame him — he did that difficult job, working anti-social hours, for a staggering 47 years! He knew the railways like the back of his hand.
So I’m really sad that dad is no longer in my life. He has been there at almost every significant moment, helping and supporting in his own quiet, unassuming way. As I said in my funeral oration, I have a myriad of memories of my father: whether it was pulling me out of a boating lake when I fell in and nearly drowned, teaching me how to ride a bike, telling me all about life in the Second World War, taking me to school, driving me to college, attending my wedding, helping me decorate the house, or helping me to set myself up in my post-divorce flat. Dad was the continuity man — always there. But now he’s not and I will really miss him, as I’m sure all the family will.
Life goes on as they say. A death always seems to stimulate a flurry of clichés. They are corny but also very useful, as they help to paper over the cracks of loss. People express their condolences and ask me how I feel. What can I say? It’s difficult to express my emotions at the drop of a hat. Sometimes I feel very sad. Sometimes I feel empty and unable to express myself. One of the most powerful feelings that the death of a loved one brings up is of one’s own inevitable mortality. We’re all going to die even though we don’t often want to think or talk about it. A death and the subsequent funeral, bring these submerged thoughts and emotions to the surface. The passing of my dad has made me feel suddenly a lot older and also, more vulnerable. I am now the eldest male in our direct family. I am the “Godfather” if you like. It’s a sobering thought.
No sooner had I started to come to terms a little bit with the sad loss of my father, than I was recently hit with another significant family event with its accompanying swirl of emotions. My son’s wife gave birth to their first child, a boy. So I am a granddad again. I already have 3 lovely grand-daughters , the children of my eldest daughter and her partner. Now I am delighted to have a grandson. He made his first appearance in the world just 5 weeks after my dad passed out of it. It’s a pity they didn’t get to meet. I know my dad would have been thrilled to see his latest Great Grandchild. But it wasn’t to be. Time marches on, as does our family. A new addition has now been posted at the bottom of the tree. I hope he lives a long, happy and fulfilling life. Soon my wife and myself will travel down to say hello to the latest arrival. It’s a wonderful development for the family.
I remember when I met my first grandchild and held her in my arms at the hospital. I was thrilled of course but I distinctly recall saying to myself: “Blimey! — I’ve just moved up a generation!” That feeling is doubly reinforced today. The arrival of my grandson so soon after the departure of my father has made me contemplate my position in the family and my place on the family tree. That famous television programme is actually very well named — recent family developments have made me acutely aware of who I think I am. My current feelings about both of the recent events strongly remind me that I am a link in an endless chain of love that passes seamlessly from generation to generation. A loving “goodbye” has been swiftly succeeded by an equally loving “hello.”


The Soundtrack Of My Early Years.

8 Dec

  I have always been thought of as musical. I read music, play the piano ( though not very well), sing in a choir, have a large CD collection and regularly attend concerts and gigs. It’s unthinkable to contemplate a life devoid of music. I probably have inherited this love of music and music-making from my family. The musical gene has been passed down through the generations.

  My earliest musical memories all centre around my maternal grandfather — Thomas Robert Bottoms. Grandad was the choir leader at the local Methodist church, played the organ and the violin and even composed a few hymns. During the General Strike of 1926, when he was officially employed at the iron and steel works, he moonlighted at the local cinema, playing his violin to accompany the action on the silent screen. Grandad was also a powerful singer, belting out the bass lines of traditional non-conformist hymns such as Diadem ( ” Crown Him, Crown Him, Crown Him! Crown him Lord of all!). Before my dad was given permission to go out with my mum, he had to pass an audition for the choir and was quickly slotted into the bass section.

  Thomas conducted the local brass brass band as well as doing all of the above. It was called the New Whittington Silver Band. ( New Whittington is an area of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, in England’s East Midlands.) My mum was taken along to many of the band rehearsals and was adopted as the band’s mascot. She tells me that her dad could play any instrument in the band if he turned his mind to it.

