Selfless – a psychological tripwire by Roy Stannard

Introspection 2

Colm was a generous man. He had been brought up to believe that the more he gave, the more he would be rewarded later in life or in the life after. As a child he had shared his toys with his friends at school, unselfishly. He had lent his things to people he hardly knew and often they didn’t come back. He didn’t mind. It was good to be generous and he was always popular with the children around him who loved to come and play with his things.

When Colm had money given to him by his parents, he made a point of sharing it with his friends too. It seemed right to share his good fortune. The money wasn’t his, it had been given to him so he could help make the world a happier place. Soon the young boy was surrounded by fair weather friends who loved to be in his company for as long as he had wealth to share.

In fact, they became accustomed to going to Colm’s house where they shared his money, his games, his books and anything else they could lay their hands on.  He felt obliged to find new ways of supporting this generosity and went out to work early in the morning, every morning, delivering newspapers in order to continue to have the money that people loved to share.

His parents wondered about the number of friends their son had and worreid about the size of the presents he asked them for when his birthday arrived, and after that, Christmas. But they agreed to give him what he asked for because they wanted their son to be happy.

For a while he was happy. He was the centre of attention and always seemed to have lots of people around him telling him a wonderful person he was. His friends clapped him on the back and agreed that he was a good fellow whilst keeping one hand free to take the gifts that he insisted on pressing on them.

In his teenage years, Colm continued to fund friendship with generosity. He took up smoking in order to be able to share cigarettes. He took up drinking in order to be the first to the bar. He took up driving at seventeen in order to be able to give people lifts. He shared his first girlfriend with his best friend, whoever that was. At eighteen, he shared his identity so that his friends could buy alcohol at the local supermarket. At College he made his essay answers available for those in his group who had forgotten to meet deadlines. He lent all his money to people who were good at crying.

When Colm got his first job he quickly became the man people went to in order to get new supplies of stationery, to borrow a mug from, to sign in for if they were late back from lunch. He was the first person the Boss went to if he wanted someone to work late, to come in at weekends, to meet the impossible deadline. He had an inexhaustible supply of jokes and sent more office emails than any one else.

When Colm met his wife he promised her the biggest and best honeymoon and a couple of friends came along too. Later, when they had kids, he came home every evening from work with a present for them. Soon they expected this to happen and pursed their lips if he came home empty-handed.  His wife loved wearing his presents and loved finding catalogues to enable him to indulge his generosity still further. His parties were the talk of the town and people said that you could make a whole new circle of friends at each one. Colm sometimes wondered who these strangers were in his house, but they smiled at him and clapped him on the back, looking for all the world as if they loved him.

The newspapers covered his spectacular parties and the gossip columns buzzed with what happened amongst the people who attended. Strangely, Colm did not appear in the pictures and his name was rarely mentioned.  In the rare photograph that included him, he looked like a waiter, handing someone a drink, always smiling, never being smiled upon.

After paying for the graduation celebration, the wedding and the motor transportation of his children Colm was asked for a divorce by his wife. He agreed and there was a generous settlement.

Soon after, he suffered a serious heart attack and was taken to hospital. There was no-one to go with him. He was asked by the Doctor on duty who he was. He didn’t know how to answer this question because an identity in life is a contract between people with something to share. He had given himself away. Selflessly. To exist in other’s minds he had to first exist in his own.

Out there, there is someone who loves you unconditionally. Have you spent enough time together today?

Excavating the Eighties Pt 2 – more rare 12″ vinyl

The fragrant Bea Van Der Maat - singer with Won Ton Ton

The fragrant Bea Van Der Maat – singer with Won Ton Ton

Won Ton Ton’s singer Bea Van Der Maat  is probably the reason to explore this Belgian Eighties outfit.

After Chow-Chow, the forerunner to Won Ton Ton split,  Bea started a career on television and sang in the LSP Band. Her popularity got the group a record contract. In 1987 the group reformed – under the name Won Ton Ton – and released the single included here – “I lie and I cheat”.

Interesting for its self-destructive lyrical theme, this song became a big hit, both in Belgium (n° 10) and in Holland (n° 13). The successors, “Hey Marlene” and the rather prurient “Can I come near you” were less successful.

