Ettie Neil-Gallacher

My mother’s peculiar approach to death

Back in February, a friend forwarded me a profound and joyous article written by Simon Boas about his terminal cancer diagnosis. (I knew Simon a little at university, where he was both much cleverer and much cooler than me). Originally published in the Jersey Evening Post, it’s since been reproduced here, and seems to have, as

In defence of ready meals

Earlier this week I read that, from the moment of pulling into the car park to exiting it, the average supermarket shopper reads just seven words. Seven words. My initial reaction was: who are these Neanderthals? So, for want of something to talk about over supper after nearly 20 years of shackles, I ran this

The joy of going solo

Managing other people’s expectations takes the joy out of pretty much any excursion. Most things are better enjoyed alone. This hit me many years ago when I decided to risk a bullfight in Las Ventas in Madrid. My grandfather wasn’t long dead, and had been a fan of la corrida; I felt that this was something I wanted

The dangers of skinny dipping

Several years ago, I went for a swim after I’d been for a job interview. I’d just finished my lengths, had my shower, and as I wrestled my knickers back on, a voice from behind me said ‘It’s Ettie, isn’t it?’ Quite how she recognised my bare bottom I don’t know, but the woman who’d interviewed me earlier in the day was

Advent is a time of horror

At the age when most children are being read The Tailor of Gloucester or ’Twas the Night before Christmas, my father took a very different approach to bedtime stories during Advent, and read me my first M.R. James story. I can’t have been much more than five years old, and he was probably a few

Introducing my manic Christmas tradition

It is a truth universally acknowledged – at least by anyone with a developed frontal lobe – that seasonal enjoyment and growing up are inversely proportional. As the stranglehold of middle age tightens, I am incapable of conjuring the Christmas excitement I felt as a child. And it seems to have been replaced with intense

Deliver us from speed awareness courses

I can’t decide if I’m a brilliant or bad driver. I admit I didn’t pass first time (it only took seven attempts). But in the intervening decades, I’ve amassed so many miles behind the wheel I like to think that, if he knew me, I’d be Sadiq Khan’s Public Enemy No.1. High mileage, no major