Sunday, July 24, 2011


So – it’s been a dramatic week, totally apart from my family’s little arrival. It’s hard to deal with mixed emotions. We’re besotted with little Grandson; meanwhile people are starving in large numbers in Africa, those horrific killings have taken place in Norway and Amy Winehouse has died.

I don’t really know anything about Amy Winehouse except what one hears. The only song of hers that I’m aware of is that “Rehab” one and nothing about it seems interesting to me, especially her raspy voice. But Daughter 2 saw her in concert when she (AW) was about 20 and was very impressed, so what do I know? And anyone dying at 27 is a great tragedy, obviously.

I can’t help, however, comparing her to the boy in a documentary, A Life Fast Forward, that I watched on Friday night. His name was Alex Lewis and I think he became 22 in the course of the programme. Four years before, he’d been diagnosed with cancer and it was now terminal. And you’ve never seen a more lively and enthusiastic person. He didn’t dwell on his illness but was bent on extracting every possible ounce of joy from his remaining life – travelling abroad, skydiving and so on. In the course of the documentary he fell in love with a girl among his group of friends. Her name was Ali and she fell in love with him too. They got engaged and, just at the end of the documentary, married – though by that stage he couldn’t walk and could hardly talk. Five days later, he died.

It wasn’t only Alex who was enchanting – his whole family, his set of friends and also Ali and her family were absolutely lovely. Whereas I think I might have warned my daughter off getting involved with a boy who was about to die – however delightful he was – both families were just so happy for them and it seemed absolutely right. And we also saw them some months after his death, having a barbecue and talking and laughing so fondly about Alex and his exploits.

It was terribly sad, but so touching and heart-warming – made me feel better about humanity. And also makes me feel even more the waste in Amy Winehouse’s life. He had no choices, poor lad.

I may have blogged before about Auden’s poem Icarus – but since I can’t remember, probably neither can you. Anyway, it’s a poem I used to enjoy teaching, especially since the advent of electronic whiteboards, which allow you to put an image of Breugel's painting up on the huge screen and let the class see it. It takes them a while to spot Icarus in the corner, falling into the sea, unnoticed by the others in the picture, and of course that’s Auden’s point in the poem: individual tragedies are just that – disasters for those involved, but for the rest of us – either we don’t know about them or we do but we just have to get on with things. However sympathetic you feel, you can’t let yourself be destroyed by every tragedy in the world. But it’s hard to forget Alex; and of course the terrible events in Norway have certainly horrified us all.

Compared to all this, the Murdochs and phone hacking and the cream pie throwing don’t seem quite so important. But I suppose it’s all a matter of opinion.


  1. sigh ... soon after i was divorced, my mother gave me a little Mary Engelbreit figurine of a girl Moving Forward with the saying, "get over it ... get on with it"

    and i remember thinking that it was easy for HER to say, but not so easy for me to DO, unnoticed by the Others in the Picture, while i was lost in my Individual Tragedy ... but there were children to raise and bills to pay and things to be gotten on with...

  2. The sad events in Norway put the rest of the world into perspective.....I didn't follow Amy Winehouse's life or music although I have heard of her, but hers seems a life wasted by wrong choices. Those poor people who had their lives taken had no choice.

  3. What with visitors and school hols/return to school, I fell off the blog for a while and look! I missed this wonderful event unfolding. Congratulations to you and K and all your family. I think in the midst of the weekend's bad news, it is important to celebrate happy events like your grandchild's arrival. Hooray! Best wishes xx

  4. What a wonderful post: that painting is a favourite of mine, as is the poem. I was thinking this morning how tragedy seems never at a distance anymore, it is always everywhere at once thanks to technology. Meanwhile our own small tragedies and joys occupy us.

    Oh how I LOVE the baby, please please email me and tell me his name? Or even a clue.

  5. Very much enjoying seeing the photos of your new family member. Such special times and I can see you are all enjoying him so much.

  6. I'm with you. I find it a bit difficult to weep over someone that had talent and fabulous opportunities in life and threw it all away on drugs, when there are people who are faced with - and have overcome - enormous challenges that they had no choice over.

    It makes more sense to focus on Stephen Hawking, Joni Eareckson Tada, Jamie MacIntyre, Mark Inglis, and folks like them. Don't know who they are? Google them for a lift!

    Inspiration over desperation every time.

  7. I'm with you and Marcheline. I'd never heard of Amy Winehouse until the name appeared on the news website I read. And reading these comments have enlightened me somewhat to the sort of person she apparently was. No great loss to the world, dare I say.