Brass monkeys and the brighter side of life!

Brass Monkey
Image via Flickr

Waking this morning to rays of sunshine breaking through the curtains and a crystal clear blue sky, it would have been easy to think it was still summer…

What a refreshing change from the dank miserable autumnal conditions of the last couple of days however, bearing in mind its the UK and its October, my initial enthusiasm was soon cooled. Expecting the outside temperature to match the solar appearance was a little optimistic, a factor that was brought home with stark reality when I took the rubbish out to the bin. Dressed only in shorts and a tee-shirt, I suddenly experienced the great sense of loss applicable to the proverbial brass monkey!

Collecting my spherical appendages from cold paving slabs of the yard, I beat a hasty retreat to the kitchen and sparked up the kettle for a morning brew. It’s strange how a simple mug of hot tea (or coffee) can act like an emergency booster and jump-start your flat batteries for the day. Once armed with my steaming beverage, I headed for the living room, switched the radio on and fired up the computer. There was a time when the morning ritual would include a newspaper however like many people today, my appetite for news and current affairs is now feed mostly by the internet.

BBC News: (1) Members of public sector pension schemes should pay higher contributions, says an independent commission led by Lord Hutton. (Read more) – (2) House prices fell by 3.6% in September from the previous month, according to the Halifax the largest fall on record. The average UK home is now valued at £162,096, the survey found. (Read more)

Whilst the bottom is still falling out of the financial world, and the headlines tell of the ‘horror stories’ that are likely to impact on our wallets, spare a thought for athletes at the Commonwealth Games… It would appear they are also suffering a terrible fate… 

BBC Sport: Commonwealth Games officials are to investigate whether the quality of the water in the practice pool is causing illness among the swimmers. (Read more)

So as the world falls out of their bottoms and they are ravaged by galloping ‘Delhi Belly’ officials attempt to investigate the problem. As the British stomach is often less resilient to curry than it used to be during more colonial times, could it simply be ‘Gandhi’s Revenge‘? 🙂

When I read the news today it is usually with a cynical eye and questioning mind. You can’t really blame the media, it’s our society that appears to demand the salacious and intimate details of every scandal. The public seems to enjoy the self-flagellation of shock horror sensationalism. The days where the media simply presented the facts of a story, without masses of opinion or spin, would appear to be long gone. It appears that almost every story has to be ‘dressed up’ with emotive wording and a heightened sence of concern, despair or far less frequently, some elation.

I’ve often wondered why as a society, we tend towards a constant craving for extremes of emotion to enlighten our lives. Why do we need someone (or something) to give us a high? Why are we addicted to the need for a ‘hit’ of excitement? Do we all live such a miserable mundane existence? In many ways I think we do. Today we have a society where we actually have to strive for very little in real terms.

We now live in a society of longer life expectancy. We are closeted in the expectations that; we receive a relatively good standard of education, we have safe working conditions, we get adequate health care, there is reasonable wealth available to us and we have access to all manner entertainment mediums to aid our happiness. Because the basics of social sustainability are available to the majority, we need to find something else to ‘worry’ about.

There will of course be those who scream “bunkum, there are people in our country living in abject poverty“. To those I would say; poverty is actually relative and, until you have actually experienced (or at least witnessed) true poverty at first hand, hold your mouth. Go and do some voluntary work in a ‘third world’ country, gain some experience of reality and then come back and talk about poverty. To be fair, many people in our society possess a poor perception and understanding of reality, both to their own communities situation and certainly to the remainder of the world.

Large proportions of our society live their individualistic lifestyle in a microcosm fed with virtual reality. They confine themselves to their house bubble, they drive around in their mobile bubble and when they travel, they seek out a holiday bubble to perpetuate their personal reality. An area that is full of their own type of people, eating their own type of  food and drinking their own beer, “tsk couldn’t possibly touch that foreign muck”.

Perhaps the inept individualistic junkies in our society should have their next hit of self-centred virtual fix cut with some harder reality!

So I thought, fresh mug of tea and spend some ‘quality time’ browsing my latest copy of Canoe & Kayak UK. Hobbies and interests are the life blood of a  balanced outlook on life, they also provide light relief from the stressful parts of our everyday existence. It turned out to be a short-lived idea but one that would also add to illustrating my viewpoint.

Despite the advances in medical science, which have led us to our expectation of longevity and health, many people still are not that fortunate. Turning to the first page editorial of the magazine it hammered this fact home once again, but in a kindly and sincere manner.

Lucinda Manouch, a long-term contributor to the magazine and lover of the outdoors, of wildlife and all the wonders of nature to behold, had lost her fight against cancer. Lucinda was a relatively young person who had shared the majority of her life with others. Taking her time to explain and teach new skills at the Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre whilst sharing the products of her undoubted photographic skill and love of nature with the world. Take a look Lucinda’s blog (My Snowdonia Garden) to witness the legacy this woman left to society. My heart goes out to Alan her husband.

Continuing into the magazine I was again heartened to read words from The Floater, another one of those people who has the ability to grasp the relevance of life, although it has to be said, sometimes in an irreverent manner…

I got fired from my day job yesterday. In the current economic climate, I should be devastated, but my immediate reaction was surprising, if perhaps a tad predictable for regular readers; “GREAT NOW I CAN GO BOATING!” (The Floater-C&KUK)

In his whimsical view of watersports and life’s trials and tribulations, The Floater acknowledges the worries of making ends meet and paying the bills however, he (rightly) still values that which is important in his life by saying; “worries waned again when I actually got out on the water”. A sensible perspective on life, a skill that too many of us lose as we rush about, disappearing up our own backsides.

