Oy Dave! Down here!

Oy, Dave! Down here!
By now we’ve probably all heard of the phrase The Big Society being used by David Cameron and his coalition government. At best we might have a warm fuzzy feeling about what it means, at worst we haven’t got a clue either what it is or how it can be achieved. Somewhere in the middle is a suspicion that, if we say ‘yes’ (without really knowing what we’re saying ‘yes’ to) we are about to be programmed by an Orwellian bunch of ex-public school kids and a sprinkling of American academics.
Scepticism aside, I’m going to look at one or two achievable factors that mean we don’t have to wait to be told by the grown-ups in parliament how to create a Big (little) Society nearer home.

Firstly we need to assess who we are and where we’re coming from. Clearly this is a job for sociologists, psychologists, and Mr and Mrs Poinsettia who lives at number 43 and have very twitchy curtains. So let’s keep it simple.
A cat food manufacturer came up with one of the most enduring tag lines of the 20th Century. ‘Eight out of ten owners say their cats prefer it’. Eighty/twenty is also a broad enduring economic (Wilfredo Pareto) balance in the sense that eighty percent of the profit of your average company is earned by twenty percent of the customers, eighty percent of the land is owned by twenty percent of the people etc. There are, of course, exception to these big brush strokes, but funnily enough they usually come in at twenty percent!

How is this relevant to us as a micro or macro society? Because I believe cats number one to eight are fundamentally good hearted, instinctively generous and polite people who understand that a team is greater than the sum of its parts. Cats nine and ten are included but are the exception that prove the rule. Cat number nine will never entertain an idea of unfounded origin (NIH or ‘not invented here’, as my old dad would say). Cat number ten understands precisely what the other cats are on about, but for their own reason, choose to remain outside the broader philosophy of good community. It gets a bit complicated should somebody ‘corner’ cat number three or their kittens. They may temporarily appear like cat number ten.

Secondly, we all need a song sheet to sing from. I can already hear cat number nine getting suspicious, but at this stage I’m only offering to lend them my car, I’m not telling them where they have to go with it.
Whether negotiating a deal with a driver at a zebra crossing, a business transaction, across the dinner table with the family, or planning a military campaign, if we all knew where we, and all the other b****** were coming from, we could actually rub along quite well together. If this all sounds either a bit vague or a bit pink and fluffy, just bear with me because it can and does get very specific, and even road kill is pink and fluffy for a while.

The wheel has already been invented. Try as we might to improve it, we keep coming back to the round type that’s secured in the centre.
I’m suggesting that there are six spokes of our song sheet/wheel. These six basic tenets are not a just a philosophy, process or system, they are a ‘way’. For ease of reference I’m going to call it The Milland way. They are Observation, Intervention, Communication, Immunisation, The Cathartic Experience, and finally, ‘What’s the best or worst that can happen’? With a little further explanation it quickly becomes apparent that we do these things already. We’ve already taken ownership of the things in our cupboard. Entertaining the idea of the song sheet and a further metaphor, we can, if we so wish, empty it out, look at things again, discard what we don’t need, and put it all back in a way we can get at them when we need to. Before I get down to some specific examples I’d just like to point out two things. Firstly, our national economy seems to be dictated by both our individual and collective mood. If we’re worried, we don’t buy, invest or invent. If the financial markets are worried they turn their backs on us and the institutions we rely on. We know this, and so we obviously need to start thinking outside the box.

Here’s a ridiculous idea for you.
Thanking somebody when they have stopped for you at a Zebra Crossing is one of myriad routes to economic success. A ludicrous thought at first. But let’s assume I’m the driver of the car who’s just pulled up at the Zebra crossing to stop for somebody. They walk across and don’t bother acknowledging my self-imposed delay. Should they thank me by law? No, by law I should have stopped. Is it polite to thank the driver? Yes, it’s how I was brung up. Does it get to me. Yes, a tiny weeny bit. How do I feel if they do thank me? It lifts me a little. If a youngster thanks me, it lifts me a lot. In other words, if my numerous other daily interactions with my fellow citizens lifts me a little, I am going to be happier. And if I’m happier etc…..extrapolate. Multiply this tiny example by a billion and I hope you’re beginning to see where I’m going. If the pedestrian was familiar with The Milland Way and the six tenets, they would acknowledge that the driver is fulfilling their part of the drivers code (Observation). They don’t normally thank the driver because they’re exercising their legal right, but this time they’re going to (Intervention). They thank the driver (Communication). They’ve heard that even the smallest of actions can have an accumulative effect on the big picture (Immunisation). They are going to be absolutely honest with themselves about what they want society to be and their part in it (The Cathartic Experience). They move on. Maybe nothing has happened, but there again, maybe it has (What’s the best or worst that can happen?). At the very least there may have been an acknowledgement by all concerned that ‘we’re all in this together’. With a little bit of practice one can map the six tenets onto a thousand different scenarios.

