Friday, 18 September 2015

Safety first

It's a strange paradox that although we all want to feel safe and secure and protected, at the same time we do things that are absurdly reckless and dangerous.

We want to feel safe. We want to know that whatever life throws at us, whatever misfortunes we run into, we'll survive the challenges and our lives won't be ruined or ripped apart.

We seek dependable partners, we accumulate money, we buy houses, we surround ourselves with friends, we live somewhere peaceful and civilised, we look for secure long-term jobs, we avoid people we find difficult or disturbing.

At the same time though, we constantly do things that threaten our safety, put our lives at risk, and jeopardise everything we hold dear. There's a part of us that chafes at the endless safety-first approach and yearns for a bit of adventure and excitement and throwing all caution to the winds.

So we find ourselves getting hopelessly drunk, driving at crazy speeds (or both), chain smoking, jaywalking, getting into fights (well, the guys anyway), climbing wobbly ladders, not to mention bungee-jumping, sky-diving, rock-climbing and snorkelling.

I freely admit to driving too fast (on occasion), to jaywalking, to climbing wobbly ladders. And a few other reckless habits. I mean, they're not really THAT dangerous. I haven't come a cropper yet, have I? So there you are then. No need to worry.

Of course the other paradox is that it's often the thrill-seekers, the ones forever putting themselves in danger, who live to tell the tale, while Cautious Clara is unlucky enough to kill herself in a freak accident involving a faulty safety harness.

We all want to be safe. Except when we don't.


  1. Its one step towards para suicidal behaviour
    We used to have patients in spinal injuries that " lived life in the fast lane"
    Hence their accidental disability......

  2. Very funny post this one, Nick. Made me laugh and smile in recognition.

    I am Ms Health and Safety personified - in the household that is, and when it comes to children. No wobbly ladders for me. It's a pet subject of mine - and I might have covered this with Jean once. I am aghast at the stupidity of people. You know? Common sense, laws of physics? What does one expect when climbing on a three legged stool? Or sticks their wet fingers into a live socket? And my dead hot favourite: Throwing water onto a pan of oil on fire. Never mind. Take a short cut now, repent at leisure. A&E are there for a purpose - not just to wipe vomit off drunks on a Sunday morning and plaster them up.

    However, in your list of things I will admit to driving very very very fast. And, naturally, as one does, I consider myself an excellent driver (I am, actually - as certified by professionals). Neither have I ever been done for speeding - that's a true miracle, don't you think? Not even in France and Belgium (and there the police is severely low on sense of humour). Right now, for my sins, I can't drive (legally) till my eye op. Serves me right. Oh, do I miss it. What adds insult to my grief that whenever I mention I don't drive at the moment that people assume that a) I have exceeded my penalty points (don't have any) or b) that I were caught drunk driving and my licence revoked. I ask you. People have no imagination.

    Will shut up now, lest I regale you with some truly funny and horrendous tales of driving (not all of them mine).


  3. May I add, in reply to John's serious comment, and he has seen the fall out of recklessness at first hand, it is NOT a funny subject.

    However, John, a lot of those ending up being looked after by people like you weren't the reckless ones. So often it's OTHER drivers who cause the damage. The ones who don't take calculated risks, who risk it all by taking their eye off the road for a nano second, and - another horror of mine - the "Sunday" drivers, hogging the fast lane. I won't list all the casualties (dead and alive) which have touched my own life. However, a poignant one when, age nineteen, a very good school friend of mine, very sporty (though she smoked like a chimney and had a rather large bosom), her ambition to study sports and become a sports teacher. And what do you know. Her boyfriend driving down a straight and very long alley (lined with trees as alleys are) and bingo. Before she even started she was wheel chair bound. Such is fate - which can be very cruel at times, not to say ironic.


  4. i once stood on a slippery thick phone book stacked upon a chair ...
    to lean across a table ... to still even then stretch full out to ...
    hammer a nail in the wall in order to hang a picture.

    after driving myself to the emergency room ...
    and finding out i had broken my left wrist and hand in the subsequent fall ... which cost many many dollars and weeks of agony ...

    i did once live on the edge.
    the edge of insanity.
    even lucy and ethel would have seen the danger of that stupid act.
    great post nick!

  5. I attempted a back handspring at the age of 40 after two glasses of wine. Ruined my feet for years.

    All better now.

  6. My risk taking usually involves walking under ladders, having black cats cross my path and breaking mirrors. I laugh in the face of old wives tales. Otherwise, I'm Suzy Safety.

  7. John: I do wonder with these daredevil types if there's a death-wish lurking in there somewhere. Some of them take such incredible risks it's mind-boggling. And their spouses and girl/boyfriends must dread their every exploit in case they come home in a box.