Bea Van Der Maat ‘s commitment to the band was spasmodic – pursuing a parallel television career (making the move to VTM and presenting “Tien om te zien” – a program carrying the more commercially oriented Flemish music)  and she also brought up two children.

In 1996 she released a comeback album of Triphop music “Thin skinned” that got good reviews but sold poorly.

The Won Ton Ton lineup:

– Bea Van Der Maat – vocals
– Ronny Timmermans – guitar
– Fons Noeyens – guitar
– Els Ravijts / Jos Borremans – keyboards
– Jan Biesemans – bass
– Raf Ravijts – drums

Breathe was a London-based musical group formed in the early 1980s. Originally a larger, six-person band called “Catch 22”, they trimmed down to a quartet to record the album All That Jazz in 1987. This contained their two best-known hits, “How Can I Fall?” and “Hands to Heaven”. The latter charted on the Billboard Hot 100 at #2 in 1988, and at #4 in the UK. Bassist Micheal Delahunty left the group in 1989 and the remaining three followed “All that Jazz” with the lesser known “Peace of Mind” in early 1990.

Despite having all the pop potential of an Air Supply, they were destined to remain a cult band – which is why they are here.

Big Sound Authority were an English pop band. The group was formed in 1983 by Tony Burke and Julie Hadwin who both took turns as lead singers. They signed to Source Records and released one album ‘An Inward Revolution’ before splitting up in 1986.

Box of Toys were born from the ashes of A Select Committee (1981-83), a powerpop band formed by Brian Jones, Tim Lees (both later of Something French), Steve Downey (later of Come in Tokyo) and Andy Redhead (on drums, percussion and synth). Even before the band broke up in 1983,in 1982 Redhead teamed up with Phil Martin (on sax, keys and vocals, formerly of 3D), Roy Campbell (on bass and vocals) and Brian Atherton (on vocals and synth, later of ‘The Light’). Even before their first single the quartet recorded a session with the ever prescient John Peel in April 1983.

Peel Session (April 1983)

– When Daylight Is Over (Sunset)
– Time Takes Me Back
– Precious Is The Pearl
– I’m Thinking Of You Now

In 1983 ‘Precious Is the Pearl’ (included here) and When Daylight Is Over (Sunset) appeared on their second single (12” version, together with a second b-side, It Goes Without Saying). The band split in late 1984, and Andy Redhead joined a later version of  3D.

Cactus World News was an Irish rock band formed in Dublin in 1984. The original members included: Frank Kearns, Eoin McEvoy, Wayne Sheehy, and Fergal MacAindris. Their early influences were The Clash, The Ramones, Talking Heads, U2, The Waterboys, and R.E.M.

Their first recording, and best known song, was The Bridge. They performed at the Self Aid concert in Dublin on May 17, 1986. The two 12″ tracks here fought hard to avoid the charts and were destined for obscurity – but not in these parts.

One of my favourite guitar tracks from the Eighties comes from another widescreen Irish band, ‘Blue in Heaven’  who assumed legend-like shape in 1985-6 although unfairly lumped in with the ‘Big Beat’ movement and so suffered by comparison to stadium-fillers like Simple Minds, U2 and even the Waterboys.

They released 2 full length albums on Island Records: All the Gods Men (1985) and Explicit Material (1986). They also released several singles and EPs. ‘Across my Heart’ is their masterpiece. Judge for yourself – it still sounds wonderful.

Vincent Montana Jnr is part of the wider Philly soul-disco scene working as a composer, arranger, bandleader, percussionist and producer. His credits include MFSB, Salsoul Orchestra, Goody Goody and many others but ‘Heavy Vibes’ is a particular favourite with its jazz vibes and light touch – particularly enjoyable on the extended Paul Simpson’s club mix here.

Real Life was a Melbourne-based Australian New Wave band that made waves with both their debut single, ‘Send Me an Angel’ (1983) and with ‘Catch Me, I’m Falling’ (1984), both of which were featured on the band’s debut album Heartland (1983).

The band originally consisted of David Sterry (lead vocals/guitar), Richard Zatorski (violin/keyboard), Alan Johnson (bass) and Danny Simcic (drums). Steve Williams (keyboard) replaced Zatorski in 1986, who was then replaced by George Pappas in 1996 after a long hiatus of band activity.

