Be grateful

Have you ever felt completely floored by your own insensitivity? Or just wished you could grab the ill-spoken words from the air and stuff them back down your throat? Then you'll know how I felt on my first night back in London on a homecoming trip to the UK which, as it turned out, constantly reminded me to feel grateful for what I have.

I was sitting in a Japanese restaurant with my long-time best mate Munki. Without thinking about it, I complained that when I go out with the bloke, it's only ever to places which serve huge slabs of meat.

She went quiet, then told me: "I haven't been out for dinner with my man for about a year."

Tacked on to the end should have been "so count yourself lucky". She didn't say that, though, but blimey I should have thought it.

Poor Munki. Her other half has bad food allergies, so going out for dinner is a near-impossibilty. And on top of that is the fact that they haven't found anyone to move into the flat they bought – meaning they have to pay both a mortgage and rent on the place they're living now. That doesn't give you much spare cash for wining and dining really.

And there was me, sounding like a right boorish brat, saying: "Oh I'm so sick of eating steak." What a total tool. Argh.

I really have so much to be thankful for. No money worries, no mortgage… not even a car I have to finance (why bother when the public transport in Madrid's so good? Plus the fact the bloke has a car, which one of these days he's finally going to let me drive, I'm sure).

I have a man who I'm quite sickeningly in love with, and I'm pretty sure feels the same way. (Though we do both have days we want to kill each other, but doesn't everyone?)

When I was back up in Durham I met up with a school friend who's expecting a baby. She was over the moon, but mildly concerned by the fact her husband has been out of work for a year. The money issue aside, he was feeling quite down about it.

That's another thing I should be thanking my lucky stars for. I have a job I love - writing for a living (albeit writing celebrity news). Could it be that I'm starting to take everything for granted?

I certainly felt that way when I found myself comparing my life right now to the harsh upbringing of my granddad, who grew up in the 1920s as one of seven sons and two daughters, one of whom died as a baby.

He started regaling stories from when he was a lad during my visit to see him, and it just about blew my mind. There was no electricity or running water in his house – light came from kerosene lamps and water had to be fetched from one of three communal taps in the street.

There was a fire to heat every room, and the children shared beds – sometimes three a piece, top to tail.

Grandad's first job, when he was 16, was working down the pit, where men were constantly injured and got sick from breathing in coal fumes. Some even died.

"Weren't you scared?" I asked him? "Scared?" He replied? "Get away, why would I be scared?"

There was only money for the oldest child to be educated – he went on to be a school teacher – while the rest had to make do with whatever they could get. After his stint down the pit, granddad went to work in a factory, on the gruelling night shift. But he has no grievances about the way things were.

He remembers with wonder seeing the first car and the first 'washing machine', a wooden box with a metal drum and handle to turn the clothes around.

The blacksmith had that in his shed, and his mother Tomasina, a formidable woman with long golden hair she would plait and pile up onto her hair, would send him round to do the washing.

In fact she would also have him fetching the flour, butter and eggs from the shop too.

"She always picked on me," said granddad with a twinkle in his eye.

When I asked why, he replied: "She told me all them other ones, my brothers, they had cow shite for brains."

I cracked up laughing while my mum, who was also listening, said "Charming!"

"What's wrong with that?" asked granddad. "It's not swearing!"

Next time I find myself moaning at my lot I will think back to granddad, and how hard he worked to give me the chance to be where I am today. I will never have to fetch water from a tap, or wash my clothes by hand. I do not have to face injury and death on a daily basis to earn money to support myself.

If I dare to complain about silly things like going out to much to the same restaurants then clearly it's me who has cow shite for brains.


  1. 'Have you ever felt completely floored by your own insensitivity? Or just wished you could grab the ill-spoken words from the air and stuff them back down your throat?' - Yes, yes and yes... many times. Sometimes I wonder, 'Did I say that or think that?'