South of the River – Remember Me

Here we are at the last column of 2016. Which at least 48% of us don’t feel it’s been a great year.

I blame myself. This time last year I was warning people: “Do you realise that by the end of 2016 we could be out of the EU and have Trump for president?” Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so prescient, I’m not sure if it’s fed by, or feeds my depression.

Apart from Brexit and the US, a lot of famous people died during the year. I’ll certainly miss Victoria Wood and Caroline Aherne; Prince and Bowie had more to give; but without wanting sound too harsh, surely Castro and Ali … erm, died at an appropriate age?

It’s a funny old thing, death. In those endless celebrity questionnaires the answer to How would you like to be remembered is invariably a variation on a positive adjective: as a kind / responsible / generous person. Surely we all want that?

Some people believe in the after-life. I’m not quite sure how it works, is this life a dry run? A chance to mess up before the real show? Or perhaps a test?

I believe in an after-life. Not that sort, obviously. But I know I think about people who I’ve lost: parents, friends, colleagues. I hope people will remember me when I’ve gone. I don’t mean I want students to look me up on Wikipedia. I mean people who I have met, have interacted with, had some sort of relationship with, will remember me.

The thing about all the celebrity deaths is that we think we know them because we are familiar with them. Or rather with their work. So they take up the column inches. But what about all the other people who died this year?

What about the people of Aleppo? What the people in the Berlin market or the on the Nice seafront? What about the sex workers? What about the homeless men and women? What about lonely old people …

And what about the refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean? The Twitter post that’s stuck with me all year suggested that if 4,000 dogs had died the British public would be up in arms, but that’s how many fellow human beings have died trying to make the crossing.

I never met any of these people (obviously), but I’ve met a fair few refugees over the years and without exception they have been interesting, friendly, helpful people with extraordinary stories to tell.

The argument goes that however lovely they are, we don’t have room to accept them. By we I mean the north. Not the north of England, the northern hemisphere. There maybe some east-west movement, but predominantly is from south to north.

I’m afraid my argument is that as long we have such divisions of wealth and opportunity in this world, there is no way of stemming the flow.

Anyway, enough of all this politics. I hope you and yours all have a very happy Christmas and that, between us, we can put the world right in 2017.

I’ll be on back next year with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.