The Margarets

Published on 11 May 2024 at 08:48

The first Margaret went by Maggie, and I met her for the first, and only, time on the steps of the Further Education College I had just been told to leave, expelled, because it turned out it was not ok to drink a vodka martini in a Social Studies class, not even in a proper glass, with an olive.

It wasn’t the best start to my 17th year, but then Maggie, with her waif like pre-Raphaelite beauty, joined me on the steps, asked me if I was ok, and I realised I was, and she shared my martini, read my palm, and took me home with her.

Four days later I left her tiny, candlelit apartment, blinking in the early morning sun, and walked back, through the town and along the river Trent, to my own cold-water basement flat, healed, changed, set fair for whatever came next.

I hardly ever think of Maggie, not now, except when something bad happens, a personal loss, or rejection, or failure, and then I sit quietly somewhere, waiting for the good thing to happen.

A few years later I had a regular gig at a hospice, near Bristol, and I would go in and talk to people, about whatever they wanted, and often do some magic, something simple that happened in their hands, trying to give them a moment of wonder, or maybe just a smile.

I hit it off with Margo, the second Margaret, even though the first time I met her I asked how she was, a pretty dumb question to someone who is dying, with a good life behind her, but still too young to go.

But she had laughed, and said, “Well, I’m ok, well past my sell-by date, and every morning I wake up and think ‘Another day!’ and I can’t help but smile.”

After that I thought of her as Margo the Motivated, and a few weeks later she passed, of course, peacefully, in her sleep, magnificently moving on, and to this day I am thankful to her.

One of the few things I always am, whatever it brings, is grateful for the day.


Some years ago I was a governor of a school, and met the third Margaret, very definitely a Margaret, or the Movie Star, as I liked to call her, until I could remember her name, because she always looked like a million bucks, impeccably dressed, perfectly accessorised, always with a poise and purpose about her, and very often wearing dark glasses, even indoors.

She was a great governor, me not so much, but she took me under her wing, and helped me, and offered countless wisdoms over coffee and biscuits in the staff room.

Mostly she told me “Just do the right thing, that’s what matters”, and it guides me still.

She loved the kids, always wanted them to try new things, always saw the good in even the naughtiest of them, always spent time with them. One Summer Fair, she kicked off her shoes and led a group of kids in a dance around a maypole, and it’s one of the most joyous things I’ve ever seen.

Lately, she’s lost her mobility, and her memory is diminished, and she needs care, and is in a home by the seaside, and rails against it sometimes, like we all would, but mostly not, and I visit her often for coffee and biscuits and wisdom, and you would too, if you knew her, my friend Margaret.


The Margarets whisper to us, Dear Reader, be glad of the day, something good will happen, and all we have to do is the right thing.

With love.

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Angela Harding
a month ago

Such great advice!! God bless the Margaret’s and you for sharing their wisdom x

a month ago

Alisdair, your blogs are a combination of humour, wisdom and special nuggets of insight on life. I’ve read a few now and, of course,, this one is particularly special to me. I love the way you talk about all the Margarets and I am so touched to hear your words about my Movie Star Mum. It is great to be reminded of some of her many amazing talents and traits, and it is so important that we all hold onto our memories and we don’t forget our loved ones’ personalities and everything they’ve enjoyed and accomplished, as they get older. Thank you x