Thursday, January 20, 2011

Good news, swine flu

As if January wasn't bad enough, on top of the weather, the post-Christmas depression and the lack of money I now understand that Swine Flu has reared its unwelcome (pig) head again. But it feels different this year though, doesn't it; understated almost? Lacking the hype and fanfare that it had last year, despite the fact that the strain of flu is apparently 'every bit as deadly' as it was last year when we were all due to be set upon with Armageddon like consequences.

We're fickle beings aren't we - humans I mean? We treat these diseases in the same way that we treat fads, getting all excited about them when they're all new and shiny but then, as they fall off the front page and imbed they lose their edge and we lose interest - like myspace. I'm not condemning us or our society or anything, I just think that most of us have quite short attention spans – we all remember Roaul Moat because of the Gazza thing, but I struggle to recall the name of the Taxi driver in Cumbria who shot all those people. And he was probably worse.

I do not aim to interpret the human condition, but we do have a tendency to react to these things in the same way. I personally have no memory of anyone I know falling victim to the CJD 'outbreak' some years back; however I do remember the fear resulting in everyone avoiding beef like it was selling the Big Issue as we allowed the UK livestock farming industry to become crippled. Conversely, and interestingly, we never really got that into SARS in a big way, did we? It always seemed like someone else’s problem. But the images of those cute little commuters in masks had us all little scared, right? But being scared then was nothing like what its like to be scared today. We barely knew how good we even had it back in the time before ‘international’ terrorism. International Terrorism (not to be confused with domestic Terrorism like the IRA and that lot) changed the world and overnight we all became suspicious of our neighbours, or friends, colleagues and anyone foolish enough to run with a rucksack on.

I guess it's natural that we should be fearful of the skies, most people feel vulnerable enough in the air without the added anxiety of becoming a senseless death on a Jihad suicide mission. This may be why Aviation or 'Bird flu' captured our imagination and was so frightening? Bird flu was a weird one for me, though I didn't really understand it, by God weren’t we all terrified of it! And now, nothing - I mean it barely gets a mention despite the fact there has been as many 'outbreaks' of bird flu this year as there have been of swine flu - but they were in Egypt so who cares, right?

Swine flu has been the most relevant of the modern scaremonger diseases for me, partly due to the fact that I'm that little bit older now and have a certain degree of awareness these days but also because I'm told I should be frightened of contracting it. Apparently swine flu doesn't discriminate on the grounds of age, so people young and old are as at risk as each other. I'm not frightened though, see there seems to some wonderful immunity I possess which restricts me from getting the sort of undiagnosable and unverifiable ailments which automatically justify having to take a week off work, no questions asked to 'stay at home, take care of yourself by keeping yourself hydrated, eating right, and getting plenty of sleep'. I don’t doubt swine flu is horrible and I have met some of those unfortunate enough to contract it, however, perhaps coincidentally it did seem to affect a lot of the same people who were ‘snowed in’ during the 4 inches of snow which brought the UK to a ‘stand still’ last year. Just saying.

So, despite already having a death toll in 2011, swine flu appears to be old news and with recession, job losses, the new coalition government making a balls of everything it would appear that there isn’t a place for swine flu this year in our newspapers, our hearts or in our minds anymore. Next.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New years thieves

As I stood by the grave of 2010 there was a brief but wholly welcome relief that it was coming to its end. It was a year which brought me some happiness; however these brief and ephemeral moments were insurmountably eclipsed by crushing grief and sadness. Like most, I treated the end of a year and the dawn of the next with the usual dignitaries by raising a glass or two. New years isn’t a time of year which I’m particularly crazy about, but in the spirit of things I ignored my better judgement and like some kind of fool I attempted to make the most of it.
Time, as it has a tendency to, passed. Jubilations ended and it was time for me to go home. I was tired and I knew that sleep would be welcome. Fate, it seemed, had other plans. On my return home I was surprised to find that my front door wouldn’t open. I’d had a drink so thought it best to try again, but still nothing. It felt as though he door had been locked internally and suddenly I was overcome with a wash of exhilaration! Perhaps last year hadn’t happened at all, it’d all been a long horribly vivid dream? My girlfriend hadn’t left me and we were still together and she’s gone to bed locking me out accidentally…!? But, with the miasma of fried chicken hanging in the air and the sound of idiots chorusing in the streets my daydream ended and as my senses returned I realised that I was probably in the process of being burgled.
So bravely, and without any regard for my safety I sped to the rear of my house somehow managing not to break my neck on the wall and sure enough I saw the damage to the back window. What struck me, other than how bloody brave I was, was the craftsmanship, that they hadn’t smashed the window as much as fully remove it from the frame. And there, my double glazed window stood, fully intact, propped up and looking displaced and disorientated. On the plus, I am getting my window replaced through my insurance and it’s only going to take one full calendar month.
On entering the house I realised that whoever had been in had long gone and left little by way of trace. I had heard tales of thieves defecating on their victims beds so; perhaps bizarrely, this was the first thing I checked for.
No joy. No DNA.
Upon initial inspection I gathered that the bedside table, which had previously held my ex-girlfriend’s underpants, had been rifled through and the case from my iphone lay open on my bed. The guest bedroom had been entered too, though only a bag containing scarves appeared to be open. The offender profile was beginning to look confusing, confusing and sexy.
I returned downstairs and was unsurprised to find that my laptop and Xbox had been taken along with whatever games and DVDs were on the table, the sight of my ultra-violent computer games must’ve been any deterrent whatsoever. Politely they left Dexter season 3 (clearly this was either too high brow or they hadn’t managed to get through 1 & 2 yet and didn’t want to spoil the Bay Harbour Butcher story). I also noticed that the ‘interactive headset’ for my Xbox had been left also. It appears even my burglars have their thresholds about what they’d be caught dead with.
The Police were good. There in well under an hour and taking the piss out of me with five minutes. One of them was in a bad mood, and man he did not want a hug…!
Weirdly that appears to be all that was taken which, as an indicator my worth is more depressing than the burglary itself. If I’d have burgled me I’d have taken my passport at least, it was on the coffee table but was of no interest. Its an irish passport so I can only assume that not only are my burglars heartless they’re also a bit prejudice - I bet if it was British they’d have been all over it. There’s my ‘flat’ screen television which despite being thinner than your standard CRT unit is probably as heavy. They could have had that? And what about dining table and chairs I’ve been trying to get rid of for the past 2 years? My limited edition Radiohead poster? My 1000+ CD collection?  My guitars? You come into my house, put on my scarves and underwear and don’t even have the good manners to burgle me properly; you really are the lowest of the low…
People keep telling me that the worst thing about being the victim of a burglary is that you feel that you’ve been violated, perhaps my poor house may feel as though it’s been prison raped, but personally I would contest this. The inconvenience is the worst part; they’ve not just taken my stuff so much as taken my time. Mot to mention the rigmarole of having to put all of my music back onto iTunes, re-syncing my phone and unlocking my Xbox achievements all over again – the Police did not empathise with this. I’ve just remembered my Xbox gamer points, are they safe? My God it’s worse than I imagined.