OUR late former prime minister Margaret Thatcher is not exactly lamented by many people in South Tyneside.
But one phrase from the Thatcher era which still has its uses is “moaning minnies”.
Mrs T uttered the line during a trip to Wallsend in 1985, chastising a Tyne Tees TV reporter who had the temerity to mention the high level of unemployment in the region.
The angry PM turned her verbal firepower on the TV journalist, asking why he wasn’t highlighting the fact that most people in the North East were in work, rather than out.
But “moaning minnies” has a wider currency in 2014.
As in all parts of the UK, many people in South Tyneside sadly spend much of their leisure time moaning and attacking others for this or that alleged misdemeanour.
Taking offence often seems like a national epidemic.
Newspapers like the Gazette are regularly bombarded with letters attacking the borough council for all manner of decisions.
Granted, the council and our elected representatives don’t get it right all the time, but most of them try to do their best.
No one in their right mind solicits constant negative criticism or hate mail.
But as an old French writer once said, happiness writes white.
The good stuff in life doesn’t hit the headlines, so the “moaning minnies” leave it alone.
Likewise, the internet is often an open sewer of abuse, as those with seemingly nothing better to do express daily disgust and outrage at everything from politicians to soap stars to erratic cloud formations.
It often makes me wonder about the real value of freedom of speech, which, in the internet age, too often means freedom to abuse and traduce our fellow human beings, at the touch of a mouse.
At the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker from a PR company, we could all occasionally try to see the positives in life, of which there are many.
This was brought home when I visited a new South Tyneside school last week.
Hebburn Lakes Primary School is a success story.
Although it opened less than 18 months ago, it has already received a very positive Ofsted report.
That’s just one example of how we are getting it right in South Tyneside.
But I doubt the internet “moaning minnies” will be bothered with the school, as it provides no scope for their knee-jerk negativity.