Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Living with danger

I'm always humbled by people whose partners have incredibly risky jobs or hobbies but somehow have the resilience to accept the risk without being permanently worried stiff about them.

If your loved one is a police officer, firefighter, racing driver or rock-climber, you can never be sure they're going to return home in one piece - or even alive.

You must be often wondering how you would cope if you had that awful knock on the door to bring you the worst possible news. Or do you eventually get quite philosophical about it and just think "If it happens, it happens"?

Some people must face the prospect of their new love being constantly in danger and decide they simply can't face it, they'll settle for someone whose only occupational risk is a scalding from the coffee machine.

Two Northern Ireland motorcycling champions, brothers Joey and Robert Dunlop, were both killed while racing, and their grieving relatives have had to accept that they died doing something they loved and just wouldn't have been so happy doing something else.

Some people argue that it's irresponsible to choose such dangerous activities when you have a family who love you and depend on you and will be devastated if you come to harm. But if that's what you enjoy, if you're good at it, if it enriches your life, should you back off solely to be risk-free? And end up a bored, frustrated pen-pusher?

If you're the one at home though, it must be quite a relief every time your partner rings to say "I'm on my way now, sweetheart. How have the kids been today?" And for a few blissful hours, you can relax and stop worrying.


  1. Nick: Being alive means dealing with risk constantly. Getting involved in risky endeavours means assessing the probabilities and the consequences of the outcomes. As you say, some people can't deal with their partner bing involved in something "dangerous". I don't how I'd feel if Mrs M took up lion taming or something else than involved huge risk to personal safety.

  2. That's a tough one. Max once wanted to join the police and it was a real struggle for us. I told him I couldn't cope with the idea of always worrying about him, but I wanted to be supportive of something he really wanted to do.

    I suppose you could say he could get hit by a bus tomorrow (I'm touching a lot of wood right now), so in that sense mudlapgypsy is right. I guess loving someone means loving all parts of them, including the risky things they do.

  3. Muddy - Indeed life is full of risk anyway. I might be in a head-on road crash in ten minutes' time. But having an inherently dangerous occupation clearly ups the risk dramatically.

    Their partner bing? Who comes from Crosby, I assume!

    FG - I'm not surprised it was a struggle. Obviously being a police officer and facing possible guns, knives and bombs every day is a bit different from the very remote chance of being hit by a bus.

  4. you know how the old saying goes.. "You could be run over by a bus tomorrow" so you might as well live for the moment.
    People who join the army, police etc and people who do dangerous sports know what they're getting into and I say good luck and fair play to them.

  5. I've never been a great physical risk taker much to my detriment I suppose. I often wish I had the courage to do more than jaywalk through traffic. My son on the other hand loves his 'extreme' sports and I fear for him but his experiences are far more interesting than mine. Calculated risk I think is the way to go and don't forget you're safety gear! And thank goodness that there are those prepared to partake in risky professions, we'd but up that creek without a paddle without them.

  6. Quicky - Sure, the people who opt for dangerous activities know what they're doing, but it must be hard on their partners who are bound to worry about their safety.

    Baino - I've never done anything very risky either, I'm just not brave enough or skilled enough. I'm not sure that it makes life more interesting though, just more adrenalin-filled! And yes, it's a good thing there are people willing to do the hazardous jobs we depend on.

  7. Nick:
    I just finished "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer (sp?)which really explores the psyche of people who take extreme risks. He also wrote "Into Thin Air" about the people who climb Everest. I recommend both books.
    I do think people who marry those risk takers are fully aware of the loss potential. I've seen too many try and change the rules AFTER they marry.
    The old story of loving that one crazy facet of your spouse and hating it afterwards.
    I think to be complete as a human we have to do what we love.

  8. I'm always prepping myself for that call or if he's really late and hasn't called yet, I fully expect some official to show up on my doorstep. It's incredibly stressful but I also know how much it means to him and if not him, then who's gonna do the job.

  9. www - Interesting what you say about partners who started off loving the risk-taking and then got averse to it. I suppose it's only after you've lived with the worry for a while that you realise how wearing it is. But you're right, we have to do what we love or we suffer for it.

    Liz - Although I've been reading your blog for a while, I don't actually know what your hubby does! Obviously something a bit dicey. But if it means a lot to him, why should he give it up?

  10. I'd imagine that's especially tough because often times there's something extra alluring about risk takers and danger fighters, police, motorcycle riders, etc. Society likes to play on the idea that men who take risks are somehow more manly, but you forget the reality of those lifestyles.

  11. Nicole, very true, it's easy to see jobs like that as exciting and macho, but it's a different matter if they end up hospitalised or six feet under.

  12. I wouldn't be able to cope if the Italian had a really dangerous job. I have a very vivid imagination and that isn't always a good thing...

  13. Caro - No, a vivid imagination would make it much worse. You'd be dreaming up the most extreme, life-threatening situations while the Italian was downing his espresso in the local bar.

  14. My older brother lives for risk taking, and he has a family. When I think about it, it worries me.

    Lovely post, I enjoy how you enable me to think about things from a different angle.

    I am sorry I haven't been clogging for a while.


  15. Hulla - That must be really hard for your brother's family, that he loves risk-taking. But presumably if he gave it up he'd just feel frustrated which wouldn't help.

  16. I just saw a story reporting that triplets in the U.S. joined the Marines.
    Their poor parents.

  17. Medbh - Wow, triplets! Yes, that must be really worrying for their family and friends. Just suppose they're all sent to the same danger spot at the same time?

  18. I can't imagine it. When I became a parent I also became much more careful of myself because I didn't want to leave them motherless.

    I feel for every parent of a serviceman or woman serving in the military today, for the families of commercial fishermen, and of course for those whose loved ones are police officers or firefighters. The sacrifices they make for the rest of us are enormous, and should be acknowledged far more than they are.

  19. Heart, it's true these brave individuals are making sacrifices for the benefit of the rest of us, and we should always remember and appreciate that.

  20. Hi Nick
    My husband is a policeman and when I met him he was in the TSG or Riot Police. We have two young children now and while I do worry about him sometimes I feel reassured that as a trained professional with protective clothing and a sizeable back up team he is far safer than you or I when we head back home after a late night. I'm probably wrong, but it helps me sleep at night!

  21. Clare, you're right, with all that training and back-up he's probably a lot safer than you or I. A very rational attitude to take.