  When we reached the age of 7, grandad taught my sister and I how to read music and play the piano. Once I got the hang of it, I loved to go into Grandma and Grandad’s front parlour and play simple hymns on their old pedal organ. My mum seemed to conclude that I was the one who had inherited Grandad’s musical talent. A second-hand piano was purchased for my sister and I to learn on. It must have been quite a financial sacrifice on my parents’ part, for which I will always be grateful. Mum herself sang in the church choir and joined larger gatherings to perform oratorios such as Elijah or The Messiah. My Uncle Leslie ( mum’s elder brother) had singing lessons in Sheffield and became a well-regarded semi-professional singer — another bass-baritone. It seemed to be compulsary for all members of the family to be involved in music. The metaphorical baton was now passed on to me, so to speak. Recently, grandad’s real baton was given to me — an ebony affair with a silver tip. I think he was presented with it to mark 25 years of choir/band leadership.

  As I was now considered to be the heir-apparent, I was packed off to professional piano lessons around the age of 9/10. Grandad’s lessons had been enjoyable and he taught me about the basics of music, but his approach was rather unstructured. A lot of lesson time was spent talking about the old days, especially the war. So, we would forget about the scales and arpeggios and he would tell me about a dogfight between a Spitfire and a Messerschmitt in the skies above Chesterfield in 1940. The excuse of the music gave us precious one-to-one time together.

  Now however, my sister and I had to undergo “proper” piano lessons with a professional teacher:  Mrs Jukes. We had to do proper daily practise. Our standard was raised significantly but it was more boring than grandad and we soon came to see it all as a chore. Mrs Jukes was a good, rigorous teacher, was pleasant and patient with us and knew her stuff, but the joy of making music was gradually knocked out of us by the necessity of having to take exams. We were drilled to prepare for the dreaded day of the exam and my poor parents had to pay extra for music and entrance fees.

  We went to a gloomy Victorian house in an old part of town near the football ground. We knocked on the door with trepidation and it was opened by an old man with wild hair, wearing a dark, crumpled suit. He looked as though he had just walked off the set of The Adams Family! I nicknamed him “Beethovan”. We were led into a waiting room full of other “victims” and a motley collection of cats. The room smelled of fish because of the saucers of cat food liberally strewn around. Then came the long, nervous wait, accompanied by the loud ticking of a clock and the faint tinklings of the piano in the exam room. One day “Beethovan” took my hand and examined my veins, pronouncing that I had music running through them. When I told my mum this, she smiled with pleasure as this seemed to be the vindication of her investment in my musical education. Finally came the dreaded moment when my name was called. The front room was dominated by a vast, shiny grand piano. It was like a completely different instrument from the old upright plinky-plonky I practised on at home. The grand was very light to the touch and I always ended up playing too heavily because I was so used to having to force the keys down. The examiner sat behind me constantly writing notes. The whole experience was a bit of a nightmare. I somehow managed to get to Grade 5 however. Then: girls, football, pop-music and other adolescent pursuits took over and my formal musical training came to an end. ( Although I did manage to pass GCE O Level Music at Grammar school.) I never did fully follow in the footsteps of grandad afterall.

As I grew up in the 1950’s and early 60’s, the music in our house was predominantly light classical and brass bands. It arrived via the radio. We didn’t purchase our first record player until around 1962. It played vinyl 45’s which my sister and I purchased with our spending money. Big band dance music, very popular in the 40’s and early 50’s seems to have passed by my parents without them noticing. Mum told me that grandad never allowed her to go to dances. Presumably he thought they would be full of unsavoury influences that might corrupt his daughter. Thus she largely remained innocent of popular music and never acquired a taste for Glen Miller, Count Basie or Duke Ellington when she was young. Similarly: jazz, blues, ragtime, be-bop, swing or Country and Western music never got through our front door. Every now and then the radio delivered a corny crooner such as Perry Como or Bing Crosby  into our midst, singing songs like “Catch a Fallin’ Star” or “White Christmas”. This for a long time was as much as our family encountered of the world of popular music. We sat around listening to brass bands playing : marches, overtures, hymns and medlies or we sometimes listened to “posh” sounding singers with trained voices singing arias or formal versions of traditional folk songs. Kathleen Ferrier singing “Blow the Wind Southerly ” was a particular favourite of my parents.