Let’s stay with the ludicrous. You’ve had your pint of beer in the pub and you’re up to the legal limit to drive. You pop to the loo before you go but when you get back to bid your farewells, your friend has bought you another pint of beer. Go through the six tenets re the life changes brought about by losing your driving licence, killing somebody, getting killed etc.

A child could be inspired to use the six tenets to become the managing director of their own lives, stop a bully, save a friends’ life by the roadside etc.

Secondly, from A & E departments, coroner’s reports and public enquiries through to lost time at work, a small reduction in domestic or industrial accidents would save us billions and billions of pounds.

A young fit labourer on a building site may rightly be pleased with their ability to whizz up and down ladders at high speed or carry heavier loads, defend their friends or family from violent intervention. The problem is, if they continue operating like that, they’re heading for a wheelchair, where any ability to aid their weaker brethren or children is more or less nullified. It can be suggested to them, but more importantly, they can come to the same conclusion themselves.

Our society is comprised of a glorious eclectic mix of people. The critics of using a similar song sheet would suggest that the task would be like herding cats. I agree. At this level The Milland Way stops being a method of me not cutting myself with a sharp knife, and one of herding cats in the back of a truck going up the M1 i.e a philosophy. Most cats are included and travelling in the same direction, with only twenty percent either trying to get off or are left behind waiting for a truck with their name on it.

I believe that the ultimate selfish act is to do something unselfish. A baby is totally egocentric. A toddler starts to bring us little presents because they enjoy our reactions. Driving is the largest daily participation activity in modern society. One extra act of courtesy (Observation, Intervention, Communication), however irksome, benefits us on three levels. One, we know that our act is a demonstration of a ‘we’re all in this together’. Two, we know we will benefit from eight out of ten people allowing us to go first, eight times out of ten. Three, liken our traffic system to a blood circulation system and it doesn’t take much to work out that the ‘body’ would operate faster and more efficiently leading to directly to better economic health (Immunisation, The Cathartic Experience, What the best or worst that can happen?).

Any one six of the tenets can be the dominant factor in different situations. One of my favourites is that of the Cathartic Experience. If one of a gang of youths on a sink estate were to realise that they were bored with their life of parochial thuggery, The Milland Way suggests that they keep quiet about it. Don’t say a word. Just decide where you think you might want to be (or where you want your kids to be), quietly seek out a possible source of inspiration, and privately take the first step. It’s a cinch by the inch and hard by the yard. We so often don’t do things because we don’t want to be publically ‘dug out’ and possibly ridiculed or excluded.

From road signs to advertising, I’m ‘nudged’ on a daily basis by a not so liberal paternalist society. I accept responsibility for this by not kicking up a fuss about paying my taxes, buying a shiny new bauble which will make my life complete or not phoning up Radio Five Live to vent my spleen. I accept that if I let David Thaler and Cass Sunstein into my head then I also have to take full personal responsibility. But while all this ‘top down’ psycho wizardry is going on I find myself contemplating a huge social void. That people like me (blue collar, family man, wouldn’t normally say boo to a goose) have to start singing (or meowing) from the same song sheet, so that, if the kind of big (and economically successful) society I would want my kids to live in starts to emerge, it can only come from the ground up, not the other way around, and when all is said and done, eight out of ten isn’t a bad pass mark. I was invited up to meet David Camerons’ Behavioural Insight Team in Whitehall. They were very nice to me, but talk about rabbit and headlights…….

