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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Out-takes III

And she came with the grandmother story. I didn’t tell her that the grandmother story has been around for some time, that she was actually quoting something from a psychological seminar that has filtered down into urban myth. ‘They used to say to kids,’ she said. ‘They’d say, “Listen, your grandmother’s going to die soon so you’ve got to come with us and visit her.” Now they’ve changed it around, what they say now, they say, “Listen your grandmother’s sick. You probably won’t see her again. We’re not saying you’ve got to come, that’s up to you. But me and your father, we’d like you to come.”’

‘What’re you saying,’ I asked her. Normally I try to avoid patronizing Miriam, but as we all know, the politically correct stance is not always pertinent.

‘The kid can’t win. In the first place she’s got no choice. The mother and father tell her she’s got to visit the grandmother. She’s looked after. But when she’s given the choice it’s not a real choice. If she doesn’t go she ends up feeling guilty about disappointing her parents, and the parents are going to rub it in: You mean you don’t love your grandmother? What’s happening with the second way is that the kid has to go and see her grandmother, just like the first time, but now she has to do it with a smile, she has to enjoy it.’

The obvious way to carry on would have been for me to draw an analogy with, say, Blair’s Britain. Take the discussion onto another plain, into the realm of political dictatorship, the use of propaganda. But if I had done that I would have lost her.

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