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Blog Date 6 May 2020

Bear with me, this will be relevant to the current Covid19 lockdown we are currently enjoying or enduring.

Back in the summer of 2002 just before the Manchester Commonwealth games a 30 year old "yoof" was riding a grey import Honda NT 400 Bros. It was a warm summer's day and he would likely have been travelling with some degree of pace although not flat out mental knee-down crazy. 

At or around 1400 according to the police report he crested a small hillock on a left hand bend from his perspective. As he did so another motorcyclist coming in the opposite direction was cresting the same hill and corner but had apparently apexed the corner such that this other motorcyclist was on the wrong side of the road causing a collision with the 30 year old.

The 30 year old was airlifted by North West Air Ambulance to Preston Royal Hospital. Here he received 19 pints of blood and 8 hours of surgery. 

This story means as much to you as it does me. I have precisely zero memory of this incident at all. The tale I have told you is the tale that was told me. My first memories are waking up in a dreary haze and being told I'm off to surgery for a skin graft.

As a 30 year old "yoof" most of my spare time (of which there was plenty) was spent socialising, riding motorcycles and... erm, errr, ahem... "chasing girls" (rarely successfully). I now found myself bed-bound, bewildered, bored and facing an uncertain future. I was unsure if I would keep my left leg and/or ever be able to use my now lifeless and incredibly painful left arm.   

One side effect of trauma is depression. Add to this the above situation and I spiralled down into a hole. I was in a very dark place for quite a while. 

In an effort to pep me up people would often say "You are lucky to be alive." 

It is easy now with hindsight to see that indeed I am lucky to be alive. I am lucky that I have (nearly all of) both my legs. I am lucky that my left arm is about 97% fully functional. I am lucky I only suffer occasional pain from the incident. But, but but but.

I did not feel lucky back then. Lucky would have been getting to the biker's hangout and saying "some #£$%ing idiot nearly wiped me out! Worra plonker." Lucky is not having your entire existence wiped out, turning your world upside-down and leaving you pondering your future.

When people said to me "You are lucky to be alive" what I heard was "Shut up moaning, be thankful ya miserable git". Unwittingly they were devaluing my suffering and my loss. 

Imagine being at the funeral of good friend's mother and saying "You're lucky, you still have your dog". Social understanding states we offer sympathy to those bereaved of a loved one's life, yet it seems the bereavement of losing your own lifestyle that you once knew and enjoyed is to be dismissed.  

I want to point out next that we are all quite unique and individual. 

What to you may seem a trivial loss to someone else may be their entire raison d'etre. Myself for example, it was the question of would I ever be able to ride again. My mind was also befuddled by painkillers and I could not focus properly. For me the control of my own thoughts is fundamental to my sanity.

These things may not matter to you. You might be a little saddened at not being able to ride, but for you it might have been not being able to go for a walk in the hills with your spouse. It might have been losing the independence of popping to the all-night petrol station for a midnight Twix. It can be as seemingly trivial as not being able to use the upstairs toilet at your friend's house.

What matters to you is that which matters to you

What has this got to do with the current Covid19 lockdown? Mr Soady said on Chit-Chat "My petty discomforts like not having a print Guardian every day (as I won't venture into the shop) and the lack of a foaming pint midway through our "exercise" are totally insignificant." 

I hope they are insignificant, merely a source of the mildest frustration. Being neither a reader of the Guardian nor a drinker of beer to me they are indeed insignificant but to someone else these 2 seemingly irrelevant luxuries of our modern first world lifestyle maybe the final straws.

We are aware that there are people without water, food, family, friends, freedom and a future. We are aware that around the world people are dying of Covid19 and there are families mourning their loss. Indeed we ought to be thankful if we are spared such horrors and if we can we should help.

I'd ask that you also be aware of your own losses, no matter how small or insignificant they may appear be. In a world filled with poverty and war and now a pandemic don't be too hasty to dismiss your own personal losses. Whether or not you're a key worker or a housebound furloughed employee, whether or not you were a gregarious socialite or a happily introverted hermit - life has changed a lot.

