With a culinary experiment simmering in the background, I wirelessly read sundry news items whilst listening again to a radio play called ‘Leaves of the Dead’. Taking a break from her latest spell of thesis-writing, Emma stepped into the kitchen.
Emma: (inhales) Mm, somethings smells…
Shane: (looks up) Is that a pause or a full-stop?
Emma: Something smells… - it was a pause - gingery?
Shane: Mm, possibly too gingery. I’m intuiting - cooking by gist and by whim and by jove I may have darned well over-gingered the god-damn lentilly spinachy stewy… thing.
Shane: Quite. How’s work?
Emma: It’s shit, but I can console myself with the thought that…
Shane: The thought that?
Emma: …actually, there’s no consoling to be found here – it’s not going well – it’s shit.
Shane: Would some stew help?
Emma: (reaching into cupboard) After an emergency Curly Wurly it might. What are you doing?
Shane: I’m reading about Amy Winehouse and about her husband’ and her families’ media interventions regarding their drug issues and so on.
Emma: Yeah, I heard about that, it sounded quite scary. ‘If one of them dies of an overdose the other one might kill their self’ seemed to be the in-laws’ point.
Shane: Mm. I was just wondering why I thought that this story was especially sad.
Shane: Well, in the past couple of weeks I’ve crossed paths with proper archetypal junkies on three or four occasions – when me and Alex went into the pharmacist’s after the bike fall, at that massive Tesco when I was picking up the camping food and in those public toilets outside of the Bank of Scotland.
Emma: What’s your point?
Shane: Despite all of those, I definitely felt something more about the Amy Winehouse story – a hugely talented singer, who we can assume is fairly wealthy –
Shane: Yeah – and who’s probably got people swarming all over her trying to do the right thing.
Emma: Mm, maybe.
Shane: So how come I didn’t feel as ‘heart sinky’ about those other people?
Emma: (thinks) You didn’t feel as much for them?
Shane: Kind of – I certainly thought ‘I’m glad I’m not you’, but why did I not feel sad as such – I think I took it, or them, to be just part and parcel of the city now – now that is sad. And shit.
Emma: (thinks) Mm. Maybe you didn’t think they had as much to live for, maybe you don’t value their lives as much as you do Amy Winehouse’s?
Shane: Fucking hell – controversial!
Shane: (hesitantly) I imagine that for a lot of the locals – the not rich and not famous people - that kicking whatever their habits are would be just one of a shitload of problems that they’d have to be dealing with. So, I’m guessing that by default I’m assuming that Winehouse has got more going for her – that she doesn’t, for example, have to face the extreme poverty and possibly even loneliness that I associate with people like The Pharmacy Couple, Tesco Woman or Toilets Man… without my actually knowing her, or them.
Emma: Mm. Without getting close to understanding who any of those people are, I think it’s hard to start talking about what people really have going for them. I mean, if someone has got something going for them but they don’t see it that way – or they see it as bringing a whole load of unwanted pressure – then sometimes you - or they’ve - just got to step back, re-evaluate, start again… nice theory, but how practicable?
Shane: Was that your thesis talking?
Emma: No – if my thesis was talking it would be saying ‘blaaahhhhhhh blah blaahhh blah blah blah blah blaaaaaahhhhhhhhh’. You’ve got to remember as well, all of these people do have some degree of agency – if some of them simply did want to, y’ know, kill their self or something, then maybe we just have to accept that.
Shane: Mm. That’s how it was at the Samaritans – a self-determination thing, we called it Principle 3 – the deal was that as none of us would ever have to walk in the shoes of the callers, so we shouldn’t be telling them what to do and how or whether to live.
Emma: Mm. Did you ever have to just listen to someone as they were…
Shane: No. There were other situations where people… had recently ‘not been good to themselves’, but none of them expressed an active and immediate desire to die.
Emma: Do you ever think of going back?
Shane: (pause) No.
Emma: (smiling) Lazing on a sunny afternoon?
Shane: (relieved at the lightness of touch) Mm. Do you think Amy Winehouse would like some stew?
Emma: I think she probably would – though I think there was some mention of an eating disorder too, so maybe only a small portion – or a sick bucket.
Shane: That’s very thoughtful.
I will not send any stew to Amy Winehouse. It would deteriorate or spill in the post.