Friday, 4 June 2010

A trilogy of tragedy

This is the most beautiful corner of England; the peaceful Lake District. Life is slow. Not a lot happens. The sheep graze, the new lambs jump about a lot and the high fells preside over us all. But that isn't insurance against anything bad happening - we are not immune. But in the beautiful North West corner of the County we have had one tragedy after another; first the floods last November which rendered hundreds of people homeless, a policeman dead and dozens of town centre businesses unable to trade. With most of our bridges broken we were tested to the limit but got on with it cheerfully and made the best of it. We are feisty northerners and we don't give up. Bit by bit we are recovering with businesses slowly moving back into their renovated premises and the town is looking bright and optimistic. We've got plans and ambitions. Our town is going to be better than ever and scrub up very nicely. The unprecedented long winter of ice and snow hampered recovery but we looked on the bright side ( a la Monty Python!) and looked forward to spring. We have a future to look forward to.
Then last week we were disturbed to hear helicopters and then an air ambulance overhead followed by the news of the collision of a school bus and a car just a few miles away between Cockermouth and Keswick with three fatalities - one of them a young promising lass celebrating her sixteenth birthday that day and a fourteen year old boy. The driver of the car who is thought to have passed out or died at the wheel causing him to run unwittingly head-on into the bus was a long standing friend of the gallery. His whole family have been known to us since 1988 and have visited regularly. Patrick Short was a lovely man who collected Percy Kelly paintings, played a great part in community affairs,actively supported many charities , sang in the local choir and enjoyed all the arts and culture the county had to offer. He will be sadly missed.
On Tuesday I was writing away in the Egg when a London friend rang to see if we were alright. 'Why shouldn't we be?' I asked. He then told me about the shootings that were going on right now. No one knew where the gunman was. He was firing indiscriminately and moving swiftly on. I rushed to the house and listened to the news and couldn't believe what was happening just a few miles away. My daughter in law teaches in Egremont, my granddaughter goes to school there. We have many friends in the area. Then I remembered it was half term. Sylvia and Janet might be shopping in Whitehaven. My heart turned over. I rang and found they were safe upstairs in their house with all the doors locked. It must have been terrifying. Because the gunman was a cab driver, he knew all the back ways and short cuts and covered a lot of distance befoe shooting himself after killing 12 innocent people and injuring many more.
Let's hope this is the end of tragedy in the area. Life is hazardous and tenuous and none of us is immortal but this is unbelievable.
We will all now get on with our lives with an extra consciousness of how precious life is and how easily it is lost. My old college motto is LIVE TODAY and that what we should do. There's no future in worrying about what might happen if...... Let's just live to the full and help and enjoy others along the way.
Here endeth the first lesson ... sorry to be sactimonious - not like me at all - but heartfelt. It's an emotional time for all of us up here.