  At New Year things livened up a bit when Kenneth McKellor, an earnest tenor from north of the border, appeared on our TV screen. He stood there in his swinging kilt performing Scottish folk songs such as “You take the high road, and I’ll take the low road” To a child approaching adolescence, it didn’t exactly set the pulse racing! It was all very boring, staid stuff in my opinion. Across the Atlantic, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis et al were launching Rock ‘n Roll and Elvis was pouting and gyrating himself to superstardom, but back at home, we were cloistered in a narrow musical world, listening to brass band renditions of The William Tell overture or Oh Come All You Faithful. It was like living in a lost world, otherwise known as the 19th Century.

  A chink of light eventually appeared when the Skiffle craze hit Britain. Suddenly, everyone with a wash-board, a tea-chest and a cheap guitar could form a pop group. My parents let their hair down a bit and admitted to a liking for Lonnie Donegan. So we occasionally enjoyed his high-energy ditties such as “The Battle of New Orleons” and ” Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour on the Bedpost Everynight?” Things were livening up!

  Finally, rock ‘n roll, albeit in its watered down British version, burst into our house in dramatic fashion. My mum had agreed to look after a neighbour’s teenage daughter for a couple of hours after school one day in the later 1950’s. Rosie was about 15 or 16 years old. She requested to listen to a different radio channel, so we got to escape the anodyne fare of the aptly named “Light programme “. ( now BBC Radio 2)  Suddenly, Cliff Richard, Britain’s very own copy of Elvis Presley, came on to the airwaves, singing his first rock ‘n roll hit: “Move It”. Rosie came over all red and virtually collapsed in a swoon. We had to help her to lie down on the settee and give her a glass of water to aid her recovery. It was as if she had received an electric shock. It was a graphic example of the potency of pop music and blasted open our doors to reveal the exciting musical world beyond.

  This incident was to usher in the 1960’s, when despite still having to slog through my piano scales, I discovered the infectious Beat music of the Beatles and the wilder R and B of The Rolling Stones. I was about to leave the tame musical ” backwater” of my grandparents and parents for ever. Still, to be fair to them, they did lay a solid musical foundation.

  Fifty years on, I now know how they felt. I cannot tolerate or even understand rap music, especially gangsta’ rap. I find it impossible to endure the interminable thump-thump of night club “House”music or whatever it’s called. I loathe manufactured “boy bands” or “girl bands” and avoid X Factor contestants like the plague! I’m sure I’m increasingly regarded as a musical dinosaur for sticking to my Rock Music. I’m stuck in “My Generation” and can now interpret Pete Townshend’s angry lyrics from a completely different perspective!

Slipping Slowly Out Of The Mainstream.

5 Mar

DON’T GET OLD SON. —-  My father Maurice recently gave me a piece of advice. “Don’t get old son,” he said. Mum and dad are now in their later 80’s and in most definitions of the word, are now “old”. They are still quite happy and retain some degree of independence, although they now have a small band of people who come in to help. My mum, Jessie, sleeps with a stick by the bed because she has a bad leg that she “could do without.” My dad finds it difficult to serve up a cup of tea because his hands shake. He is reluctantly having to give up driving soon because he no longer has total command of the foot- pedals. They both take an array of tablets to counteract various problems. Their short term memories are slowly declining although long term recollection still seems to be intact. Yet they remain contented and happy despite the extra visits to the doctor. Their life is quiet and comfortable. They have their family, their friends and their faith. Most of all they have each other and their enduring love.

But I know what dad means when he implores me not to get old. The advancing years have seen the whittling away of their health , fitness and mobility. They have seen a slow erosion of their independence. Their life has gradually shrunk. This year they finally gave up the idea of having an annual holiday because they didn’t want to have to cope with the effort of travel. Their life has in effect been marooned in a quiet backwater, well away from the hectic, hurley-burley of the mainstream. They have changed from looking after their 3 children, which they did very well, to having to be looked after to a certain extent. It’s a delicate business — judging how much help an older person needs and how much independence they can safely retain. It’s a question of treating them with respect and dignity. Looking out for someone includes looking out for their feelings as well. I am well over 20 years younger than my parents, but even now, in my early 60’s, I am starting to experience some of the consequences of age and the feelings they induce.

60 IS THE NEW 40 ISN’T IT?  —-  Some people may already regard me as an “old” person or at least getting that way. I am 62. To a young child I must appear ancient with my grey hair and the wrinkles fanning out from my eyes. I have acquired a bit of a beer belly despite hardly drinking any beer ( life’s so unfair) and I am so dependent on  my reading glasses that I go into a panic if I lose them ( which I frequently do!). I have decided not to be bo-toxed or have plastic surgery, even if I could afford it. I have also decided not to die my hair or disguise myself behind make-up. As a friend of mine used to say:” What you see is what you get.” However, with life-expectancy rising and retirement/pension ages being constantly pushed up, I don’t really think of myself as old. Didn’t somebody say that 60 is the new 40? ( or maybe 50.) Either way, I think they have a point. I feel fairly fit and healthy, don’t get out of breath when climbing up the stairs, have an active mind and numerous things I still want to do . Thus I’m not ready to be written- off just yet.

A YOUNG PERSON’S WORLD.  —-  Despite all of the above, I still sense the clock ticking. I’m also aware of a subtle change in attitude to me, especially from younger generations. I don’t like it and in my unkinder moments I dub it “the arrogance of youth.” Let’s face it — it’s a mostly young peoples’ world or so it seems. One only notices that as one gets older. To judge from our TV screens and especially the adverts, a visitor from Mars might think that the World consists of exclusively 20 and 30 somethings. We see young people: eating, drinking, cooking, joking, wearing the latest fashions, driving the latest cars, putting on make-up, styling their hair, partying, travelling and so on. Just every now and then an ageing Michael Parkinson appears, advertising insurance or a funeral down-payment scheme. but mostly it’s the young who dominate. Not many from my generation appear in this “glamerous” media world or on the air-brushed covers of glossy magazines. Apart from the odd distinguished actor like Maggie Smith or Anthony Hopkins, or “evergreen” rock stars like Mick Jagger or Rod Stewart, we “oldies” have largely disappeared from the mainstream of public consciousness.

ON THE SCRAPHEAP?  —-  The perceived change in attitude to me probably started when I retired. I was lucky enough to attain slightly early retirement at the age of nearly 57. I was ready for it after the stresses and strains of nearly 35 years in the front-line. I don’t know how my dad carried on in full-time work until the day before his 65th birthday. He did extremely well, as did many others, and I admire him, and them, greatly.

At first people congratulated me and wished me well. But then, as I have written before, I experienced a subtle change of attitude. Some felt sorry for me because I had “nothing to do”. Two friends suggested I might like to do a part-time job or take up charity work. The attitude was (is) that one is only doing something worthwhile if one is doing a job.( preferably paid.) Reading, writing, blogging, listening to music, singing, walking, travelling, photographing, meeting friends, going to the theatre or cinema, playing and watching sport, visiting museums and galleries, researching family history etc – didn’t seem to be good enough. One aquaintance even described retired people as being on “the scrapheap” and thus kindly gave me my blogging title. It was as if I had changed from a figure of envy to a figure of pity.

My income dropped considerably once I retired but so did my status in society and possibly my level of respect from others. How many times have you been asked at a party : “What do you do?” It usually comes straight after: “What is your name?” The person in question is probably not interested in your recreational pursuits or voluntary activities. He or she is primarily interested in your paid employment. Your answer to that question goes a long to deciding someone’s opinion of you.

THE PENSION PROBLEM  —-  Just as respect for the unemployed is probably quite low as shown by the benefit “scroungers” campaigns in certain newspapers, so I suspect ( in my current hyper-sensitive state) that respect for retirees also dips after they leave work. I have been quizzed by people who genuinely cannot understand how I fill my time. I have also been the butt of the occasional “joke” about them having to work even harder to pay my pension. The big increase in the pensioner population has become a massive issue for the government. Where is the money going to come from? Thus I cannot fully enjoy my retirement because I’m aware that some regard me as a financial burden on society and a contributer to one of the country’s biggest problems. I don’t like this feeling of being regarded as being a bit of a “parasite”, although nobody has actually said this to my face. Maybe it’s all a figment of my over-active imagination? In answer to my imagined accusers I say that I’ve always paid my taxes in full and still do, as an occupational pension is far from tax free. However the feeling still persisits that some respect me a little less because I am no longer fully “contributing”.

WHEN THE CHILDREN FLEE THE NEST.  —-  I feel as though I live a full and stimulating life which I enjoy. However, along with paid employment, another of my major life functions, that of being a full time parent, has now slid away into the past. My 3 children have all grown up into adulthood and lead their own independent lives. One of them, my daughter Joanna, now has her own two daughters with her partner Allan. So I am not completely redundant as I have an important part-time job as grandad. Obviously I have not entirely given up my role as a dad. Once a parent, always a parent. For instance I was recently called upon to make one of the speeches at my son’s wedding and I was also enlisted to help cut the cake. If Joanna, Catherine or Ian need help, I am always there. However, I am no longer required on a day-to-day basis. I no longer have to work hard to support them financially as they now support themselves. It’s inevitable , but once your children leave, you experience that uncomfortable feeling of redundancy and of being inched a little further away from life’s centre stage.

BECOMING OLD FASHIONED.  —-  It is futile to try to remain in employment indefinitely or to try to stop your children from leading their own lives. Both retirement and children leaving home are inevitable and highly desirable developments once the right time arrives. However, other developments as one gets older are not so easy to swallow. For instance one gets slightly mocked for being old-fashioned. There I go — being super-sensitive again! I feel this is happening to me even though I have tried hard to keep-up with ever-changing trends and technological changes. Change is a permanent feature of our society. Being resistant to change opens one up to the accusation of being “out of touch”. Popular music is a case in point. I rejected my parents’ “boring” brass bands and light classics in favour of pop, blues and rock music. Mum and dad hated all that and I categorised them as “old-fashioned” — ie unwilling to change with the times. I lined up with Bob Dylan when he sang:” The Times They Are a Changin'” However, now it’s my turn. I refuse to give up my rock music in favour of: House, disco, rap, hip-hop, boy bands or X factor winners. To me they are all pretty “rubbish”, the same term used by my parents in the ’60’s. Despite trying to move with the times, and I am getting into new artists all the time, my tastes have diverged from the mainstream of popular music and I have ended up in a minority taste, “alternative” world. Some might say I now exist in a sort of musical time-warp although I try not to wallow too much in nostalgia.

CHANGE FOR CHANGE SAKE?  —-  As I get older, I find myself getting more and more resistant to change. I used to criticise  other people  for this very thing, but now it has crept up and happened to me. Sometimes, particularly in the fast moving world of technology and communications, I suspect it is change for change sake. Actually, I know the real motivation — it’s to make money by generating constant demand for the new. Back in the 1950’s it used to be about buying the latest washing machine or vacuum cleaner. Now we are constantly being enticed by the next generation of cell-phone. I’m waiting for the one that can do scrambled eggs! A slick marketing campaign probably featuring David Beckham, persuades us that something we had never even thought of before is now absolutely essential to our lives. I laughed out loud when they came up with the idea of the camera phone. Surely it’s better to use a specialised camera to take a picture rather than something tagged on to a mobile? It doesn’t even have a zoom! But I was wrong. It caught on big time, partly because people desperately wanted to keep up with the Jones’s but also because the technology improved so swiftly that the pictures were ( are) actually pretty good. So the laugh is on me. You cannot even buy a mobile these days that doesn’t have a camera. It’s now thought of an integral component of every mobile along with: a clock, a radio, the Internet and a sat-nav, things that until recently we would have imagined to be “essential” componants of our phones.

My resistance to these so-called new necessities of life has pushed me further into a side stream and out of the main current. There I wallow around in an ever-shrinking pool of people who don’t want to, or cannot stay in the hectic mainstream. I suspect that I am sometimes derided as being out of touch or being a sort of modern Canute. However I think there is more to life than scrabbling around trying to acquire the latest gadget.  I still don’t use a mobile very much and agree with the comedian who said that ” mobile phones are for people who are frightened of being alone.” What’s wrong with a bit of peace and solitude? Until recently I thought  blackberries and apples were tasty fruits that  made delicious pies, but now I find they are actually smart-phones and laptops. I somehow struggle through each day without using the now ubiquitous I-Phone, but if I proudly announce this to yonger people I am greeted with cries of disbelief and derision. I think they think I am joking. Another example of how old-fashioned I am is that I refuse to have a machine telling me where I am and where I have to go . I would rather use my brain and something called a map.

THE GENERATION GAP  —-  By the time one gets to a certain age, one has enough experience of life to work out quite a bit about it. I have worked out a set of values which form the foundation of my life. In fact I think my well thought out values are worth sharing with others in order to give them the benefit of my experience. Therefore it is a bit galling to be criticised for repeating what I sincerely and passionately believe. Repitition is seen as boring even if one believes that what one is saying is valuable. It’s a case of knowing looks which interpreted mean: “There he goes again. We’ve heard it all before!” This is very frustrating. Even if I have genuinely discovered that the meaning of life is a lot more than 42 ( as in the Hitch-hiker’s Guide), I am only allowed to say it once and then have to move on to different topics in order to avoid being a social embarrassment. It’s also a bit irritating trying to impart knowledge and “wisdom” to people 2 or 3 generations younger than me but finding that they think they already know it all.

What I’m saying in my grumpy old man way is that experience is not valued enough in our society in my opinion. Once a person is regarded as “past it” or “over the hill”, then his or her opinion doesn’t count so much. Older peoples’ views are more frequently dismissed and as people get older they are more and more likely to be patronised.  Maybe I’m getting a bit too sensitive here but I feel it has started to occasionally happen to me. My wife feels the same. It’s very frustrating — this feeling that I am gradually being marginalised. The irony is that I am guilty of the same behaviour with regards to my parents. I quite often claim that I know better than them or decide not to discuss certain issues with them because they “wouldn’t understand.”

RESPECT AND DIGNITY.  —-  My conclusion to this rambling piece is that I don’t enjoy some aspects of getting older, even though I’m still only in my early sixties. I don’t like being eased out of the mainstrean and into a back-water by some of the attitudes of society. However, to be fair, if I want more respect from others who follow in my footsteps, then I must confer confer more respect on those who have gone before. Now that I have shed some of my major life roles I am very sensitive about being categorised as a : “has-been.” I also a bit touchy about being labelled as “old-fashioned” or ” a stick in the mud.”. I know I also have to moderate my behaviour to an even older generation in order not be seen as a hypocrite. In my wisdom of 62 years I believe that “respect” and “dignity” are two of the most vital ingredients of a happy life. That includes self respect as well as respect for others. I agree totally with what one of my former teaching colleagues put up on his classroom door: “Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.” I must phone up my mum and dad for a chat!