I come from a long line of worriers. My predecessors raised this obsessive activity to an art form, even worrying retrospectively when they felt the situation warranted it. My great aunt Gladys was a master at it – worrying aloud that I’d driven through a thunderstorm to visit her when there I was sitting right before her eyes, a little damp maybe, but safe and sound. My own inherited propensity towards worry notwithstanding, even I could see the idiocy. Nevertheless, this insight into the uselessness of retrospective worry did nothing to deter me from going full throttle with prospective worry about pretty much everything – from big stuff like how make a living to insignificant stuff like what I should wear to a party.
Even though corporal punishment wasn’t considered politically incorrect or even vaguely inappropriate when my sisters and I were growing up, our parents rarely used this method of discipline. Unsurprisingly for a journalist, my father’s preferred form of reprimand was always language. As a teenager, when I argued with either parent Dad metred out sharp turns of phrase like, ‘Always wrong but never in doubt,’ or the classic King Lear line, ‘How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child’. But it’s his rebuke for answering back or being disrespectful, as teenagers are wont to be, that is stamped on my very being all these years later: ‘Keep a civil tongue in your head’.