In 1960, in my first term at drama school, I wrote a short story.  Probably in my bedsit during a lonely weekend in the big city, I don’t recall.

Short story shorter, I sold it to the BBC’s ‘Morning Story’ getting myself an acting job at the same time.

Written an unbelievable 60 years ago, ‘The Gang Hut’ can still be read today in the first of my 3 collections, The Fib And Other Stories, originally published in 1975.

If you think I am showing off, there’s no escaping it – I am.  I’m pretty proud of having written a book that has never been out of print in over 45 years.  There is, however, a less self-serving purpose in bringing this up

The Fib And Other Stories is on the National Curriculum and during the past few decades I have visited many schools, reading to children, their teachers and frequently their parents.  A likely reason for the longevity of the books is that they weren’t written for children.  They are bitter-sweet, sometimes painful stories, evoking post-war childhood aimed at adults.   Childhood angst being timeless, they resonate with kids today. 

I have always enjoyed these school visits.  At the end of an author session I chat to them and sign their copies of my books.

Back in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and into the early Noughties, if I was signing a book for a boy, I would write:

To Jason, Lee, David, whoever – best wishes…’ followed by my name.

When it came to the girls, I would write:  

To Kylie, Jade, Rebecca, whoever – lots of love…’ and more often than not the message was rounded off with a kiss or two.

You cannot do that anymorePost Operation Yewtree, everything changed. Boys, girls, teachers of either sex, all get the statutory:

Best wishes’ followed by the author’s hopefully legible signature.

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In the same way one must be more formal when writing a dedication in young readers’ books, a consequence of the Me Too movement is that in today’s climate it is prudent to avoid the customary x or xx’s when emailing, texting or writing to the fairer sex.  One must be watchful and sensitive to being over familiar. 

Oh goodness, what am I doing?  What am I saying? 

‘The Fairer Sex!!’

Another consequence of the Me Too movement and before that Women’s Lib, is the use of archaic expressions like ‘The Fairer Sex’ is no longer acceptable.  It is verboten.  Let me, therefore, quickly re-phrase that:

In days gone by when writing to Wimmin…

WimminNon-standard spelling of ‘Women’ adopted by some feminists to avoid the word ending –MEN.

…in days gone by when writing to Wimmin, it was deemed acceptable to round off a card or a missive with a kiss on the bottom. 

To quote On The Buses circa 1974: What lady doesn’t like a kiss on the bottom?’ 

Oh, Lord!  What has happened to me?  Lockdown has finally taken its toll.  There am I saying we must be ‘watchful and sensitive to being over familiar’ and I have been transported back into a chauvinistic 70’s time warp!!  Ladies, I apologise unreservedly.

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Deflecting attention from my embarrassed blushes, I shall swiftly switch to the male of the species.

There is, conversely, a growing practice for men these days to end emails and texts to other men with a kiss.

Wonderful!  A refreshing change after centuries of buttoned-up British reserve.  Although, being from a mid-European refugee family, uninhibited kissing of my dad, my brother and male fellow refugee friends of my parents, all of whom I called ‘Uncle’, was for me as natural as the firm, formal Yorkshire handshake I saw between my schoolmates and their dads.  Kissing your sibling(s)? In 1950’s Bradford ‘That ‘wor reet weird, that wor!!

Indeed, long before emails, texts, whatsapp, etc, an affectionate kiss between men, whether physically or on a card or at the end of a letter, was the province of members of the ‘The Profession’.  The ‘Theatah’.  In other words, luvvies like myself.

Today the adding of at least one kiss at the end of an email or text to or from a friend or acquaintance, often one’s accountant or solicitor, doctor or dentist, seems to be obligatory.  I would, in fact, go so far as to say that it has become de rigueur.

And why not?

Best,’ or ‘Cheers,’ or even  ‘Kind regards, George’  seems decidedly old-fashioned and inhibited – repressed even – compared with today’s liberated:

George x’

I say ‘at least one kiss’ because there appears to be a sliding scale of kiss distribution among men, depending on the level of friendship.

If the correspondence happens to be with your accountant, your solicitor or an acquaintance, the single kiss signing-off is becoming the accepted norm.

If you are emailing/texting a close friend, a cursory George x’ doesn’t quite reflect the closeness of the friendship.  It’s too formal.  You might as well write ‘Yours sincerely’.

Often, of course, there is with a close friend a to & fro-ing correspondence requiring several text messages.  Modern day texting etiquette must be observed.  Having set the number of kisses in your initial message, you are obliged to stick with it. 

If by the 5th or 6th text you reduce the kiss quota or, God forbid, just sign off with a kissless George, your dear pal may well read something into it, albeit unintended.  This lapse could be construed as hurtful.  Be warned!

Have a great week!

George x

Oops!

Have a great week!

George xx

To my Lady Readers or should that be Wimmin Readers?

Have a great week!

Yours sincerely,

George