In praise of consequential strangers

Today I cried down the phone to a stranger.

woman, inconsequential strangers | See more at
Photo by Louise Blythe on Unsplash

It’s not the first time I’ve done this. During my two years in the emotional wilderness following my separation, I regularly cried in front of people I’d only just met. Real estate agents, bank managers, municipal officers, shop assistants—no one was safe. Some of them – the consequential strangers – made a lasting difference to my life.

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When inlaws become outlaws: strategies and semantics

For some separating couples, the prospect of no more Sunday dinners at the inlaws is almost enough to make up for the pain of separation.

Not so for the lucky ones among us who count the family we partnered into as friends. Harper Lee could have been talking about ex inlaws in this passage from To kill a mockingbird:

‘Atticus says you can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family, an’ they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don’t.’

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird, in-laws | See more at

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The semantics of being single: Marital status

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, a single woman who knew a lot about semantics.

Jane Austen courtesy of the New York Times | See more at

In her day, Jane Austen would have been described as a Spinster (gasp!) or worse, Old Maid (smelling salts!). In recent times, her unfortunate marital status may have been softened to Unclaimed Treasure.

Despite this, it cannot be denied the woman knew quite a lot about love.

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Bilingualism and the language of love

Bilingualism on a blackboard | More on www.diywoman.netPanos Athanasopoulos wrote beautifully about bilingualism in April 2015 in The Guardian Weekly, a piece that moved me to write my first public love-letter and reflect on the language of love.

I spent six months in France to immerse myself in a culture I have loved forever and a language I haven’t spoken for 35 years. The mental workout your brain derives from travelling back and forth between two languages can be likened to the beneficial physical effects of regular visits to the gym: increased flexibility, stamina and occasionally the overwhelming desire to have a lie down and a sleep afterwards.

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Tom’s Story

Today marks the second anniversary of the death of my nephew Tom.

Tom aged around 7
Tom aged around 8

There are no road maps to tell us how to manage our grief (both public and private) and our feelings of guilt as we start the slow and painful journey towards ‘recovery’ from the acute and unsustainable feelings of devastation that Tom’s untimely passing has raised.

The death of a loved one is never easy for those left behind. When the loved one is a beautiful young man in the prime of his life, it is very difficult to make sense of what has happened. And so we look to rituals to honour them and to mark their passing through and from this world with the ceremony and reverence they deserve.

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