Saturday, February 03, 2007

We could all fall into the sea!

So here I am planning to go out to British Columbia in May for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary and I find that B.C. is due to have its long-expected Uber-quake. I'll have to check the 'trip cancellation insurance' I bought to make sure that I get my money back if my family gets swallowed by the sea between now and then. Jeez, there's always something isn't there? Mind you - the Globe and Mail had it down as story number two. The gist of the report is that we're now able to predict earthquakes better - we know which areas might be worst affected by a tsunami when (not if) the quake eventually hits and, oh btw, here are the things you need to keep in your emergency kit. It's good to see a story which ends with something practical. It's great to see a newspaper which then moves on to the other stories.

I don't live there among the phlegmatic Canadians any more though. I live here with the Brits. Which brings me to my quick glance at the Times this morning where it is evident that

Fear Season Has Begun in the UK

We'll just pile them up, shall we? Global Warming, Bird Flu and Rabies from the Continent. What can we do? Sweet bugger all, apparently. Can we prevent it? Not really. Will it hurt? Oh yes, it will be terrible. Sit down and let me tell you how terrible it will be.

It will be horrifying. You've heard of mad dogs? Fits of aggression and foaming mouths - staggering about looking for something to bite. Imagine your little Billy affected like that. I know his Nursery teacher says he's a gentle soul but not then. Not after he's been brushed against by a dog owned by a man who lives next door to a Lithuanian who comes from a village where the postmaster says that somebody destroyed a mad dog just last year. Once bitten Billy will change - his breathing will grow hoarse and irregular. He'll foam at the mouth - he won't be himself. You'll see it in his eyes as he advances on you. You'll scream 'No Billy, go back! Don't try and bite Mummy, she loves you! Billy! Billy! Aaargh!. The streets of our villages usually filled with chubby teenager girls pushing prams and boys with shaved heads misbehaving outside Tescos will be filled with the screams of middle class mothers whose posh prams are now bereft of children since they've succumbed to the illness or have been shot by the Rabies Control Warden because the latest guidance
from the Scottish Executive is that 'you can't be too careful'.

If you ever find yourself doubting that 'fear is the only reality', no doubt Channel 4 will soon oblige us with a 'documentary' which intersperses dramatic testimony from Kazakh villagers about the attack of a rabid dog upon a woman washing her clothes by the river with a darkened images from a handheld camera running shakily along the corridor of an upscale British dwelling accompanied by the sounds of frenzied bubbly breathing (possibily Billy's) as somebody at the far end screams in terror and and slams the door shut.

Those of us who come from countries where Rabies is endemic can tell you that life continues very well in its presence. We have massive reservoirs of the disease in communities of Racoons, Skunks and Foxes. Our dogs are all vaccinated. Every once in a while a person needs to be vaccinated 'after' they've been bitten by a wild animal. We get by quite well, thank you.

Bird flu? Well it ranks high on the list of things to fear. I should declare my interests here because I raise hens and watched many months ago as people tiptoed up the lane quickly passed my henhouse in case a coughing chicken with a thermometer up its vent and a note from its GP should suddenly descend upon them. On the evidence on one dead Swan in Fife last year a local pram-pusher declared that my wee dog couldn't play with her dog because my dog had been in contact with chickens and, after all, 'You can't be too careful'. Yes actually you can be too careful. You might end up looking a utter pillock. Not looking like a pillock is usually one of the basic building blocks of life - one of its primal drives. Pillock Control Officers would have an easy sweep in most UK suburbs.

Problem is in this country that fear is about the only thrill people get any more. They are so frightened of living, of taking risks and of moving forward. These stories and the way these stories are presented seem akin to a calming opiate. Progress is unnecessary - such risks would be stupid - we may all be dead soon. And as for the media who dress the stories up? They're like clowns who appear periodically to 'set the mood'. They know their medium. They would rather thrust needles into their faces than neglect the worst case scenario. They're just providing a service to the feeble-minded. They get paid for doing that.

Lighten up folks - there's one death per birth. That's the way it works. Mozart never made his 30th birthday. While you're fretting and flapping like - well, like a sick swan from Fife - there's tons of good stuff you're not doing.

No comments: