Several mornings last week I engaged in a Twitter conversation with a chap called Aaron who lives in a place called Young, 270km south of Sydney, Australia. I have never met Aaron. However, just after I had listened to the BBC Today programme on the way to work describe the fires in Australia, I read his description of his situation, spread out over several tweets, each one describing the deteriorating situation in what looked like increasingly desperate terms. I sent a supportive tweet and we then engaged in several exchanges over the next few days.
Thankfully by the end of the week the danger had passed for him, but the fires have left a trail of devastation behind them. They started back on the 5th of January in the state of Tasmania, where many large fires burnt out of control for several days. Tasmaina is the home of Steve Biddulph, psychologist and the author of a number of bestselling books on parenting and boys education. His books argue for a more affectionate and connected form of parenting, and the importance of role models in children's lives.
Last week he started marketing his latest book Raising Girls, due out on the 17th which deals, in part with the premature sexualisation of girls through media exposure. He claims that girls were being forced to grow up too quickly. And they are growing up much quicker than their parents, Biddulph notes that: “their childhood is not like ours, to put it bluntly, our 18 is their 14, and our 14 is their 10”. He warned that parents had failed to protect them from external pressures. The consequence he argues is a negative impact upon the mental health of many young girls. Problems such as eating disorders and self-harm, stress and depression, which once had been extremely rare, were now much more common.
However, it can also be that even after taking great care of ourselves, we can still suffer health problems. I was saddened this week to hear of Andrew Marrs stroke. I watched him interview the Prime Minster last Sunday, and he was in fine form! Andrew is a keen fitness fanatic, a long distance runner (of course I won’t say anything about miles he might have enjoyed over the years), and he usually abstains from alcohol during January. At only 53, he is considered young to have suffered a stroke. Of the 150,000 people who suffer the attack every year in England, the majority are over 65.
According to Department of Health, strokes are a major health problem in the UK, and are the third largest cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. The brain damage caused by strokes means that they are the largest cause of adult disability in the UK. Speed of treatment is of the essence when dealing with a stroke, because the sooner a person receives help, the less damage is likely to happen.
And walking Cello yesterday morning, the frisson I experienced was not caused by the sub-zero temperature, but was an emotionally triggered response on seeing my first bright yellow Primula, flower head open, shining like a beacon in the cold early morning winter sunshine. It was only a small thing, but very heart warming.