Daily Mail: We live in an age of instant communication – but it seems many relationships are suffering because couples no longer talk face to face. One in ten of us spends more time talking to our other half on the phone or by email than in person, a study has found. (Read more)

Tea boost consumed, life batteries recharged for the day ahead and now washed and dressed, I headed off into the low morning October sunshine for a stroll with the dog in the local park. Whilst enjoying the much warmer but still fresh autumnal air, I continued to ponder the ills of humanity and other such social issues. It seems to me that many of these failings are often media fuelled and in addition, there also appears to be a transatlantic difference in media methodology. (See previous although brief comment, on a slightly different train of thought, about my perception of Anglo-American differences in Rednecks V Chavs).

In general, the American media (and most of the people) tend towards a ‘glass half full’ ideology, probably as a result of the ‘American dream’ psyche, where as the British media often adopts a slightly more ‘glass half empty’ process. This obviously has an impact upon how the public view things. The Americans tend to celebrate and ‘bull up’ the ‘good time’ aspects of life whilst the British, we hang our heads and cry “woe is me” and “we’re all doomed” or “the end of the world is nye”. Until we’ve reached rock bottom and are getting are arse kicked we maintain our element of inherent apathy.

After years of overt political intervention in our lives, it appears to me the British have (in many ways) been reduced to their knees. As a society we have been brainwashed into believing; it’s at best politically incorrect or at worse, a criminal offence to actually display any signs of pride. We have been gagged from speaking out about the way we actually think and our historic culture is an anachronism. The majority have become silent for fear of upsetting a vociferous minority. There I go with my annoying trait for digression again.

Back to the pressing question; why do we find it so difficult to get some sensible prospective of reality in our lives and perhaps more importantly, why do some find it much easier than others? Irrespective of issues already highlighted, many people simply lack any true experience of how crap our society can really be. Sometimes I have to ask myself; am I the enigma? Do I (and others like me) have a skewed and sometimes macabre view of humanity because I’m a social misfit?

There was a time in our social history where people from all walks of life, actually had personal experience of real human difficulties, injury and in extremes even death. Times during the industrial revolution where people got injured or died because of their work, two world wars where people at both home and abroad got killed and before a National Health Service, became ill or suffered chronic diseases or illness. A time where shorter life expectancy almost guaranteed, everyone had experienced a family bereavement by the time they were thirty. In short, traumatic experiences that gave people different perceptions of importance to those we posses today.

During my life I have seen more than my fair share of injured or dead humans, I have spent time clearing roads from the aftermath of fatal and serious road collisions. I have spent time trying to explain to someone why their loved one won’t be coming home and tried to console parents who’s child has just died. I have witnessed the waste of people of all ages and both genders, who have decided that life had become too much for them and chose to end it all, using both clean and messy methods. I have had three colleagues murdered by gunshot, I have lost a very dear friend and colleague to heart disease in his early 40’s.

Another great friend who, whilst doting on his 4yr old granddaughter, has to battle and deal with the family emotions of the little girl fighting her leukemia. A sadly missed best friend, left the Royal Ulster Constabulary during the hight of the troubles and came to the mainland to build a safer life for his family. He and I were involved in a car crash, he was killed and I nearly ended up answering to a higher authority. I have visited country’s where children know nothing of education, can’t remember the last time they had food and are constantly covered in flies. I have worked with service men and women who have lost limbs in conflict and lost friends in a war zone.

I’m not boasting and I’m not trying to court sympathy. Neither am I asking you to understand the impact any of these individual incidents have had on my life. What I am trying to illustrate and explain to you is; experience of life’s trauma, and a clear picture of other people’s misery, helps you to develop a better understanding and perception of what is (or is not) actually important in life. A more rounded vision of the bigger scheme of things helps you to take a reality check.

So as the dog and I wandered past the latest release of uneducated and/or unemployable skiprat hoodies in the park I smiled. I listened to them groaning about everything from the price of fags to shit football scores and bemoaning the fact, “me dole don’t pay enough init”. I heard two young mother’s outside the school discussing how outrageous it would be if they lost their child benefit “that’ll be me going out money shagged, how’s anyone supposed to afford kids now?” A middle-aged couple, who had just parked their new Mercedes in the nearby car park, were having a heated discussion; “we need to engage a different agent, he’s under valued by at least £250k. It’s totally outrageous, how are we going to furnish the villa now?”

From the underclass to upper class, from the middle class of middle England to the working classes in the extremities of this island nation I say; “for just once in your pathetic life, think of others and their life. Put yourself to one side and try getting a freaking life based upon reality and not trivia!”

Whatever your problem get some balls,  there is always a brighter side and there is always someone who is worse off than you!

Footnote: Whilst finishing this piece off  there was a discussion on the radio about strange funeral arrangements. One listener emailed the show to say…

I have told my son that when I go, he should get my mobile phone, set the ring tone to ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ and then secrete it in my coffin. When they start lowering the casket into the ground he should then ring my number!

My kind of guy!

One thought on “Brass monkeys and the brighter side of life!

  1. Good to know you think Like this MrG. I seem to remember a version of it in the ‘eat your greens, finish your plate, millions would be grateful in starving India’ routines of parents (which I remember with affection). My fear is ‘deaf ears’. Some of the people I’m researching seem incapable even of accepting that other people have had real experience because they haven’t!
    My grandson is 13 next month and he and his friends remind me of just how vapid the teenage years generally are – many of our problems seem to have this ‘trapped in childhood’ component. Even Adam Smith talked of ‘sympathy squared’. We have more or less lost the generation who witnesses the wars now, and I increasingly feel we are decadent. Good prose too. Thanks.


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