This 12″ version of ‘Send me an Angel’ is just one of seventeen versions of the song – and probably the best.

The Prime Movers were a three piece band from the greater Los Angeles area. During the mid 80s The Prime Movers made the big(gish) time after releasing the critically acclaimed LP “Museum” on their own Birdcage Records.

They signed to Island Records and  two singles, ‘On the Trail’ and ‘Dark Western Night’ entered the UK charts.

Nothing can be found about ‘Whirl’ whose sole 12″ release ‘Clear’ is included – suffice to say that it represents a great piece of Eighties Indie rock – with just enough melody to make it worthy of reprising here.

Fifteen rare tracks – including the hard to find Icelandic version of The Sugarcubes’ (featuring Bjork) breakthrough ‘Birthday’ are waiting for your listening pleasure below:

1.  Big Sound Authority – Don’t let our love start a war (12″)

2.  Blue in Heaven – Across my Heart (12″)

3. Box of Toys – Precious is the Pearl (12″)

4. Cactus World News – Worlds Apart (12″)

5. Cactus World News – Years Later (12″)

6.  H20 – I dream to Sleep (7″)

7.  H20 – I dream to Sleep (12″)

8.  Here’s Johnny – I fall apart (12″)

9.  Montana Sextet – Heavy, heavy Vibes (12″)

10. Real Life – Catch me I’m Falling (12″)

11. The Prime Movers – On the Trail (12″)

12. The Sugarcubes – Birthday (Icelandic version – 12″)

13. Turquoise Blue – We are Lost (12″)

14. Whirl – Clear (12″)

15.  Won Ton Ton – I lie and I Cheat (12″)

Apologies – link has been removed because of an objection from one of the copyright holders above.

Writing a letter of application using Auto-Response Psychology

A young friend of mine called Mark asked me to look over a letter of application he is writing for a Grad job in the City. It was a good letter, full of earnest expressions of enthusiasm for the job he was applying for, direct and honest about his achievements to date. Anyone reading it would get a clear picture of the sincere, diligent young man writing it.

Along with the other couple of thousand hopefuls writing virtually identical letters.

The content was factual, yet a little uninspiring. The font used was Times New Roman , only slightly less commonplace than the air we breathe. No pictures.

Nothing to pull it out from the crowd.

Instead of simply rewriting it using literary or HR skills, I set about writing a version of the letter that asked questions in the right place – throwing the gauntlet back at the person reading it, challenging them to notice what was different about this applicant. The sentences became shorter, more direct. Word pictures created metaphors and allegories. A modern parable in the shape of a stone skimming across the water started to form. The idea of a horizon becoming closer the harder you look at it gathered shape and was quietly slipped in.

When I sent it back to Mark I suggested that he create two personas and send one as himself and one alter ego adding a middle initial into his name – and see which got the response. After all, he could be the person he chose to be, couldn’t he?

Marketing yourself is a challenging concept. We English naturally shrink away from it. Yet the person with the most flexibility has the most power. Gently introduce the idea in the head of the recruiter that your CV is the one that will bring the horizon closer and this image will be very hard to shift.

The letter written with the help of Auto-Response Psychology – a people-changing discipline developed at – is reprinted below.

Have you got a horizon to bring closer?


Dear Sirs

Among the many, the right one will come to hand

Among the many, the right one will come to hand

CV after CV after CV after CV. How can so many people share the same lives? The last person you want for the Analyst Sales and Trading role is just another pebble on the beach. What would it be like to find the one who slips smoothly into the hand, flies highest, skims furthest and bounces fourteen times on the water?

If you didn’t, you could just open the window and whistle.

I spent the Summer of 2008 in Equities at CS trying the banking suit on for size and finding that it fitted. My time in Prime Services was very useful, but it was when I joined the Sales and Trading Department that the adrenaline really flowed.

Why me, why Megabank? I like the fact that the Megabank brand adorns most skylines and horizons – evidenced recently by its recognition as best foreign bank in The Philippines by Alpha South East Asia Magazine. For someone who has traveled widely, this global reach is a huge asset when considering career – and investment options.