There’s good and bad news when examining the origins of The Milland Way. The good news is that it’s been sourced by a real live ‘blue collar’ Lock keeper (on the River Avon just outside Bristol). It doesn’t get much more ground floor than that. The bad news is that it’s been sourced by a real live ‘blue collar’ Lock keeper with no letters after his name and who hates long words.
G.Milland
The Milland Way – Copyright G.Milland – All rights reserved

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British Pint Of Beer

Funny how things turn out#2

Chap brings his boat to my lock
‘Don’t you know who I am?’ says he,
‘No’, says I, ‘Do you know who I am? says I.
‘You’re the lock keeper’
1/nil to the lock keeper
‘I’m on the telly’ says he.
‘Well you’ll have to ask my six year old, cos she’s the only one that can work the telly’ says I.
‘Can I talk to her? says He.
‘ She’s busy fixing my outboard engine’ says I.
‘Oh’, says he, a bit crestfallen.’I’ll wait’.
‘Can you hold a tune’? says I.
‘Of course, I’m on the……’
‘….telly, I know. Sing this then’ and I hand him a mangled bit of paper.
‘Mmmmm. Can I sing it and make a video of it at your local pub’?
‘Spose’
‘If you wrote it, you must want to be in it!’
‘No’
‘What about your six year old daughter?’
‘She’s busy fixing my outboard’
‘Mmmm. Click on this link in about four weeks time’
‘Ok. You need to drop the bottom paddles’

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YThag4MuSAk

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Behavioural Safety Update

Just in case anybody’s interested there’s some info on the book ‘Ouch! – Behavioural Safety Between The Sheets (Of Paper) on

www.behaviouralsafety.org.uk

 

Cheers all,

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A Book On Behavioural Safety (Thanks Salty Splash)

A few months ago I wrote a jaunty little number about my introduction to Behavioural Safety.

It seemed to have attracted some attention and BW published it in our in-house newspaper. One reader (Salty Splash) who kindly commented on this site, said “can’t wait for the book”. Their comment sparked a bit of thinking, and three months later I gave birth to a baby book entitled ‘OUCH! – Behavioural Safety between the sheets (of paper)’. It’s now finished and will be available in a couple of weeks time on Amazon.

Thanks Salty!!

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Behavioural Safety

1.0 Introduction

 

From pen pushers to puddle pushers the work of a British Waterways employee has been punctuated by risk assessments, method statements, acronyms, mnemonics, and training courses et al. Increasingly over the years there has been enough bits of paper entitled ‘Thou shalt’ and ‘Thou shalt not’ to give Moses heartburn. But there again a media tycoon once lamented that half the money he spent on advertising was wasted. He just wished he knew which half. But from fatality to mild irritation, nobody can deny the decreasing number of accidents. But it’s not all just due to a large portion of rain forest that’s been regurgitated and scribbled on. It’s much, much more subtle than that. It has required a change in thinking at both macro and micro levels. 

 

My fellow attendees of a course entitled ‘Behavioural Safety’ have agreed that what we learned, and how overnight our working approach shifted, is every bit as important as anything that could ever be written objectively about Health and Safety.

 

2.0  Behavioural Safety.

 

Let’s face it, health and safety has been put at the very top of everybody’s agenda using threats and morbid stories. It takes an unusual character to arrive home like an exuberant fly half just because they’re still breathing or not about to do a bit of porridge. And most importantly, whether we like it or not, we’re all responsible for ourselves and our fellows, whether work colleagues or customers. But how does a green employee tell a wrinkly coffin dodging crane driver that he’s operating in an unsafe way? How does a main board director, who generally only ever smells fresh paint (Sir Bernard’s words, not mine!), stop somebody doing a bit of Chinese grinding (i.e no goggles)? There isn’t time to write anything down, dob someone in or grass somebody up. There are, however, years and years to say “If only I’d said the right thing, and in the right sort of way, they might still have had a finger/eye/ spleen/job/life….”.

 

2.1 What is it?

 

Someone, somewhere, sees something that they think is dangerous. In this example, they are not empowered with rank, relevant knowledge, or experience, whereby if they were, they could cease the operation immediately (shotguns have been largely discouraged because of a general fear of paper work and a natural awareness of the ability to sometimes miss the point).

 

But what everyone has is the ability to communicate effectively. They might not know it, but they have. Maybe this skill is mostly unused and rusty. It can range from theatrical verbosity to Rooneyesque txt mssg spk. But everybody has it.

This is behavioural safety. The ability to apply effective communication, using tact and imagery, to stop a potential accident.

  The HSE say that 95% of accidents are caused by a lack of behavioural Safety.     

2.2 What it’s not!

 

The attempt to introduce Behavioural Safety by British Waterway as a concept to the work force was an inspired idea. But once the go kart has been built, pulled to the top of the hill and loaded with kids, it then has to be let go. A manager cannot apply behavioural safety without first divesting themselves of all pips, badges, gold braid and authority. This would be missing the point entirely. A manager has other well tested means for accident prevention. But how many times has an employee left the scene of a potential drowning, knowing full well, that while the sound of his departing van fades, the kids will be straight back in the lock. But if another kid came along and told a story about how his friend drowned, the panic, the bulging oxygen starved eyes, the screaming, the devastated family, then there’s a chance, with all honour intact, the other kids just might get bored and find something else to do.

 

3.0 The course

 

Within a cash rich organisation, every employee from top to bottom, should attend a course on the subject. This, we know, isn’t going to happen. It’s also a bit like learning how to handle a loaded motor and butty or a spoke shave. Five minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master. Roughly speaking the course was split into three separate areas..

 

3.1 Idiots guide to psychology

 

The instructor (call me Dave) established his credentials. He was an ex para with a bloodied knife, degree in psychology and great sense of humour. He had our full attention. He discussed body language. By the end of this section the girls were sitting demurely as only a pot of honey can, the chaps were sitting as confident as Arnie and gene pools to the wind, and everybody was secretly recording how to come across as a model citizen at the next police interview.

 

He touched on Transaction Analysis, the study of how conversations can be dissected by observing three states of interactivity. Parent, adult and child.

 

We discussed, a lot. Fear of embarrassment, pride, inarticulacy, brain to mouth coordination etc.

 

And then came the whammy. How would we, the green employee, tell the wrinkly coffin dodging crane driver that he was operating like a bit of a pillock? He, to counter of course, would inform us that he’d been a Professor of Pillockology for thirty four years and inquired as to whether our parents were a) as inquisitive and b) indeed, married.

 

Oh dear

 

3.2 Scary videos and stories

 

Dave didn’t muck about. We got both barrels of yuck and gore. If we’d had the temerity to fall asleep, we’d of had nightmares. But there was a different moral to these stories. Yes, written procedures had been put in place, but they lay neatly stacked, largely read but undigested in the metaphorical cab of a waterways van.

The point was, in each case, there was a fellow employee who could of prevented the accident if only they’d been introduced to the concept of behavioural safety.

 

Gulp

 

3.3 Role play

 

“Here’s the scenario, now over to you” Oh thanks, Dave. It’s alright for you, you charming knife wielding academic who can charismatically run up and down Everest before settling down to a breakfast of six inch nails on unsalted buttered plate washers, confident in the knowledge that, by the end of the day, half the Glaswegian Constabulary would be confessing to a murder that never happened, and the other half thirsting to perform in Swan Lake.

Needless to say, Andrew Lloyd Webber would have paid us to keep the day job.

 

Cringe

 

4.0 Application – The easy bit

 

So, how can British Waterways allow behavioural safety to become as natural as breathing to it’s everyday operation? Here’s the gobsmackingly simple truth about it. Once one understands what it is, they’re well on the way to being able to practice it.

“I knew that”, we all said by the end of the course. Yes, but so did the lemming say that to the parachute salesman.

 

4.1 The difficult bit

 

We’re all different, and communicate in different ways. There are also myriad combinations of any given circumstance.

 

The task, however, is identical.

 

To stop, using a conversation, a potential accident, but also to change somebody’s thinking so they modify their ways for the future occasions when you’re not there.

  

Some of the elements that can inhibit the facilitator can be as follows:

Fear or looking like an idiot

Fear of confrontation

Fear of looking like a goody two shoes

Fear of appearing to not behave like a team member

Fear of a clumsy approach or entrée to the subject

 

These very real fears cannot be ‘trained’ out of somebody on a course. They can ,however, be taught to mull over or discuss scenarios (whether fabricated or historic) and imagine how they would deal with it.

   

5.0 Conclusion

  

What is ‘behavioural safety’ again?

 

To stop, using a conversation, a potential accident, but also to change somebody’s thinking so they modify their ways for the future occasions when you’re not there.

 

It’s worth reiterating. 95% of accidents are caused by a lack of good safe behavioural practice.

  

Trevor The Lockeeper

Two years later I feel I know a lot more about the subject. Snd so I wrote a book!

