Rarely lost for words

Harefield Gazette - - OPINION -

THIS col­umn has clocked up around 120,000 words since the first one on May 21 2008, but Mr F reck­ons I use that many words on a daily ba­sis any­way, never mind spread­ing them over seven years in Bm@il.

He there­fore can’t imag­ine how I came to be (al­most) dumb­struck while shak­ing hands with Nel­son Man­dela, the sub­ject of my very first col­umn.

I wrote then about how we can make id­iots of our­selves when meet­ing our he­roes, fol­low­ing a con­fes­sion by Max Hast­ings on his blun­der­ing meet­ing with Princess Diana.

A new study had been pub­lished in sci­en­tific jour­nal Neu­ron which re­vealed that when we meet any­one we rate higher than us, an area of our brain lights up to awake a sense of def­er­ence which can cause us to act oddly.

Bm@il hit­ting the streets may not have been a gi­ant step for mankind but the rea­son it is still go­ing strong is be­cause many read­ers – you – have ac­tu­ally read the col­umns. So many heart­felt thanks.

Look­ing back, it is funny to see how top­i­cal some of the col­umns still are. Five years ago (21.7.10) I wrote a piece headed Stop Bash­ing Charles in which I asked what the heir to the throne had done that was so ter­ri­ble?

This had noth­ing to do with be­ing a roy­al­ist or a repub­li­can. I was just cross that, with his love of the en­vi­ron­ment, build­ings, ar­chi­tec­ture and ev­ery­thing or­ganic, he wasn’t al­lowed to ex­press his con­cerns with­out be­ing ac­cused of in­ter­fer­ing.

Now his let­ters to the Gov­ern­ment have been made public, it seems he gen­uinely did have oth­ers at heart, par­tic­u­larly when stick­ing up for the forces in Iraq, whom he feared were not prop­erly equipped.

Be­ing safe re­minded me of when I was a re­porter and a call came into the news­room about a hostage sit­u­a­tion.

A (pos­si­bly) armed man had bar­ri­caded him­self into his house and may have had a child with him.

Ar­riv­ing at the scene, I was shunt­ing my car through the crowds when a hot geyser erupted from un­der the bon­net. I rang Bri­tan­nia Res­cue.

A con­cerned op­er­a­tor asked the rou­tine ques­tion, ‘Was I a woman alone?’ I tried not to laugh as I looked at the rows of po­lice in riot gear – hel­mets, shields, ba­tons – that now sur­rounded me, par­tic­u­larly when he added, “Do you feel safe?”

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