Diversity and reach in combination appeal to me. At CS I sat at a number of desks within Sales and Trading – across both Fixed Income and Equities and I noticed that the horizon gets closer the harder you look. My CV suggests that I have invested in myself – which is why I would like you to as well. I have a good understanding of the investment process and the skills needed to turn investments into profits. So when you’re cooking new Analysts this means less simmer, more taste.

Prove it, I hear you say. Ok, take my primary summer project at CS. This asked me to find new futures clearing business from existing Prime broker clients. It climaxed in a successful presentation to senior management demonstrating an ability to sell an idea and conduct my own research.

This ability is looking for its place in the market. Wouldn’t it be exciting to pick it up and see whether you can hit the horizon with it?

Yours faithfully

Who’s to blame?


We live in a blame culture. If we fail our exams, it’s the fault of the teacher – or it could be the environment we grew up in, or the school. If we trip over a jutting flagstone, then it’s the fault of the Council and we reach for the solicitor’s telephone number. If we have a bad day at work then of course it’s the fault of our Boss – or the customer.

The people we love to hate are politicians. We get more passionate, more animated about them than perhaps  anything or anyone else. I have read pieces in the press and posts on social networking sites recently blaming politicians for all of the following: Global-warming-whose-to-blame
The economy; the current recession; the education system; the health service; the UK’s place in the world; the war in Afghanistan; the state of the roads; the environment; unemployment; lack of ambition amongst young people; high teenage pregnancy rates; depression; lack of hope.

If all the above were true, then we would be forced to admire our politicians for their amazing ability to involve themselves on so many fronts – and in having so much influence.

If we didn’t blame the political classes, then we could blame our parents. They made us what we are. If they didn’t, then it is God’s fault. It must be someone’s fault. If it’s someone else’s fault, then it absolves us of any requirement to do something about the situation ourselves. It’s much easier to moan than to act.

blame_toon_wideweb__470x422,0 The corollary of this is a growing sense of powerlessness amongst people. The feeling that we are trapped by  circumstances – that whatever we do, the situation will remain insoluble. The blame game enables us to  remain on the sideline as spectators rather than as participants. If ‘things’ happen to us; if we are ‘lucky’ or  ‘unlucky’ people; if we accept the theory of ‘karma’; if we are just pawns on the chessboard of life and others  are the players, then the hope that we have (as agents of free will) begins to extinguish.

Even if we are victims of circumstance, of how others treat us, of misfortune, inequality or disability – the way  in which we react to these events defines our feeling of self-worth. We often confuse what we do with who we are. No outside event, perception or label can affect the core value of who we are. What we do and what happens to us on a daily basis can change the way we feel – but does not increase or reduce our essential worth as human beings. You may have a good or a bad day but your stock as a unique individual does not rise or fall. Just the way you feel. And feeling is behaviour. Behaviour is not who you are.

Similarly, blaming someone else for the world’s ills may make you feel better, temporarily. But it does not change your value for the better or worse. Your value is not enhanced because someone else is being castigated. Better to decide what it is you can do to improve the situation, locally, personally, incrementally. If it is someone else’s fault there there is no point. However, doing something yourself may inspire others to do the same.

Taking responsibility  for your actions, life and the things that go on around you is not the same thing as blaming yourself. Everything that happens provides some extra useful learning – and you grow as a result of it. chickenblameHow many redundancies lead to new opportunities? How many failed businesses lead to successful ones later? How many failed relationships lead to a resolve to have successful ones next?

Wouldn’t it be interesting if there was no-one to blame?  Stuff happens. We learn from it. We use it as fuel for the next pot roast. Blame becomes an outdated concept. As does bitterness, regret, what might have beens, even failure. What might it be like to start each day with a clean slate – with infinite possibilities and no back catalogue?

So who’s to blame. Not them. And not you either..

Rare Eighties music gems (ripped from 12″ vinyl)

April Showers - Abandon Ship (with superb orchestration by Anne Dudley)

April Showers - Abandon Ship (with superb orchestration by Anne Dudley)

Jonathan Bernstein and Beatrice Colin together formed April Showers – a fleetingly brilliant Glaswegian pop duo who released just one single “Abandon Ship” on Big Star, a subsidiary of Chrysalis in 1984.  It quickly gained a cult following due to its sparkling production from Anne Dudley (Art of Noise) and string-heavy arrangements. This quality was echoed on B-side “Everytime We Say Goodbye” with the 12-inch featuring an instrumental of Abandon Ship “Abandon Ship Sing-A-Long-A-Wonder Mix”. Due to its rarity and the presence of Anne Dudley this record is now highly sought after – good job I recognised its quality back in 1984! Both vocal version and instrumental are included in the compilation below. 

In converting some rare Eighties vinyl to CD I thought it would be churlish of me not to share some of this hidden treasure. Where tracks are easily obtained via download sites or on CD compilations I haven’t included them. Hence Nick Neyward’s ‘instrumental version of ‘Whistle down the wind’ is included here because the vocal version is easy to obtain.

The instrumental 96.8 is on the B side of ‘The Highest High’ by China Crisis (1985), the year that I launched a Saturday afternoon sports show on Worthing Hospital radio and used this piece of music as its theme. It still sounds great to my ears – and is absolutely unavailable anywhere else.

The Secret Seven are so obscure that they do not have an entry on Last FM – but the 12″ mix of ‘Hold onto Love’ is an eighties favourite of mine – all glorious 7 minutes of it with sumptuous string arrangements and the signature programmed drum sound of the time.

Another favourite of mine was Virgin Dance – part of the thriving Liverpool scene that produced The Teardrop Explodes and others. The quintet consisted of Edwin Hind (vocals & guitar), Kenny Dougan (guitar), Lorraine Gardner (keyboards), Graham McMaster (bass) and Cliff Hewitt (drums, previously in Modern Eon). Led by vocalist Edwin Hind, the band released one album, “Against the Tide”, and scored one indie hit, “Are You Ready (For That Feeling)?” which is included here in both its 7″ and 12″ guises.

‘Weak in the presence of Beauty’ by Floy Joy was later covered by Alison Moyet but this version has the thrill and the passion of its writers in full flow.

Blow Up despite the name were nothing to do with the 60s film of the same name although they derived their name from it.  The title of the track suggests they had Brighton roots and that was where I was living at the time, which is how Norman Cook who was working in Rounder Records in The Lanes, Brighton at the time managed to convince me to buy it. I have never regretted it. Norman (Quentin in those days) always did have great taste.

White & Torch were a Walker Brothers for the Eighties and ‘Parade’ is simply superb, both in vocal performance and arrangement – majestic sounding even now.

1. April Showers – Abandon Ship (12″)

2. April Showers – Abandon Ship (12″ instr)

3. Blow Up – Pool Valley

4. China Crisis – 96.8

5. Floy Joy – Weak in the presence of beauty

6. Mondo Kane – New York Afternoon

7. Nick Heyward – Whistle down the wind (12″ instr)

8. Sivuca – Ain’t no sunshine (12″)

9. Sophie & Peter Johnston – Happy Together

10. The Beautiful Americans – Beautiful Americans (12″)

11. The Secret Seven – Hold onto love (12″)

12. Two People – This is the shirt (12″)

13. Virgin Dance – Are you ready for that feeling? (7″)

14. Virgin Dance – Are you ready for that feeling? (12″)

15. White and Torch – Parade (12″)

Here they are:

Adorable’s last album – Fake – another lost classic

Adorable - Fake

Dismissed by some as less immediate than its predecessor, ‘Against Perfection’ (1993), ‘Fake’ is actually better written and produced with at least three all-time classic rock songs and impassioned singing throughout from Pete Fijalkowski.

The reason that Adorable have lasted better than some of their contemporaries (Slowdive, Ride, Curve etc) is that Pete’s voice and guitar playing are completely timeless. The sheer romanticism of tracks like ‘Submarine’, ‘Road Movie’ and ‘Have you seen the light’ lift the album onto a different plane. If Submarine were issued now as a single it would sell a million.

Alan McGee and Creation were already pressing the eject button on Adorable’s career when this album appeared in 1994. Oasis were looming and the world was  contemplating between curtains of greasy hair the widening sluice gates of grunge. The wonderful guitar heroics and sheer glamour of Adorable could not compete at this base level. The dynamics within the band were splintering and Pete’s adherence to an old fashioned work ethic wasn’t shared by the other three. Shame on them.