You might be mourning the loss of your Friday night chat in the pub or brew with your parents. It could be as simple as not reading the Guardian on real paper or as painful as the gnawing, grinding, endless boredom of being at home all the time.

By all means keep the British stiff upper lip and be thankful for the mercies of shops that have food and clean running water, it is true we are blessed. Also allow yourself to be saddened by your loss and allow yourself to grieve, no matter how trivial it might be. It might well be insignificant to the world but it matters, it matters to you.


Reader's Comments

Upt'North said :-
Ed, a thought provoking piece and extremely accurate.
I have had similar experience with the, "you're lucky mate", crowd. But this isn't my story.
It is both enlightening and brave of you to share with us your deep rooted feelings, thank you.
I also urge that those who are fortunate enough to be trusted with a friends or acquaintances inner workings and thoughts, should listen and please don't tell someone who is down, "they are lucky". They will fail to see any luck in their position.
No one who is down really wants sympathy, someone who is going to jump in the pit with them, most will require empathy and hopefully someone who can lower a ladder into the pit and ease them out into the light one rung at a time.
Thanks Ed, who'd have thought on that fateful day, one day you'd be our leader,our choir master, our Ed.

07/05/2020 09:25:54 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Very well said Ren (and well observed Upt'). I totally agree that what may seem trivial to me may be very significant to others. What I do know is that under the present circumstances I am very lucky in that my income is assured (bar a total collapse of western "civilisation"), I live in a pleasant house which is paid for and have no worries about food, energy or other supplies. Both of us also have fairly low expectations of life having spent long periods on very low incomes so the habits of make do and mend are firmly imprinted.

Where we may be even more lucky is that neither of us depend on social interactions with the wider world to maintain our sense of "self". I do know that isolation and lack of social contact can be devastating for many and can indeed be harder to bear than the financial worries that so many people have at the moment.

I am heartened by many of the positive stories that have emerged in the last few months - from the dedication of all our public sector workers to the volunteers in all areas who have come forward to offer what they can. I just hope that this spirit of solidarity persists when we are finally free of the threat and that maybe we feel as a society that we can recalibrate our sense of values. It may even strike some of us that nurses, bus drivers and bin men actually provide a more useful and valuable service than hedge fund managers and commodity brokers.

I live in hope......
07/05/2020 10:43:21 UTC
Bob said :-
I take a few things from this whole mess.

It's a leeson in not putting things off because "there will always be a next time" - lockdown has taught me "get it done and get it done now (whilst you still can)".

I really hope that now we as a nation have experienced something that looks like an actual emergency that the level of hyperbole and hysterical bleating in the press and social media will be reduced. I hope that all the doomsayers and whingers feel rightfully embarrased about all the shrill squealing they've been assailing our ears and eyes with since 2016.

I remember my grandfather, when we were out on an evening walk, he swept his arm across an arc of the horizon and said he could remember the orange glow in the sky from Sheffield burning following the Nazi bombing raids - for me that puts things in context.
07/05/2020 01:45:34 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Depends on what you're putting off Bob, if it's the washing up just leave it, the mould will sort it out eventually.

Leader Upt'? I hope you ain't following me cos I ain't got a clue where I'm going.

Whether or not things will change remains to be seen. Being a bitter old curmudgeon I'll not be holding my breath with anticipation. I'd like to live in Hope... as in Hope Valley Derbyshire as it's very nice but I'm too lazy to earn the money to afford the property, I figure I'll just stay in Bolton.
08/05/2020 06:00:03 UTC
Bogger said :-
Why is it that whenever there is any mini crisis the media NEVER, EVER,EVER, EVER talk things up. There is never a positive slant on anything in the news.

For a number of years I've not watched the news or read papers. I just end up raging and shouting at the propaganda these entities put out.

The present 'crisis' is being bandied about as being like WW2. Get a grip. The war lasted 6 years and this country and a lot of others, were put through hell. The present situation is not good, but it's been 6 weeks of 'lockdown'. I get that the situation is not good. But I'm sick and tired of doom merchants.