Behaviouralsafety.org.uk

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Somebody Has To Do It – Chapter 10 (Incomplete)

 Seven weeks before the arrival of the new little lockeeper Mrs Lockeeper insisted I attend the last parent craft evening. I’d managed to miss all the others but had finally been outflanked. Mrs Lockeeper had walked the dog, hidden my chainsaw, popped to the pub to see if it was still there, finished a letter to the bank manager, changed the oil in the car and generally pre-empted any excuse I might possibly come up with.  

We arrived at the clinic for the evening meeting and six other couples appeared. They were all familiar to each other and I was the only one who nobody knew. I got the searching eye as they tried to work out what the complete opposite to an immaculate conception was. They all waddled in. Even the men. The meeting was led by a health visitor. I tried to keep a low profile as it was obvious I was far too old for all this. They watched a video nasty about babies and had a discussion. Then I got poked in the ribs and was very rudely woken up. The thing that had been preoccupying my mind was the fact that we again going into flood. The drive would soon be under water, and the cattle on the hill behind the lock house had ensured that the field was uncross able except by a medium to large size tank. How was I going to get Mrs Lockeeper out to the maternity unit. The Fire brigade with their fast rescue inflatable owed me a few favours as did the police diving unit.   

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 That’s all for now folks. I haven’t written any more since  pre Emma (Bunny Smunchkin Pie) Lockeepers birth. All went well, and she’s five next month (26/02/08). Hope you’ve enjoyed, and I’ve got loads more to write, it’s just finding the time!! 

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Somebody Has To Do It – Chapter 9

Soon after I’d retired to the water I was skippering a plastic trip boat running a scheduled waterbus service and also doing day trips for the London Waterbus Company. This particular plastic boat (Water Buffalo) was moored in the pool of Little Venice behind an old working narrow boat butty called Nebulae. I’d never met the owner but was getting concerned that her hull was rubbing away on the coping stones. I installed a tyre fender. After a storm I had to rearrange her canvasses. One day I pulled in on the plastic boat  and  saw a rather large man pacing up and down by Nebulae. He was looking worriedly at the boat. I went to introduce myself. His name was Michael. He shook my hand, but after the regulation two up and three downs, wouldn’t then let my hand go. I told him about the fender. He said he’d noticed. I told him about the canvasses. He said he’d noticed. He wanted to buy me a pint. I said I’d noticed, but asked if we could not walk in to the pub looking like senior and junior jewellery designers from Putney that were very much in love. He let my hand go. We went to the Bridge House and we were soon with ale.

Nebulae had been converted inside and was a marvel. From the outside she looked much as she would have done in her working days. But under the canvass covered hard shell, she was a tribute to oak, brass and ingenious design. Not only could she comfortably sleep eight strangers or fourteen friends, she had a ten seater solid oak dining table and every conceivable gadget and accoutrement for a serious dinner party. Her traditional boatman’s cabin had been restored to the last detail and she was truly a one off. There was no escaping the fact that the restoration and conversion of Nebulae had cost industrial quantities of money. Michael was in the film business and money wasn’t an issue.

That meeting marked the start of several years of friendship and countless wonderful hilarious times. Michaels first love was for his four children. His second love was for Nebulae. That day I’d first seen him pacing up and down, he’d very nearly reached a decision to sell his beloved boat. She was simply too much to handle, both from a boating point of view and the setting up for a dinner party. And Michael loved to (dinner) party. Now I was to be his boatman. This involved basic maintenance, cleaning, setting up ready for a dinner party, steering the boat down into Regents Park, moor up under Michaels favourite tree, join dinner party (if Michael hadn’t over booked, in which case I ate in the cosy back cabin) and then back to the mooring in the wee small hours. There was also the added bonus of his complete blessing to use his boat as my own.

To my shame I have to admit that she never got the attention she truly deserved, Michael lost a few bottles of wine and I was sometimes perilously close to being rude to his guests (I once suggested to a son of the Queen that they were talking rather a lot of Bravo Oscar Lemur Lemur Oscar X-ray), but I was always made to feel that I had ‘given Michael his boat back’. The combination of the business he was in, coupled with his considerable charity works, meant that he knew everybody. From the Royal family, down through all the knobs in between, to me. I welcomed the guests on board, steered the boat down to the park while Michael did his warm up routine. This entailed an interesting chat about canals, boatmen, history etc, and by the time I joined the table everybody would hush reverently until I’d sat down and been handed a humungous glass of wine. Typically Michael had built me up to a position I could never live up to, one of the gnarled old working boatman I simply never was. But, hey, this was showbiz.  Hollywood superstars, politicians, rock stars etc, had all been levelled to the extent whereby if he’d suggested they do the washing up they would have felt honoured.

