Last Friday night – seven days ago – I was having a beer in a café/bar in Basque Bilbao, Northern Spain. I’d flown from Manchester, spent a great couple of hours at the Guggenheim and now had 20 minutes to kill before catching my train to the utterly delightful San Sebastian 60 miles up the coast.
In the café, every individual was sitting at tables, all facing the window and the road outside. I sat the opposite way and so was the only person sitting facing about 9 people all looking in my direction but no one was looking at me. Their eyes were fixed on the scene outside. Across the road were two ambulances and lying on the pavement was a motionless, elderly figure. The bar occupants were silent and fearful for the poor man/woman on the street. It was difficult to tell whether it was a man or a woman. I was not studying the scene.
It struck me at the time that this group of silent, staring, respectful, elderly people were, to some extent, contemplating their own mortality whether consciously or unconsciously. The fact that I had a few years advantage on my fellow diners was no excuse for me not joining them in contemplating my own mortality. I didn’t however and went on my way to San Sebastian for 3 magnificent days with Spanish and English friends, all more or less united by Preston North End and Real Sociedad in general and David Moyes in particular. I’ll let you readers sort that one out, or ask if unsure.
Seven days later, there will be very few who have not considered their own mortality and the mortality of others given the awful, appalling, tragic and undeserved suffering of the victims of the German Wings catastrophe.
I am writing in the beautiful South West France making my way back to the UK staying with friends along the way. Perhaps the last seven days has put into sharp focus ‘carpe diem’ which can sometimes appear as a cliché but is nevertheless true for all that.
In my former profession, I accompanied groups of students to Auschwitz as part of holocaust education. As our plane approached Manchester on our return, Holocaust educators more experienced than me urged us to live our lives fully and with joy. I feel this is a truth we should mindfully pursue.
That wasn’t too easy to write, I hope it wasn’t too difficult to read.