Charles Nevin: A positive approach to life's tragedies

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The Independent Online

Sometimes, in the public debate, it is possible to detect a sense of ennui, a feeling that, after several millennia of often disastrous experimentation, the imperfections of existence cannot be cured and must simply be endured.

Be honest: do you still feel the frisson of excitement at a new government initiative? Do you still derive the same sense of pleasure from those simple words, "Pre-Budget Statement", or "Major Announcement", or "Question Time", or, indeed, "David Dimbleby"?

Be honest: I'm not blaming you, but challenging you. For there are those of us who believe it is our duty to try to stimulate, to suggest different ways of looking at the same old thing; those of us who will never cease the fight to put cure before endure.

Let me give you an example involving two apparently minor pieces of recent news, both involving our feathered friends. The first features two turkeys, Roger and Fred. Roger, slightly confusingly, was a female, rescued from last year's Christmas table after a caring local radio campaign, and then given a partner, the said Fred, with whom she was living happily in Gloucestershire.

The more alert among you will have noticed the past tense: last weekend, strong winds blew open the door to the turkey house and both Roger and Fred were eaten by a fox.

Now, you can either shake your head and mutter: "See - that's life for you"; or you can seek balance, consolation and hope. Which is available in our recent story about great tits changing their call into more of a rap to cope with the exigencies of urban life. And this is it: we are indefatigable in our ability to to adapt, change and seek solutions.

So, on a related fauna topic, let us not simply condemn those who wear fur, let us use our imaginations. Why can't everyone wait until the poor creatures pass away naturally? We do have all these cameras watching everything, after all. Alternatively, going by my experience, there's a great deal of potential just lying by the side of country roads. And are fur fanciers aware that jumpers knitted from the hair of the dog and other pets are available?

Mention of the country brings me to the new planning proposals. Something has to be done to cope with population pressure, which is why I welcome the proposals to make loft conversions easier: imagine having your own Polish plumber on tap! Yes, I know people get very excited about the inviolability of the green belt, but, here, once again, a bit of positive thought: the impact of intrusions on it, for example, would be greatly lessened if the new residents wore muted shades of green and brown, and, of course, fair fur.

Taking inspiration from the great tit, it would also help greatly if they spoke more softly. And, if that's not enough, I'm sure you've noticed the calls from Stephen Hawking to move to a new solar system, the discovery of water on Mars, and plans from Nasa to settle the Moon.

Exciting enough to stimulate the most jaded view of our future, I should have said. But we must be careful not to repeat the mistakes of past colonisations. This time we must keep some good cricketers.

* My, but there's a lot of royal news about: one might be forgiven for thinking that the Government has an important development to hide. Kate Middleton and Chelsy Davy on maneouvres, possible engagements furiously speculated, Zara Philips starring in adverts, the randy old Duke of York pitching up at Courtney Love's, and, above and around, as ever, Diana, Princess of Wales. Personally, on the engagement front, I think it could be just the breath of fresh air this tired old institution needs: go for it, Courtney! And don't make the mistake of thinking Her Majesty would be uptight; a "palace insider", I read, says she is currently employing a shower cap, given by Prince Harry, bearing the inscription, "Ain't Life A Bitch?". Sassy!

* Contrarily, at this season, we're a bit short of real-life panto baddies, particularly after David Gethin let us down. Pete Doherty can only do so much, you know. But at least there's Sir Mark Thatcher, said to be moving for tax reasons to Gibraltar; another attraction must be that it's hard to get lost.

Funnily enough, Gibraltar is also where evidence of the last-known Neanderthals has just been found. You may have seen, too, the remarkable news that 11 per cent of the Thatcher DNA is Native American, which does raise questions about the tracking. This, added to the reservation casinos now taking large amounts from visiting fork-tongued ones, also makes me wonder if there is a Chief Ironic Horse.

Actually, it's quite a busy time for aboriginal indigenes: Rolf Harris has apologised to the Aborigines for Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport, which just leaves the rest of us. And then there's the ancient Maya: interestingly colourful practices, sure; but do they really deserve Mel Gibson?