Magic words in a world full of monsters… – JENNIFER SELWAY | express comment | comment

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Shirley Hughes died at the age of 94 (Image: getty)

After the last surreal and terrifying week – and the sights of tiny children in bomb shelters – the death of Shirley Hughes makes you think about those things, people’s ability to be both so good and so bad.

And if books mean something to you, it’s the books you read or read to others as a child that end up being the ones that mean the most to you. Maybe it’s because you read them over and over again, know them almost by heart and identify with them so deeply.

The Shirley Hughes books I read the most (as a mother) are the ones about Alfie and his sister Annie Rose and another pair of siblings named Lucy and Tom.

As a young mother herself, Hughes came up with the idea for the Lucy and Tom stories in 1960. Even then, its publishers feared that it was “far too typically English” to reach an international market, but pressed on anyway.

And of course it’s that gentle English that envelops you in its protective embrace, even though her books have been published in many languages ​​and have worldwide appeal.

The book Lucy and Tom’s Christmas is the perfect Christmas in every way. Mom bakes pastries, the Salvation Army tunes in to the bustling, brightly lit market, unruly babies play with wrapping paper and after lunch there’s a nice walk when everyone needs some fresh air.

Though it’s a highly idealized version, the Christmas we’d all like to have, it still feels grounded in the dingy reality of family life.

Hughes’ kids aren’t conventionally cute. They are often tired and untidy, with hanging shirttails, crooked hair, and funny little faces. Like real kids.

Shirley Hughes seemed to understand exactly what concerns a young child, how her busy little world is also a vast universe of possibility, adventure, fear and mud pie.

Her little crises are always resolved in an atmosphere of love and gentleness, but never diminished.

The picture book Dogger is about a lost toy. And in Alfie Gets In First, Alfie (back from a shopping spree with his mother and sister) gets stuck in his own house while his mother and Annie Rose are outside without a key. This was the first book published in 1981.

I have no doubt that a generation of kids now in their 30s will occasionally think of this as they come back from the supermarket with their own young children and reach for their front door keys.

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Thank god for Matt Hancock…

Thank god for Matt Hancock. A sentence I never expected to type. He was interviewed by Steve Bartlett on a CEO podcast diary. Steve Bartlett is a bright young entrepreneur from Dragons’ Den. And never mind that Hancock isn’t strictly a CEO, because honestly, who’s going to argue about anything that distracts from the rest of the news? anything.

Hancock wore a turtleneck and skinny jeans and was sipping some weird white stuff. Milk of magnesia?Yakult? LiquidViagra? Watching the podcast, I enjoyed Bartlett’s claim that if you’re a politician, “people are going to hate you no matter what you do.” But then I skipped over a few things about empathy and how Matt’s burning desire to help people turned into politics and (as I’m sure most viewers will) clicked on the helpfully labeled section headed “CCTV Footage”, to get to the bottom of the dirt office matter. Matt immediately chivalrously and offendedly denied any suggestion that he had “casual sex” with his departmental adviser, Gina Coladangelo.

The thought.

He argued that he broke social distancing guidelines but not the law, but by now who of us can remember what the damn Covid rules were at any point?

But things got worse. Matt acknowledged that his political downfall happened because (here he gulped and did a dog-eyed thing) “I fell in love with someone … it’s something that was completely out of my control.”

There’s nothing worse than a middle-aged man in a turtleneck admitting he’s hopelessly in love.

While not an excuse guaranteed to infuriate anyone abiding by the Covid rules, it was still repulsive. Lovers in the throes of passion are always ridiculous to everyone but themselves.

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Putin’s “hubris syndrome”

Some time ago, David Owen, the former medic and Secretary of State, wrote a book entitled In Sickness And In Power, which addressed the (often denied) health problems of a staggering number of world leaders. Among those who have lied about their health are Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Churchill, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Pompidou, Mitterrand, Blair, George W. Bush, Chirac and Ariel Sharon. Quite a list.

Which brings us to the often asked question: is Putin crazy? In a recent article, Owen says, “The changing contours of Putin’s face resemble those of a man receiving high doses of steroids.” This may lower immunity, which could explain his germ phobia.

In his book, Owen also identified what he called “Hubris Syndrome,” whose symptoms include “narcissism, grandiosity, a blending of personal interests with those of the nation, impaired judgment, diminished awareness of risk, and widespread contempt for others.”

Putin seems to be the right one. But there is little comfort in calling his behavior insane. It just makes you think about all the crazy things he might have up his crazy sleeve.

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High profile grammatical errors

COMMENTING on someone else’s misspellings is like taking a snag in a newspaper column. Because we all make mistakes, and only for the sake of God’s grace? etc. But please, can Nadine Dorries (who is Minister for Culture so should know better) get someone to check her tweets?

“The PM slams the fake news being spread by Labor front bench MPs on the head. Appalling political opportunism and misinformation in the midst of a crisis,” she told the world last week. I know Boris is famous for his bikes, but can someone tell her that news is “peddling” and not “cycling”?

Although this wasn’t quite as bad as Diane Abbott spoke about Russian tanks rolling into Croatia and Joe Biden mistaking Ukrainian for Iranian. Gives you so much confidence doesn’t it?

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Rihanna’s maternity wardrobe leaves a lot to be desired

RIHANNA is a beautiful woman. No question. But her maternity wardrobe leaves a lot to be desired. While marquee-sized gowns and subtle pussycat bows are no longer de-rigueur (and thank goodness), I’m not sure a see-through babydoll and boots represent a huge step forward in woman’s empowerment. Especially in early March.

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