Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Minor irritations.

Life is full of minor irritations. Here are two of mine from the last week. One: standing, freezing, with wet hair, in a car park after swimming, trying to work the ticket machine. It wants me to key in the last three digits of my car registration so it can calculate how long I've been there from the photo on its CCTV camera, but it doesn't recognise the first three digits and now wants the whole registration. The touch pad is infuriatingly over-sensitive and unresponsive by turns so that I keep keying in wrong letters and numbers and going back to delete them again, having to click between the numerals pad and the alphabet pad every time. And after all that it rejects my car reg completely, plus the code I've been given by the leisure centre for a reduction, saying neither are 'valid'. Finally it charges me 60p for one hour - very reasonable - but then swallows my two pound coin, as well as a good fifteen minutes of my life, without giving change, for either.

Two: taking great care to put groceries away tidily in my new, clean fridge, with a system, only to find when my back is turned Husband empties all the fruit and salad and veg, including an enormous bag of carrots, loose into the salad trays instead: "Because they will rot in that plastic otherwise" he says. "Not at the rate we use it all up," I reply, exasperated. Now every time I open the fridge I'm confronted by a riot of higgled-piggeldy produce and have to wade my way through to find what I want.

But none of this really matters, does it? Nothing really matters very much at all, except for family and health and being warm and dry and fed. I really have nothing to feel irritated about, my life is fine, more than fine. I know this at the time these minor irritations are occurring. I know this now, on reflection, and in particular I know this a day or two after these events when I am sitting in a huge, cold, packed church at the funeral of someone who took his own life.

There will be no minor irritations for him anymore, no major ones either, and also no spring, no summer, no autumn, no winter, no family, no health, no warm, no dry, no wet, no cold, no hungry, no fed. No Christmas, no birthdays, no holidays, no family landmarks; like seeing his own three children grow up, marry, have children of their own. There will be nothing. And for his family left behind there will be a lot: unimaginable pain and sorrow reverberating through the years and down through generations.

I came home from the funeral and I talked to my children about suicide. Not perhaps a subject many people are comfortable talking about with their children - with anyone - but I had also seen the Panorama programme on the subject of male suicide only a night or two before, and read articles in the paper about it recently, as I'm sure you have. 

Almost everyone I know has a story to tell. Husband's friend from home killed himself many years ago now, just before we got married. The elderly father of someone I know also took his own life. Both were men, and I have sons; sons who will day be men too. And suicide it is the biggest killer of young men in the UK. The statistics are shocking: 

* suicide is the most common cause of death in men under the age of 35. 

* 4.858 men killed themselves in 2013. 

* The suicide rate amongst men now is the highest it's been since 2001, 

* Three times that of women. 

* The use of anti-depressants has increased fivefold since 1991. 

* Today, around 13 men in the UK will kill themselves. 

* Today.

It is likely that someone has killed himself in the UK in the time it has taken me to write this blog. And I know that one mother, returning from one heart-wrenching funeral and talking to her three boys, and then blogging about it, will not make one iota of difference to that, to anything. But if, as they say, silence is a big part of the problem, the treatment of the whole subject as taboo, then my silence on the subject won't help either. 

No one knows what is happening in those final moments in the mind of someone who decides to take his own life. We can't be there, we can't leap in and alter the course of events, we can only look to those who are left behind, our brothers, sons, husbands, uncles, fathers and talk to them, and keep talking to them, and tell them how much they are loved and valued and hope and pray that they are never brought so low that they ever think it's the right answer. Because it's not.

Love E x


Here's a very moving piece in the Telegraph. I hope you're able to cut and paste it. If not look it up, from Feb 24th 2015.

I didn't know what picture to put with this so I used one of my evergreen Clematis at the top, the Avalanche. I think it's really beautiful.



  1. Thank you again. As someone whose uncle killed himself before i was even born, and as the mother of three boys now, I quite agree that suicide is a terrifying reality that reverberates down the generations.

  2. Thanks Helen, I almost didn't mention the funeral at all - so incredibly moving and upsetting - but then I thought perhaps our reluctance to talk about it is part of the problem. E x