Alex Proud writes from the other side of the argument. He dreads disaster and fears the Reaper. We both like to work the odds but when they drop below one in a 100 he tends to think ‘you’re f—king mad to do whatever it is you’re doing’ while I think things are just beginning to get interesting.
But I don’t have a death wish, far from it. I love life and try to live it to the full. I think our society has got things badly wrong when it comes to death. When a Palace flunky offered Prince Philip his condolences at the loss of a friend he retorted by saying ‘he’s not lost, he’s dead’. It’s an anecdote that illustrates our denial. We cloak death in the language of ‘loss’ or ‘passing’. We dare not speak its name and imagine we will live forever. In the pursuit of this impossible outcome we have sacrificed quality in the pursuit of quantity. We wrap ourselves in health and safety legislation and cling on to life long after there is any joy left in living.
This is not a life I look forward to. I have no desire to be a burden to my children or the State. I do not plan to spend my final years eating mashed potato and watching endless repeats of Eastenders.
I accept that in the pursuit of life I will most likely die ‘before my time’, but what does that mean? In Helmand Province life expectancy is 44 and despite being one of the most violent places on the planet, pregnancy rather than insurgency is the biggest killer. So by Helmandi standards I’ve lived a very good life and I’m already on borrowed time.
When my father died at the age of 79 I didn’t mourn his death, I bought champagne and celebrated his life. I hope my own sons will feel able to do the same. When the Reaper calls, as he inevitably will, I hope he finds me on a snow-covered mountain doing something frowned upon by the health and safety executive.
Alex Proud will not be sympathetic.
SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the unauthorised, unvarnished and irreverent story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979. Of course, all infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart.