Goodwill to all?

PUBLISHED: 10:02 28 December 2007 | UPDATED: 19:21 05 July 2010

GOOD manners cost nothing and if one New Year wish were to come true it would be to make everyone a little kinder and more considerate.

The old saying “smile and the world smiles with you” is lost.

GOOD manners cost nothing and if one New Year wish were to come true it would be to make everyone a little kinder and more considerate.

The old saying “smile and the world smiles with you” is lost. Now it's more like “smile and the world thinks you're barking mad.”

I tried this at the weekend, the busiest shopping two days of the year, when elbows were out to push and trolley rage was de rigeur.

As everyone around me scowled and frowned, like Julie Andrews I smiled my way round Sainsburys, gesturing people to go before me with their trolleys, saying sorry whenever they barged into me, picking up things they'd dropped. Well, it is the season of goodwill.

Did they join in? What do you think? I think they thought I was a Care in the Community case. I barely got a grunt of recognition for a good turn, let alone a smile.

People were so stressed, the veins on their neck were protruding, as they threatened their children - you know, the ones this was all supposed to be about - with all sorts of punishments for their mischief. “I'm ringing Santa to tell him how bad you are when we get home,” said one as her little boy sobbed.

Then there was the red cabbage incident. There was one weedy specimen left. I picked it up. A grumpy man, old enough to know better, snapped “I wanted that”, as if I'd stolen it from his trolley and run away.

“Here, have it,” I said. “I obviously don't need it as much as you.”

Embarrassed at his rudeness all over a vegetable, he scurried away pink-eared.

One woman was almost crying as she yelled herself hoarse at a poor assistant because the poultry-gravy shelf was bare. It mattered to her so much she saw no need for courtesy to a stranger who was doing his job and trying to help. She looked ridiculous and, for her own sake, I hope she realised how foul she was.

Peace on earth and goodwill to all. In our dreams.

The huffing, puffing, sighing, pushing and short tempers were everywhere, no more so on the roads. I always let people out at junctions as a matter of course. A cheery wave of thanks? No way. Obviously too pre-occupied with their shopping for old-fashioned courtesy and communication.

My friend rang on Sunday night. “I had a spat with a man in Marks and Spencer,” she said. “He was so rude, queue jumped and was offensive.”

She had made the point that good manners cost nothing. He had been abusive back.

“Why are people so horrible,” she asked? Why indeed. Because they know no better and, for some twisted reason, believe rudeness buys them superiority.

Moronic stupidity, more like.

Here's to a Happy - and more polite - New Year.

WEDDING guests will do almost anything to fit in with a bride's requests, however unconventional.

Wear fancy dress, fly thousands of miles to spend their holiday listening to someone else's wedding vows, agree to the most hideous bridesmaids' outfits - but ask them to leave their kids at home and they take the most grave offence.

Billie Piper has caused an almighty family row, apparently, by insisting her New Year's Eve wedding is a strictly adults-only affair. Children are banned. No exceptions. To be left at home.

Her plans are for an all-nighter with enough alcohol to last 48 hours. Some start to a marriage, I suppose.

But her intended is a member of the thespian Fox family who believe weddings should be family affairs and have taken the huff.

Thorny subject this. Most brides don't have children and probably, like I did, find them slightly irksome and distracting and think their wedding would be better without screaming, rampaging toddlers.

But they can never, ever, be banned without causing the utmost offence. Try it at your peril - and only if you're happy to lose friends and be loathed as a living Cruella De Vil.

I know because I did it. Thirteen years ago, I wasn't too keen on kids. Had no plans to have any of my own and certainly didn't want them “ruining” my wedding with their shrieking. Hardened harridan I was.

So they were banned with a capital 'B'. People were offended.

Now I cringe that I had no idea about the problems of organising childcare, leaving children and then travelling hundreds of miles to a wedding, leaving a five-week-old baby, like I expected one new mum to do.

I only allowed one, a three-year-old bridesmaid, the one child I knew, liked and could trust to behave.

It's a decision I regret to this day with huge guilt. One couple turned up from London with their child because there was no one to look after him, one friend came on her own leaving her husband looking after their son because she thought he wasn't welcome.

If people want - and can - leave their children behind, that's fine. But some have no choice and if those people are special enough to be included in a wedding, then so should the children.

So Billie, reconsider. Weddings should be family affairs. We should take a leaf out of the Italians' book and include children in every occasion. How else do they learn how to behave?

WHETHER we want them to or not, old hand Gordon Brown, wannabe David Cameron and new boy Nick Clegg plan to spend a 2008 “out there” trying to win over the voting public. Who and what do we really want to see more of in the New Year - and less of.

Here's my list:

Less of… Prince William and Prince Harry falling out of Boujis having spent twice a worker's weekly wage on booze.

More of…the princes getting involved in more proper charity work and earning respect rather than expecting it from their inherited titles

Less of… forces in Iraq. Time to come home. They should have never been there.

More… support and decent realistic compensation for servicemen and women maimed, disabled and dependent from serving their country.

Less… speed cameras, police number crunching and target chasing

More… old-fashioned policing, presence in communities and taking every crime and its victim seriously and treating them courteously by investigating it thoroughly

Less… coked-up Amy Winehouse

More of… the woman's rare genius

Less of… Princess Diana and the dreary decade-old Dodi saga. Let her rest in peace at last

More of…The Wessexes. Sophie Wessex is reportedly the Queen's favourite. A new baby in the only marriage of the Queen's children to survive. The royal future perhaps.

Less….Whingeing about the cost of the Olympics

More…Pride in London hosting it and the young people training hard to represent their country

Less… spin and sound bites in politics

More … real clear policies, honesty across all parties and proper adversarial politics for MPs to earn their requested £6000-a-year pay rise

More… Quality TV drama and programme making

Less… Cheap reality TV and phone polls

Less… Spice girls. Please

More… Take That

A HIT of a PR stunt, if ever there was one.

When better than Christmas to declare oneself an atheist in one of the most traditional organisations in the land and urge its members to ban prayers - and hot on the heels of new Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who thought we all needed to know he didn't believe in God.

Guaranteed headlines, guaranteed interest and, hopefully for them, renewed interest in a dwindling “sisterhood.”

Jane Harris, a regional chairman of the Women's Institute, ”came out” as an atheist and insisted many WI members were non-Christians.

"I've never believed in the Tooth Fairy or Father Christmas, and became an atheist at 11," she declared. What the Tooth fairy or Father Christmas have to do with being an atheist, the WI or Christianity obviously make sense to her. Mrs Harris, 63, predictably caused a rumpus among the Jam and Jeruselem. Can't see why. Many people who insist they're Christians never go near a church unless they have to. After all, more people were shopping on Sunday than in church

“In retrospect it was a silly thing to do,” she said.

Hardly. She got what she wanted - and what she knew she'd get - publicity and new members. Rather than condemning her, the old school should congratulate her for making their organisation look so very modern and “with it”, just like Mr Clegg wanted to look.


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