The album finishes with the angry cry of ‘Fake’. Adorable were anything but.


1.  Feed Me

2.  Vendetta

3.  Man in a suitcase

4. Submarine

5. Lettergo

6.  Kangaroo Court

7. Radio Days

8. Go easy on her

9.  Road Movie

10. Have you seen the light

Go on, treat yourself.

The Woman who stopped burning inside by Roy Stannard (Secret psychology Pt 2)

The Fire Dragon

Here is a story to help you give up.

One day, a long time ago when this beautiful young girl was a teenager and everyone around her seemed so much more grown up and sophisticated than her, she decided that she needed an adult magic wand – something to help her fit in with the grown up world of smoky bars and mysterious clubs.

Someone offered her a cigarette and this beautiful young woman, not knowing that the real reason for the person offering her the cigarette was jealousy, innocently accepted the cigarette and lit it. The acrid smoke filled her lungs and almost choked her. How could anyone enjoy this experience?

However, because she desperately needed to fit in and win the approval of her peers she persisted with this terrible burning sensation and eventually the horrible side effects started to disappear – not that they left, just that the beautiful young girl didn’t notice them any more.

After a while the lovely young woman subtly changed, she didn’t look so young any more. Whenever, she wanted to look cool and sophisticated she fired up a cigarette and puffed at it reflectively, looking mysterious and artistic. However, her close friends and family didn’t know how to tell her that the smoke from the cigarette was coming from both ends of her body. As she inhaled and exhaled, the smoke poured, a trickle at first and then a torrent, escaping from other parts of her body. She was slowly burning away inside.

By now, there was no pretence that the cigarette was making her look cool and sophisticated. The evil stick of poison that lurked in her handbag sniggered horribly to itself, knowing that its owner would not be able to resist taking it out and applying a light to it, enabling it to further its mission of burning her away inside.

After a few more years had passed, the beautiful young woman was beautiful no more. She was now known as the dragon lady, because fire and smoke blew from her as she walked. Children cowered in front of her, avoiding her flaming breath, which was noxious and foul smelling.

The evil little stick in her bag whispered to her, telling her that she would never be able to give him up, for she depended on him for her very life – and the pain of rejecting him would be too great. This was a lie, as others had told the evil midget stick to begone – and he had to obey because all human beings control their destinies, whatever the doubters think.

One day the beautiful woman’s children approached her with masks over their faces, to protect themselves from her raging, flaming anger and issued an ultimatum. ‘The evil white stick – or us Mummy’, they cried, with tears falling softly to the ground, hissing on the heat and smoke that surrounded the woman.

The woman had heard a wise old man in the cave on the mountain had the answer to stopping the dominion of the evil white stick. She went to see him. He laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. ‘Indeed yes, there is an answer’, he said. ‘You must remember this one thing. The human being is not what it does. You are not a smoker, you are a human being who smokes. The choice is yours. Choose to stop. It is your destiny.’

The beautiful woman realized that she was not a slowly evaporating puff of smoke, but a unique human being who makes a decision every time she puts an evil white stick in her mouth. If she could choose to do this, she could choose not to do it. The sun rose, the clouds parted, the air on the mountain side smelled sweet. She was a free woman. The evil white stick in her hand looked frightened and then turned to dust. She was no longer a smoker, but a woman who chose not to smoke. A woman who chose beauty and family, life and hope. A woman with a future.

Roy Stannard 13.7.09

The Occasional Treat by Roy Stannard (Psychology in writing Pt 1)



Blue was an undergraduate in her second year at University.

She believed that being pale was an interesting image and that people who were rather loud were to be discouraged. In accordance with this belief, Blue wore clothes that blended with her surroundings, whether Seminar walls, bus seats or long grey corridors. She adopted a manner that meant that people often didn’t notice her at all and in consequence, was rarely bothered by people who she didn’t know very well, and only a little more often by people she did know well.

She was studying Applied Invisibility in the School of Self-disparagement at the University of Bland.

