When one reads a headline, ‘Britain is sickest nation in Europe,’ in one of the few broadsheets left in the country, with one of the largest circulations, you could be forgiven for considering it more than hyperbole. At the height of the Troubles in Ulster, friends of my aunt tried to stop her visiting me in case she was shot. I was in the RUC and hadn’t been shot at, I am not aware that there was more than one case of a visitor being actually injured in the 30 years of the bombing and shooting. I have always been convinced that the hooliganism of the football fans abroad is the work of a few dedicated trouble makers, egged on by the indigenous hard men, and promoted on film and in the press sensationally.
From what I read, and see on TV, I suspect a large part of the knifing, brutality, and theft is gang warfare between rival packs of children of Afro-Caribbean ancestry, located in inner-city areas, but not as one could assume from the press, as being general. In reporting, ‘man bites dog’ is newsworthy, and not the reverse. In Ulster, daily we are presented with crisis and injury, from a kitchen fire to road accidents or occasionally a shooting left over from our past. In the 65 years I have lived here, I have found little to cause me to consider much outside the norm, if one excludes the effects of people wanting a United Ireland, the hard way. I believe this is true of most of Britain.
Some of the statements in the article are vague, but on the face of it sensational. For example, they state that the number of women dying of alcohol related deaths has doubled, but not from what figure to what figure. If it was one last year, and two this then the rise would be 100%, They say England is the only European country to have a rising alcohol consumption, and quote that Europeans drink 10,95 litres per person, while we drink 11.37, a matter of 3.6%. I don’t believe a national survey can be accurate within 5% let alone that much. I wonder if the drinking habits of the Eastern European immigrants affected the result. The article raises the matter of our obesity level, that doesn’t make us out to be sick, in the way the title implies, merely a bit silly where diet is concerned, and we are going to fix that aren’t we? – Or are we?
I write because I find so many aspects of life so very different to what I was brought up to, so many statements I disagree with, but I try not to write for the sake of writing, that would soon be sussed out by my readership. My Grandmother had a saying, ‘If you haven’t something worth saying, say nothing’ Jimmy, my father -in-law went even further when it came to Ulster politics he used to say, ‘Whatever you say, say nothing,’ Journalist are paid to write, and they will only be read if the product is sensational, amusing, or instructive. .It is easiest to be sensational. My mother-in-law told Soph ‘don’t believe all they tell you, dear!’, that is good advice in all circumstances.
I think we believe too much of what we read and are told without being sceptical and looking deeper. We are not sick, odd, definitely, but not as odd as the continentals, who else could be? I shall sleep tonight in the knowledge that the Irish, the English, the Welsh, and the Scots are a great bunch, and not as some would portray us all.