I'm sure the media is after sending everyone on a downward spiral of chaos and depression. They need to change tack and lift the mood and the positivity, because I for one am fed up of their utter negativity.

Mini rant over.

09/05/2020 11:14:22 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Bad news sells papers, or today gets clicks.

Psychologically speaking as a creature it is more important to avoid the bad things (lions, snakes, other humans with spears pointing at you...) than it is to seek out the good things (food, shelter, sexy humans). The lion will kill you immediately and remove you from the gene pool, food etc is essential but these things can be sought out later once the threat is dealt with. Hence why bad news gets clicks.

However yes news always seems to be primarily bad. Investigative journalism is a good thing, bringing to light the nefarious actions of authorities across the world. And yet too much negative news is thoroughly depressing. I have recently greatly reduced my news consumption to catching the headlines in the morning and all but stopping my social media browsing, and I am finding an improvement in my mood. I have have risen from grumpy old curmudgeon to merely old curmudgeon.

It's a balance, I try to stay informed but not obsessed.

09/05/2020 12:43:14 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Bogger and our Ed, (leader of men and mice).
I'd settle on any "news" from "anywhere", all I've seen for the last 4 years (remember Brexit?) is speculation, dribble and guesswork. As for social media, tried it once, nuff said.
The good news is Brexit will be back on the agenda soon. If you hear a noise it'll be my head exploding. Caboom!
09/05/2020 01:44:04 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Oh Brexit, how we miss your silly nonsense and endless dissection of every minutia without ever reaching any answers. Oh wait... yeah we're still doing the same thing just on a different subject.

Social media has it's good and bad points. For myself the plus side is the simplicity that basic friendly gatherings can be created. A quick post - "all around to XYZ's house on Friday evening, bring your own drinks and something for the barbie" - job done. It can help folks keep in touch too, my mother can keep abreast of my brother's family life in Sydney from the comfort of her desk. The downside is big arguments from which brake pads are best to shouting matches over who your vote should go to.

09/05/2020 08:37:19 UTC
Bob said :-
It's nice to connect with friends, but then people have been doing that for several tens of thousands of years.

But in general I think social media is very a destructive force.
Governments enact knee-jerk policies in response to events so that they don't get flamed on twitter
Police forces demean themselves and sully their status by posting semi-threatening / shaming videos of the public
Media personalities spout their inane drivel and millions of idiots swim in like pirhana to enjoy the feeding frenzy.
Social media "influencers" build a following (of morons) then with a single ill-judged sentance get torn apart by their own disciples.
Peados go window shopping and sometimes order a take-away....
Would those disasterous and bloody uprisings in the middle east have happened if social media's vicious positive feedback loop hadn't convinced enough poor souls to go up against the tanks and helicopters?
Would Donald Trump have taken the White House without his social media engine?

In the past the public were appraised of events by journalists, some biased one way or the other, but what was published was researched, there was evidence and if there wasn't the publishing organ was held to account.
Not now, anybody can publish anything. And they do. Hate crime has increased exponentially, then legistlation increases to counter the hate crime.
The problem is that some drunken idiot ranting to the world on a Saturday night about the followers of a particular religion is what causes legistlation to be enacted that hence shuts down learned and much needed discourse about the foreign policies of some states in the middle east.
The social media enabled tidal wave of abuse is what has lead to the proposed hate crime bill in Scotland, which will even shut down criticism of the government, if the government deams your arguments to have caused them offence - that's right, it's not what you did that constitues a crime, it's how the other person feels about what you did.

So the glorious promise of free speach for all through the vehicle of social media has in fact reduced the ability to speak openly and the legislation is only going one way. You can now be called right wing simply for saying something that someone (anyone) finds offensive - doesn't matter if it's actually TRUE, you are not allowed to say it anymore. Witness Piers Morgan (don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of his) being hounded for daring to say to a morbidly obese american model that being morbidly obese is not a good thing.

Every half witted moron on planet earth is now directly connected to every other half-witted moron. What could possibly go wrong?

11/05/2020 02:44:23 UTC

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