  8. Ursula: I'm not a certificated driver but I think I'm fairly competent. I've never been in a serious accident and I've only been fined for speeding once. But every day I see other drivers take the most amazing risks and somehow get away with it. You're right about people's perceptions re not being able to drive. Funny how people invariably assume something criminal.

    That's very sad that your friend ended up in a wheelchair because of her boyfriend's carelessness. It's shocking the number of young lads here in Northern Ireland who get killed in car crashes in the early hours. In most cases presumably because they were blind drunk.

  9. Tammy: I've done the same myself, rigged up very precarious contraptions to get at something inaccessible. Luckily I've always got away with it but one day my luck might fail....
    Breaking your wrist and hand must have been a horrible experience.

    Susie: Goodness, I could never do a handspring even when I was young. If I tried it now, I'd probably be in intensive care for months.

  10. Bijoux: Me too, I don't believe any of that superstitious nonsense. And oddly enough, ignoring it all has never brought me bad luck. But I'm sure even Suzy Safety must have a few reckless traits. Or maybe not - I guess on the whole parents (like yourself) are less reckless because they have their children to think about.

  11. humanity as a whole is famously bad at risk assessment.

    and dont kid yourselves, those people who continuously take large risks (on the road, BASE jumping etc) do eventually meet their inevitable fate

  12. Kylie: We're bad at risk assessment? I suppose that's true. But then so many of the factors involved are unknowable or constantly shifting that I guess it's hard to assess any risk accurately.

    Do the thrill-seekers eventually get their come-uppance? I imagine sometimes they do, but sometimes they get away with it and live to a ripe old age.

  13. Used to love the thrill of speed when you could actually find a road that wasn't littered with cameras and unmarked cop cars.
    Ridden at 170mph before I reached the limit of bravery even though the ZX12R was still pulling like a train.

    Biggest health & safety fail involved a bouncy castle, a few beers, an attemped forward flip and a broken nose.

  14. I've always been physically cautious and am even more so now that my body is getting more fragile. Nothing to panic over, but a good reason to give it respect.

  15. Dave: 170 mph? Wow, that's really going hell for leather! And yes, how typical of the whole safety roulette that it was a routine bouncy castle that landed you in hospital.

    Jean: It's wise to be more careful with our bodies as we get older, they're not as resilient as they used to be. Though having said that, my 68 year old body is still pretty strong and not giving any cause for concern.

  16. My reckless recklessness is over. My wakeup call was on the ice with concussion and a seriously injured back in March of this year.

    But oh the things I did - like 'the ton' on a motorbike (over 100 mph on a narrow county road for which I had no training. Rapelling cliffs 200 feet above the raging ocean, ditto.

    I could go on, I get so scared and not in the least bit victorious looking back.


  17. www: I know, when I recall some of the things I did when I was young, I think I must have been totally crazy. And taking chances on ice is hazardous at any age. I've come a cropper many a time but luckily without injuring myself.

  18. I have been living with replaced and revised hip joints since 1985. And for five years before that lived with pain as no surgeon would touch me considering my age then and the shortlived prostheses of those days. I have not taken any risks since then! I am now living to tell my story!

  19. Ramana: Given your medical interventions, I'm not surprised you don't take any risks nowadays! You've had quite enough surgery to be going on with....

  20. I'm no adrenaline junky but it has been said I'm reckless (I do what I feel is right at the time) - I think perhaps stupid is a better term, it's got me into no end of trouble!!

  21. Suburbia: Jenny's a bit like that - she does what she thinks is right even if other people think she's going way over the top. I'm generally more timid, though I do surprise myself sometimes by being unusually forceful.

  22. Okay, first I have to sett aside the idea that cautious people are more likely to get hurt than risk-takers, which strikes me as scientifically/statistically absurd.

    Although I'm cautious about a lot of things, I do drive too fast, I jaywalk as often as possible, and I've certainly overindulged in alcohol. BUT, I wear my seatbelt, never drive drunk, and don't do things like skydiving. I don't have much of the thrill-seeker in me. My thrills come in other forms than danger - travel, sex, love, new experiences.

  23. Agent: All I meant was that people can be ultra-cautious and still end up getting injured in some freak accident that's beyond their control.

    I totally agree with you about seeking thrills from ordinary everyday activities rather than exaggeratedly risky pursuits like sky-diving. I must say though that I'd like to try a sky-dive just the once, to see what it feels like....

  24. That is the best way to cope with life, though, isn't it? Making sure we are safe but being prepared to take risks when necessary. If we didn't have that reckless streak we'd all have sat in our huts and been eaten up by marauding tribes millennia ago!

  25. Jenny: True enough, without a bit of recklessness, humanity wouldn't have progressed very far. Though nowadays I guess the recklessness is more about things like technological advances or cycling round the world. We don't need to worry too much about marauding tribes (well not in Britain anyway).