A little reassurance from little England

Tom Lawton
6 min readJun 28, 2016

You want some strength? You think it’s all a bit mad right now? Maybe you’re scared? If only we knew it would be alright. Well, we don’t and we never did. We’re floating on a rock lost in space. We were all in a bubble, well, most of us. But how we move forward now really defines who we will be tomorrow.

I find my perspective, my sanity, my strength, by talking to people from a great variety of backgrounds and helping them where ever I can, usually by just being kind and always with a smile. Even on the tube, which makes most Londoners think I am strange. Everyone needs help, everyone has a battle going on and while none of us seem to have time for it, we need each other more than ever. But I believe that even the thought counts. I’m thinking of you is reassuring in itself. To know you’re thinking of me is sometimes all I need to know. Thoughts and conversations are free.

Yesterday afternoon I spent a couple of hours with a ninety year old lady called Roma who can’t see me anymore because her eye sight has diminished so much since the last time we were together. She told me she has started to dream of her own cremation, which scares her. But my voice was reassuring and I held her hand. She’s my most elderly friend and has lived, with courage, spirit and determination through more than I can imagine — we became friends through being neighbours as we shared a corridor. She’s really impressive, but don’t just take my word, Winston Churchill was as fond a friend of hers as I am. I certainly wasn’t there to blame her generation for the outcome of the referendum. I was simply keen to catch up and was fascinated to learn her point of view.

Her nurse, Jenny, is a Ugandan refugee and is wonderful company also — she takes such care and has such warmth. She also looks after my Gran Kitty at night which is reassuring for me as I’m struggling to come to terms with her dementia. I find this particularly hard because Gran doted on me since I was a baby, but when we spend time talking, her stories all come back, it’s the little things she forgets. Gran is still full of verve and Jenny enjoys her company thoroughly. So what luck for me that both my favourite old ladies are looked after by such a caring one. To me, Jenny was sent by the gods. So, how did she come to be here? Well it’s not very romantic. In a different time and on a different continent she was a princess. But her entire family were murdered by Idi Amin. She escaped and made it here. Our eyes glow when we see each other — both thankful of our time and place — we are lucky to be here. Jenny doesn’t encounter racism because she has found a way to transcend above it, extinguishing it at her feet through love, warmth and forgiveness. Meet her and you’ll see.

Gran and Roma couldn’t be from more different worlds either. Gran, from a farming family in the Fens always told us with a smile that she was the real Queen Mother, she also gave us herbal tablets and passed them off as licorice allsorts. Roma also had a rural start, but in Australia. However the signed photograph by her bed side from Queen Victoria tells a very different life story.

As I returned to my office I was joined by two beloved friends who were passing on the street, they moved to our town a few years ago, both humanitarian workers who have devoted their entire adult lives to NGO work, one of whom is now fighting hard as she faces aggressive cancer. She is being braver than anyone else I know right now as every ounce of energy is zapped. She has the right to be scared and she is. All we can do is hug and distract her with laughter and jokes — anything to fill her with love. To give her light to walk in the dark.

The day before, Sunday, I had four visitors, a great old friend and his extended family. A gorgeous young mother and her two beautiful children — they lost their father and she her husband only 12 months ago in a tragic accident. But with courage and unconditional love they are piecing their lives back together. I have so much respect for them that I have to bite my lip when I imagine their loss.

Then, later in the afternoon, I visited my uncle Andy on his death bed with my brother and sister, it will probably be the last time we see him because his fight with cancer seems over. I made tea with his wife, my auntie, in the hospice kitchen, while my brother and sister were at my uncle’s bedside she collapsed in to my arms as I held her, tears rolling on to my shoulder. She is a tower of strength, I was just a temporary scaffold. A scaffold of nothing more than love.

So what has inspired me to write you a diary of my socialising in the past 48 hours. Well, I’m concerned. I am concerned that we’re all missing the point and not seeing each other. We’re not extending enough love. We’re being frightened by the wrong things and polarised in our thoughts. We, like Jenny, have to find a way to rise above and help one another, to not be bitter. I have shared the other stories to remind you (and me) that there are far more frightening things to be scared of than how the press wants to paint its pictures and distort our reality — I know some of it is scary and true but now is not the time to be fearful. I want to encourage people to reach out of your comfort zones and make friends in different places with different people, to share more smiles and more conversations. We are all in this together.

To me the referendum was liking holding up a selfie stick to the entire nation but the trouble is, in our great family photo, none of us are comfortable with what we see. That’s a problem and one for serious reflection.

But dysfunctional a family as we may be, I for one am not giving up on the thought of working this out. The steely ladies in my life have been through and are going through much worse. They are not complaining. They are getting on with it.

So, I write this from Malmesbury, Wiltshire, where apparently, according to one half of the media and the maps, I live in little England. A backward place full of racists. But I don’t believe it because I have never seen it. Despite living near the Gloucestershire/Wiltshire border over twenty years I have also never seen a fox hunt, like never — I appreciate that it’s not my thing — but nevertheless, the mainstream media are forever polarising how we all see each other. I live in a multicultural little England in the Isles of Wonder, about 93 million miles from Alpha Centauri. The same little England that gives birth to rock bands in villages that travel to towns that grow their audiences that move to cities and find success and unite people with love the world over. There is so much that binds us, so much to be proud of and there’s so much more for us to do together. Goodness knows the world needs positive role models.

My intention is not to try and turn this diary in to a political remedy. I can’t offer one. I am an inventor and I have no methodology to encourage a solution towards either the hopes of remain or leave supporters but I do believe in democracy and the power of the people. But I can’t deny that the current political landscape and sad sights, commentary and blinkered perspectives I can see have upset me — from both sides. Not because I am afraid. I am invigorated. I always relish a new challenge and horizon, I’m used to it, but I am scared that so few folk in this glorious land really know each other. The bubbles are too separate, blowing in different winds. Yet, I think the bubbles just went pop and we’ve all found ourselves on the floor.

We all need each other right now. We have to transcend our differences. That starts with you and your neighbour.

As for me, I’m OK, I’m a middle kid who grew up on both sides of the street. I’ve been knocked down and raised up and I for one believe in you.

With love

Tom Lawton

Designer and Inventor.

Father of Barney & Rufus.

Husband to Charlie.

Brother. Son. Friend. Kind Stranger.

Founder of Positively Human.

Founder of BubblePix.