An extraordinary story of survival, Joe Boylan was caught for two and a half days in the blizzard that not only delayed the start of the 1984 Winter Olympics but also killed some 25 people.
I don't call it "depression", "anxiety", "the black dog" or "the horrid ground weaver" - which is the name of an actual spider and clearly an amazing name for any mental illness. But I wasn't feeling particularly clever the day I dubbed mine my Inner Shithead.
Sometimes I wonder if we should scrap all news outlets and consolidate them all into one website entitled, "HowPeopleAreBeingTheWorstToday.com". The latest jaw-dropper came from a newlywed couple:
'A pair of newlyweds have sparked outrage after a wedding guest revealed they had contacted her to say her gift was not generous enough.
The anonymous guest, an ex-colleague of the bride, asked for advice on a Mumsnet forum after being told the £100 cheque she gave the couple was not sufficient.'
As a newlywed myself (it's been nearly eight months, but I've decided I'm a newlywed until YouTube stops showing me pregnancy test ads) this obviously struck me as awful and just gross. You can secretly think someone is stingy, but telling them and asking them to rectify it is as shockingly un-British as saying "IDIOT!" when someone steps on your foot instead of "Sorry". What the hell are you DOING? I want to shout, You've got your inner and outer monologues flipped! Don't you know how terrible British people are on the inside, how furiously angry and vengeful?! Why do you think we're so polite all the time?! If everyone flipped their inner and outer voices we'd be rioting tomorrow and eating each other's faces by the weekend!
But aside from the brazen rudeness, the part that gave me a jolt was this:
'The email from the newlyweds read: “We were surprised that your contribution didn’t seem to match the warmth of your good wishes on our big day. In view of your own position, if you wanted to send any adjustment it would be thankfully received.”
The guest said she was “gobsmacked” and explained that her “own position” probably referred to a recent inheritance she had received.'
That part gave me a kick in the stomach (and no, YouTube, for the last time I'm not pregnant). Because in the winter of 2014, my father-in-law dropped dead unexpectedly, and everyone knew we inherited a chunk of the North London house he bought for a Twix in the 90s, that was now worth WAY more than a mouldy formerly-rat-infested old house with holes in the walls should be.
And yes, since then, we have been nervous at weddings and birthdays and Christmas time, nervous that the gifts we bought people wouldn't be enough in their eyes. "They're loaded now", we imagined them thinking, "they could have got us TWO bottles! Or FIVE!"
We spent a week wondering why he hadn't responded to our emails before we found him dead in his bed. He hadn't been ill. He just died. And what we found after eight days was traumatic enough that I have always been too polite to describe it. Yet when we told people, they skipped past the bereavement, landed on the inheritance and told us we were lucky.
The word "inheritance" has an association of "rich heirs and heiresses", snobby debutantes who are informed their distant relative Uncle Walter has snuffed it and left them a few million. In real life, people leave their money to close relatives.
It stands to reason then that someone who has inherited money in real life is probably bereaved and in a lot of pain.
"Think of all the dinners out you'll be able to have now!" one friend said. I did burst out laughing as it's probably the weakest "every cloud" example I can think of, but I do get why people end up being so insensitive. People can't relate to the idea of finding your last parent dead and ravaged by decay, because who wants to think about that? But EVERYONE can relate to the idea of a cash injection, because they fantasise about it on a daily basis.
So this is just a gentle reminder: please stop treating the bereaved like they've won the lottery. Or if you can't resist pointing out, quite rightly, that a cash injection mostly improves people's lives, please do the following first:
- picture your mum, dad, or anyone currently living who means a lot to you, dead in their bed.
- dead in a horrifying way, if possible. Think zombie movies.
- NOW think about getting to buy a flat, shop in Waitrose or go out for dinner a lot.
- Repeat step one. Because that's what it's like, every time you spend the money they left you.