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Now that’s what I call a way to go
THIS week’s thoughts come in the form of a special offer from the sweetie counter. For the price of one usual column you can have a pick-and-mix bag of all-sorts.
Cole’s Assorted Humbugs come in various flavours. The first sweet to go into the bag is not really very sweet at all. Well, there’s no getting round this: it is death, or at least the idea of having a good one. Woody Allen once offered his own mordant spin on this, observing: “I am not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
Of course, most of us are. And here is a simple testament to someone who has just died: “She passed doing what she loved best.” What better epitaph could there be? These seven simple words were spoken by a family member in honour of Gertrude Painter, the 96-year-old woman who died while taking part in a charity abseil from the roof of Crawley Hospital, in West Sussex.
It is true that the death of this valiant woman will have been a terrible shock for those around her at the time, and to her friends and family. Yet I like to think of Gertrude passing with her hands on the ropes and the breeze in her hair. This may be fanciful. However she went, betrayed finally by her gutsy old heart, she went in style, still up for life by the sounds of it; still willing to try a bit of dare-devilry in the name of a good cause. How admirable.
My mother, who turned 80 earlier this year, belongs to a walking group and goes on hiking holidays. Once some years ago a member of her crew sat down on a hill during a ramble and died there and then; horrible for his companions, but not at all a bad way to go. Add a tot of malt whisky and I might sign up for that one myself, at a suitably distant and unannounced date on a sunny day in the Yorkshire Dales (if such a thing can be ordered).
The next sweeties into the bag are five fruity rings, for reasons which should be obvious. I have some sympathy with those letter writers who complained on Tuesday about the BBC schedules being taken over by coverage of the Olympics. Not being much of a fan myself, I wondered what on earth there would be to watch.
Then I decided to ‘chillax’, to use a fairly ghastly new word apparently favoured by David ‘Dave’ Cameron. The Olympics only come every four years; the rest of the time all the usual rubbish is readily available (mind you, that BBC documentary about Snowdonia was a true marvel amid all the running and jumping).
Staying with the Olympics, the next sugary bauble is one of those sour babies that truly pucker the mouth. Warning: you may well have trouble sucking on this one.
The Tory MP Aidan Burley, who previously found notoriety by going to a stag party where his pals dressed up as Nazis, obviously felt that he hadn’t been annoying enough lately, so during Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, he went on Twitter and deposited the following: “Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap. Bring back red arrows, Shakespeare and the Stones!”
Fortunately, Burley found himself seriously out of step as almost everyone else was delighted by the sweeping, self-aware yet inspiring picture of Britain past and present that was put so brilliantly on show.
Mr Burley later said he had been misunderstood. Oh yeah? I think we all understood him perfectly well.
And all praise to Danny Boyle for including his sugar-dusted paen to the National Health Service, an institution most of us treasure. As we should: we all chip in and, irrespective of class or clout, when the need arises it is there for every one of us, at least in optimistic theory.
Here’s a final piece of toffee to chew on: the York Mystery Plays open today. There is only one problem (apart from the assault on that poor tree): we still haven’t got our tickets. Time to get organised, I fear.