Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The best of times, the best of times

I must be more like my father than I realized. Not too much physically like him; he was taller than I with bigger facial features, but we were both underdogs with an ambition to better ourselves. 33 years ago he died of a saddle embolus in his pulmonary artery and a month ago I suffered a similar one. The difference was that I lived in the seconds half of the Twentieth Century whereas he lived partly in the first part.

The difference was that by the second half of the Twentieth Century, British scientists had discovered that cigarette smoking cause lung cancer, heart and lung disease. As a result he was a heavy smoker and I was a non-smoker. His blood was thicker than mine, with a hemoglobin of 22g/dl whereas mine was 16 g/dl; so he had a bigger clot to discharge from his leg. He also had narrower arteries than mine - another effect of cigarette smoking. SO what completely blocked his pulmonary arteries was only able to occlude 25% of mine.

I had a 'lucky' escape. Had I been a smoker, I could have died.

It got me thinking that my life has been greatly blessed by living in the UK for the past 68 years. When I was born there was a major war going on followed by a period of extreme austerity. Yet we became a prosperous nation that retained liberal democracy as a form of government. I had free health care and a free education, including university education, courtesy of the generous taxpayer. I have lived in a country that stood alone against tyrants, that according to the Japanese has been responsible for over half of useful inventions in the world, that has invented most of the sports and games we play, that has had during my lifetime world champions at running, jumping, swimming. cycling, football, rugby, cricket, boxing - even curling - sleighing and racket sports. It is a country that has won more Nobel prizes per head of population than any other.

It is a country that has been more generous to the poor around the world, that has been concerned with the wellbeing of other nations, that has contributed greatly to cultural standards in art, music and architecture; that has given the world the greatest poet and dramatist, the foreign language most used by non-natives, the best engineering on the planet and leadership whenever it has been necessary at no little cost. It has provided a basis of law and order throughout the world.

It is a country founded on the Christian religion and during my lifetime there has been a major revival under Billy Graham.

Life expectancy has increased by 15 years since I have been alive and many terrible scourges like smallpox and polio have been abolished.

It has been a great place and a great time to have been alive and I am extremely grateful to God.


Manu Manickvel said...

Kudos to that! Only upon reading Churchill's 'History of the English speaking peoples' did i realise the battering from waves of invaders throughout many centuries that made the British (who were originally very simple and docile, peaceful people it seems) tough enough and wily enough to build the biggest empire ever and take part in matters in every corner of the Churchill said: some chicken - some neck!

Anonymous said...

I thank god every day

For being born British- having travelled the world fairly widely, I know what a privilege this is.

For giving me a "good" cancer- as it affords me the time and opportunity to spend my days wisely and productively. It has introduced me to some aspects of life that I would otherwise have remained ignorant of.

My personal adage is "don't forget- we are Brits" So sorry if this causes offence to any non British subjects, but it comes from my heart.

Thank you God

Manu Manickvel said...

Well, the ideas & principles that constitute the 'Brit' character need not be dependent on where one is born - it's whether one can imbibe those values & practise them...i was raised with practically the same inputs as any British child so i do tend to think similarly (i am Indian) & i also do believe in taking the 'good' from whatever cultures one is exposed to...And i thank God too (for everything!)

Barry Lambert said...

I agree absolutely with your sentiments and the other comments. Being only a year or two older than you, I share a similar background and was provided with the same opportunities and advantages. The only thing I can add (in all sincerity) is that I am so glad I moved to Canada 44 years ago and brought up my children here and that my grandchildren were born here. Canada's past is rooted in Britain and the best of her traditions and shares her mores, but it seems to be avoiding many of the present problems that beset her. Each visit I have made to the "old country", which I still love, confirms that conviction.

Chonette said...

Thanks for writing such an inspiring piece.After 41 years living a British life, I am more at home here than any where else in the world.