Beside me, I have noted down a ‘new’ word: shibboleth.  Defined as a word, phrase, custom etc relating to a particular group of people – and, yes, I’m ashamed to say I googled it!  Too easy but at least I did google it.  I suspect most people, these days, wouldn’t bother; would just skip over a word they don’t happen to know.  It’s called apathy.  Currently, I’m reading – and loving – Judi Dench’s book: Shakespeare. The Man who Pays the Rent.  Manny gave it to me for Christmas and, as he wrote in his inscription, it most certainly is ‘An Almighty collaboration’!  Penned in collaboration with Brendan O’Hea, it takes the format of an interview, really, as Dame Judi is prompted, by her friend, with questions about each and every one of her countless parts in Shakespeare’s plays.  Adeptly covering the expanse of her illustrious career, it is a book full of anecdotes and humour but, moreover, one which exudes her great respect, admiration and love for not only The Bard, himself, but the English language.  Beautifully written, one can hear her voice in every word, and words are tantamount to oxygen for this remarkable lady whose voracious appetite for language has ensured her memory hosts a library second to none.  She has it all.  Intelligent, educated, forever curious and fun.  Oh, that she were my friend!

Talking of friends, I believe Charles Spencer would be one of mine had I only moved in the right circles!  I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that we had the privilege of meeting him, several years ago, when he came to Toppings to promote one of his historical tomes?  He was lovely – and considerably better looking in person!  Approachable and incredibly humble, he even tooted and waved to us, in the street, as he drove off.  Above and beyond!  Suitably impressed, I sent him a letter telling him how much we had enjoyed the evening and, almost by return, I received one right back, the Althorp stamp emblazoned on the front of the envelope and the letterhead.  Far from a standard reply, I was touched that he mentioned his eulogy to his sister – a speech which remains steadfast in my mind.  That letter is tucked, safely, inside the cover of his book.  A treasured possession …  However, the connection, here?  The word, shibboleth, appeared in relation to his latest book – A Very Private School – the publication date of which was yesterday.  I drove into town, especially, to buy my copy though, surprisingly, it was anything but front and centre considering Earl Spencer has been prevalent in the media, of late.  Directed to Therapy Works, a podcast courtesy of psychotherapist and bestselling author, Julia Samuel, I listened to – or watched, actually – him talk about his damaging childhood and the abuse he suffered at prep school.  My goodness, it was a hard watch, the pain of that childhood still so clearly etched on his face and in his eyes, even now.  His book, too, will be a harrowing read; a poignant memoir recalling the emotional trauma of being sent away from home, aged only eight, to boarding school, abandoned to a culture of cruelty in an antiquated system.  It beggars belief that any parent – any mother – could be acquiescent in such a practice, tantamount to neglect.  Parents who should never be parents.  Look around.  If not boarding school, that ‘culture’ is very much ubiquitous today.

One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood.’

Agatha Christie

Sadly, something so fundamental, so necessary – nay, so natural – is so elusive.

Enough of my reading habits, though, what of the big, bad world?  Not sure I can stomach my own brief.  Racism and religion – on speed!  Of course, there’s the furore surrounding Diane Abbott and Frank Hester, the major Tory donor whose alleged, derogatory comments about the black Labour MP, several years ago, have magically come to light.  Said comments – part of a private conversation, it should be said – were, indeed, offensive and unacceptable.  Were they racist?  He referred to the colour of her skin and one should be aware that one does so at one’s own peril – unless one is of colour.  For, I’m with Ben Habib and Suella Braverman.  Racism is alive and well in this country but, increasingly, it is directed at the white population, struggling to but, as yet, still constituting over 80% of the total number.  In this victim culture, enslaved to diversity, equality and inclusivity – and bear in mind, ‘equality’ comes with specific caveats – the accusatory term white privilege is freely used without recrimination.  There are black theatre nights, black running and swimming groups, writing competitions exclusive to non-whites … a micro-insight as to what is really going on.  Substitute the word white for black, however, and that would be tantamount to a criminal offence!  Oh, and, before I forget, let me remind you that the whiter-than-white (sarcastic, not racist!) Diane Abbott had the Labour party whip suspended last April after writing an article in which she suggested Jewish people are not subjected to the same racism as other minorities.  Antisemitic?  She was offered the whip back on the proviso that she agreed to undergo antisemitism training – does that involve a trip to Auschwitz?!  She declined.

Black Lives Matter.  So damaging, spawning an enslavement to quota and the demise of merit.  All lives matter, how about that?!  Race, religion, colour?  What difference?  We all bleed.  In the end, it comes down to man’s inhumanity to man.  Colour is just an excuse, as is religion.  There are good people, there are bad people but, above all else, there are individuals.  The individual.  Remember him?  Lost amongst today’s sheep …  Self-esteem is paramount, its importance cast aside in this propensity to feed victimhood.  The road to Hell, awash with pot holes!

‘This ill-conceived DEI policy – Diversity, Equality & Inclusion – the promotion of minorities to the detriment of the majority in this country …  How can that be right?  We’ve got the armed forces recruiting people on the basis of the colour of their skin rather than whether they can fly a jet properly or fire a shell out of a tank properly!’

Ben Habib

Now, that’s just silly!

This is Trish, signing off.