Flu, Philomena, and Darwin Awards

I have not been well this weekend. I thought of it as full-blown flu, but really, of course, it is just a cold, or man-flu. I have been sniffling, coughing and my nose is blocked.  The cocktail of tablets I already take has been added to with regular 4-hour paracetamol. Even if the adage is ‘feed a cold and starve a fever’, food is tasteless, and I don’t feel hungry.

I should be sleeping if off and that was the plan. On Saturday intending to go to bed early I missed the late-night football highlights, but I couldn’t resist watching the film Philomena, the true and eponymous story of Philomena Lee and the search for her son, given up when she was a teenager, 50 years previously.

If you haven’t seen it, it is highly recommended. Based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by journalist Martin Sixsmith it stars Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.

I have read the reviews and know that there was a deal of artistic licence to make the drama. I know also that with Weinstein behind it, the anti-Catholic rhetoric was always likely to be strong, however, it is a moving film with a wonderful performance from Dench.

It was the memory of Philomena that caused me on Sunday to research and find out more about the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland. It was depressing reading about these institutions, run mainly Roman Catholic orders, which means nuns.

The nuns took in ‘fallen women’ and their babies. They made the women work in the laundry and put the children up for adoption. In Philomena’s case, and many others, they sold them.

The Irish state has apologised and set up a compensation scheme, but the Catholic Church has refused to contribute to it. No comment.

I woke on Sunday not feeling much better and there was even more than usual aimless surfing the internet and almost always without a fixed destination.

We may think that ‘news’ is about what happens and the events that will change the world, but most of what we read is about people and the ‘human interest’ angle. Martin Sixsmith, the journalist who takes the journey with Philomena Lee was initially reluctant to write about her because it was ‘human interest’. He was a news journalist. It soon turned into a real news story.

While most of my senses have been dulled the ‘stupidity filter’ was fully functioning. This story caught my attention.

Imagine the scene.

Last week, in Peterborough, a young woman, was driving in her car with her two-year-old toddler. The toddler, however, is not strapped in but sitting on his mother’s lap while the driver carries on.

Stupid? Of course, it is but the driver is a 13-year-old relative! When stopped by the police she is reported to have said, ‘we were only on a short journey.’

I hope I don’t need to say any more about this other than sigh with exasperation and suggest that this mother is a candidate for a Darwin Award although I think that Darwin’s are only awarded posthumously when someone manages to kill themselves in the most stupid way.

It was Darwin whose work was paraphrased as the survival of the fittest and the award goes to those who ‘improve’ the gene pool with ultimate sacrifice, or as the website says: the Darwin Awards salute the improvement of the human genome by honouring those who accidentally remove themselves from it.

Previous recipients include the man who decided that it wasn’t just enough to use his iPhone in the bath but also to charge it. I am not an iPhone user, but I understand that they are heavy on the battery but is that an excuse for lying in the bath with the charger on your chest? Of course, he died.

I encourage you all to go and search for the stupidity of some at www.darwinawards.com/ where there is a very long list of ultimate stupidity.

What about Mr Chernov and Ms Kryuchkova in Russia having sex in the back of their car. The breaks weren’t on, the gear was in neutral and their gentle rocking, or maybe it was more vigorous, caused the car to drift into the lake where they both drowned.

Possibly the most famous of the Darwin winners is Eric A. Barcia, a 22-year-old. Reported in 1997 the award is described as follows:

The fast-food worker taped a number of bungee cords together and strapped one end around his foot. Barcia had the foresight to anchor the other end to the trestle at Lake Accotink Park, and he even remembered to measure the length of the bungee cords to make sure that they were a few feet short of the 70-foot drop. He proceeded to fall headfirst from the trestle and hit the pavement 70 feet below several seconds later.

Fairfax County police said, “The stretched length of the cord that he had assembled was greater than the distance between the trestle and the ground.”

I know we shouldn’t be amused but it is hard not to smile. There is something very comforting reading about others misfortune. It makes the suffering of my flu seem acceptable.