Turning back the years (or growing old disgracefully)

Martin Holst has a story or two to tell.

I can’t complain – and won’t about lockdown for myself, but acknowledge it has been bad for many people.

Have you noticed that ‘Take care’ has crept into our culture as ‘the thing to say’ at the end of any encounter? It has become the usual ‘parting remark’ or ‘sign off’ for an email. This is perhaps symptomatic of the concern for ‘being safe’ and expecting to have an environment that is risk free.

Gradually certain risks have been eliminated or reduced through vaccination programmes, safety legislation (e.g compulsory seat belts), Health and Safety at work etc. Could it be said that we are becoming ‘risk averse’ and when something goes wrong ‘not our fault’ there is a ‘compensation culture’?

The NHS now has to be careful to require patients to sign that they accept risks, and there is a huge bill for compensation where procedures ‘go wrong’. This is in contrast to the acceptance in the past that honest mistakes were ‘forgivable’.

I would not argue that we should fail to respect the Covid regulations about social distancing, quarantine etc. However, my choice of parting remark would be ‘See you later alligator’ – sadly fewer people know the appropriate response in today’s world. When I am offered the unsolicited advice to ‘take care’ I usually accept it for the kindly way it is meant, but am tempted to say instead ‘I have too much on my plate at the moment to ‘take care’ as well – I will live as dangerously as possible within the prevailing rules.

Bill Haley and his Comets were famous in the 1950s and identified with the song ‘Rock around the Clock’. A less well known song had the phrase ‘See you later Alligator, and when given in a parting remark evoked ‘In a while Crocodile’. The actual phrase in the otherwise forgettable song was in fact ‘After a while crocodile’.

I have decided to reverse the digits of my age, so now I regard myself as a revolting 18 year old. The result of the ‘off bike’ experience I relate is, that for a few days, I had to use again the Philips bike I bought at the age of 18 to commute daily from Edmonton to Queen Mary College in the East End.  The Sturmey Archer 3-speed gears and dynamo hub lights still work efficiently despite some 40,000 miles over the years. The significant difference is that I now wear a crash helmet. My new bike is a Genesis with 18 gears and seriously better hydraulic brakes. I can go much faster with less effort. I rely on the helmet to give protection against a premature exodus as you will see below.

An ‘off bike’ experience.

I was merrily going down a hill and veered off the road over what I thought was a line of kerb bricks at the same level the road. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as I thought. They were just a little too high. All of a sudden, I found the bike going along the line of bricks whilst I was flying off the bike at considerable speed. I landed rather heavily. After pausing to see if any major damage had been done, I rolled over and slowly picked myself up. I had plenty of clothing to prevent too many grazes, but my face was running with blood and my mouth felt strange: it turned out that my false teeth were beyond repair. The helmet undoubtedly saved serious injury. A very kind lady had stopped her vehicle and came to see if I were OK. She had witnessed the whole incident. She offered me tissues to mop up the blood, and then asked if I needed an ambulance to take me to A&E.  I said I was OK, but she could see that I might need help getting home. She offered to take me back, and was most insistent that she thought it wise. At first, I refused, saying I would like to continue with my ride, but then on examining the bike, I realised it was unrideable. It was only after I accepted the offer that I looked at her vehicle: it was a private ambulance and it did not have the usual markings. I was puzzled why she had only offered tissues for my injury – surely any ambulance carries a First Aid kit. Gradually light began to dawn that this was no ordinary ambulance.

Then she explained. She worked for an undertaker. She said I could sit in the front alongside her, and the bike could lie down in the back (it did not have company). It was about a 20 minute journey home and fortunately we arrived before Margaret had missed me. She did not have to witness the manner of my return.

The injuries have been healing well. The bike was soon repaired. I needed a new top plate anyway, and had to have fittings at a dental studio: eating nuts was a little difficult for the moment!

 I suppose I should heed the advice to ‘take care’ as they say. On the other hand, perhaps I should regard the inci-dent as a re-hearse-al. I was fortunate not to be a croc-odile.

I feel humbled by those who have, during the crisis, run into all sorts of danger for the sake of others, and have known God strength and guidance through it. I also noted in the last magazine the hymns of hope and the stories of those who were able to write of hope despite their troubles.

Jesus never promised his disciples a life free from danger but did give an assurance in Matthew 28:19-20

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age..

Perhaps in the way we face the future, ‘take courage’ and ‘trust and obey’ are more important maxims than ‘take care’.

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