We then ate. The food was always simple in a posh sort of way, and was presided over by the real boss, Beatrice. Beatrice was Michael’s Portuguese housekeeper and sabre toothed guardian over his life, from clean socks to potential assassination attempt. There was more ‘beavering away behind the scenes’ in Beatrice than a girl’s public school trip to the ski slopes of Andorra.   I learned a great truth about showbiz, stardom, and celebrity status. With one or two exceptions, the bigger they were, the more they understood about Michaels inverted snobbery, and enjoyed the relief of enforced humility, subsequently having a great time. The smaller they were, well, they just didn’t get it, and if I couldn’t get there with the deflating one line-er, then Michael would. With one set of Royals, we actually had so much more of a laugh with the body guards, we (meaning Michael) invited them and some of their colleagues and wives for dinner and had a wail of a time. In 1996 we took Nebulae down to Bristol for something called the Festival of the Sea. We were moored up amongst seven hundred boats and ships in Bristol harbour. Our berth was opposite a Royal Navy minesweeper (Cottishall?) Modestly, Michael happened to mention that the last time he’d seen that ship was when he’d dined on it with Lord Louis Mountbatten. Bloody typical.  

And then there were the extended trips. We would take the boat all over the country, Michael coming and going as his business allowed. I always had to periodically return to work on the trip boats in order to keep the wolf from the door. Guests great and small joined us for sumptuous meals cooked by Michael. Sometimes we would cruise into the evening after everybody had gone home. We’d bring all the leftovers out and have a candle lit binge on the roof of the back cabin. 

Michael died of a brain tumour in 1998. His coffin was put onto Nebulae and carried up to Kensal Rise Cemetery. His memorial service was held in The Odeon, Leicester Square. I remember having a hug with Michael shortly before he died. He already had two first class sons and two first class daughters, making me the son he never needed. I already had a first class father making him the father I never needed. We laughed about that, a lot.  A few days later Ben (Michael’s son) was delivering Michaels ashes back to the boat in order for us to set up a little shrine in the boatman’s cabin. He phoned me to say that he was on his way, but that the box he was carrying didn’t feel like his father. Before I could stop myself I suggested that Michael had lost weight. At first I thought I’d really blown it. Then, typically as one would expect from a son of Michael, the long silence became punctuated by guffaws of laughter.

We created a little shrine in the boatman’s cabin and let it be known that anybody could come and spend a while reflecting with him. When this happened, I would greet the guests, pace up and down the towpath, and see them off afterwards. Very soon afterwards I honoured a previous engagement and hosted a dinner party for one of our friends, Rhod. After all the guests had gone home, Rhod and I were chatting. Caroline (Rhods other half) had gone off to the rear toilet for a wee. The washing up was waiting patiently to be turned back into to neat piles of cleanliness. Suddenly, a lot of plates, cups, cutlery etc, flew across the cabin, strangely nothing was broken. Caroline came rushing back from the little room, expecting to find Rhod and I with knives drawn, only to actually find us sitting a few yards away and looking a bit non plussed. Michael was making his presence felt. On another occasion my lovely New Zealand friend, Katie Jane, was washing up after another meal, when all the kitchen bits (spatulas, wooden spoons etc) flew out of their wooden containers above her head. She nonchalantly told Michael to stop mucking about and calmly put them all back again. One night, my friend and I, Charlie (Charlotte), were telling Michael stories over a bottle of whisky. We cried a bit, but laughed a lot. Brass decorations started flying about. Something wasn’t quite right. A few days later, the final guest was having a bit of a reflect with Michael in the back cabin, and did what I never could or would ever have done. She opened the box. Inside was a piece of paper with a name on it. It should have said Michael E W Samuelson. Instead, it said, Herbert L Miles. They’d given Ben the wrong box. That’s what Michael was trying to tell us. Two tearful employees from the crematorium met me to do the swap. I promised never to tell the family, a bit of a porky as it turned out. 

Nebulae is moored up at Hanham Lock as I write. 

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