Every morning she would get up, apply her very subtle make-up, find her everywoman jumpsuit and brush her hair into a bob – which frankly didn’t bob very much. She would walk down the road and wait for the 8.48am bus that took her to University every morning.  Blue would sit by herself at the very back of the bus. That way, she didn’t need to talk to anyone, she could show her bus pass to the driver and disappear down to the end of the bus. For the whole of her first year she didn’t speak to a soul, or a spirit or even a living person.

Each day she would attend lectures, seminars and tutorials and only speak when spoken to. If the Tutor addressed her personally she would colour a little (subtly, so hardly anyone would notice) and reply in the shortest form possible – and with as little character and personality as she could manage. After all, people who dominated groups, talks, bus rides and bus queues were to be discouraged. They obviously had issues which Blue prided herself on not having.

One day, Blue was waiting for the 8.48am bus and a small elderly gentleman also waiting for the bus turned and smiled at her. “Good morning, young lady” he said with a courtly bow and a twinkle in his eye. Blue half-smiled at him and turned away quickly, concerned not to be caught up in conversation with some old man who obviously didn’t have any friends in his life. He persisted, “It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?” She nodded glumly, with barely hidden irritation. He continued, “Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Treat. Are you a student by chance?”

Blue was now standing outside of her comfort zone. The last thing she wanted to do was engage in conversation first thing in the morning when she had so many other things not to think about. “yes”, she said, hoping that this admission would satisfy him. Treat looked anything but satisfied. He looked instead a little like a boisterous whippet being offered a ball to play with. “It must be wonderful to get up every morning and think that I am going to College in order to learn something new. To meet new people and discuss ideas. How wonderful to think that I could come home that evening with a completely different outlook on life. Is that what you think when you catch the bus in the morning m’dear?”

“I suppose so”, Blue murmured, wishing that he would go away. The opposite happened. The bus arrived and Blue crept onto it in her usual demure fashion whilst Mr Treat positively exploded onto the bus. Like a visiting dignitary trying out a third world mode of transport, he made small talk with the driver, complimenting him on his punctuality and processed down the bus talking to every passenger and asking after their well-being. As far as Blue could remember, he had never rode on the bus before. All these people were strangers to him – and yet, he seemed to know them all intimately. Worse, they all seemed to revel in the attention, looking up and smiling, returning his greetings. The whole bus seemed awash with chatter, good will and, well, joy.

Treat sat down next to Blue, who almost squirmed with discomfort. He turned to her, resting a friendly hand on her shoulder. “Well, m’dear, let’s talk about you. We have twenty minutes on this bus to while away and I want to hear about everything that’s going on in your life.”

Blue was panic-stricken. No-one in almost ten years had pinned her down like this. She was used to answering questions in a quiet, detached sort of way, giving the minimum and keeping people at a safe distance. It was easier that way.

Treat was having none of this. “Come, come m’dear, I want to hear all about your successes and hopes and even your fears. What would you like to happen today?” Blue knew that her low-risk strategy for engaging with people was being trampled on. Her layers of defence were being breached. Little rivulets of this man’s energy were penetrating her sandbagged front door. Blue’s innermost private spaces would soon be awash with good natured conversation. She turned away, rudely. She felt her face run red with shame. After all, he was just being friendly. Amazingly, she felt a little tear form in one eye and start to trickle down her right cheek. She brushed it away and stared out of the window.

She glanced to her side and with a start realised that the seat next to her was empty. Treat had gone.

The tears ran freely now. He was the first person to ask how she was in months. He was the first person to really show an interest in her, in what she thought and what she had planned. How could she have been so rude? Her whole being ached – and yet in the pain there was another kind of sensation. Of having connected with someone, however briefly.

She glanced out of the window. There was Mr Treat walking brightly along the pavement. He looked up at the bus and caught her eye. He smiled at her, winked and mouthed the words, “See you tomorrow..”

It was then she realised that her secret wish had been granted. And all that day she practised what she would say to Treat the next day with people she met.  On the bus home that night, she couldn’t stop smiling because of all the comments people had made to her. Blue had become bright Blue. She even said ‘thank you’ to the bus driver.

She was amazed by how much she was looking forward to tomorrow.


Roy Stannard 8.5.09