Trusting

I remember an article in a Sunday newspaper many years ago – probably The Observer- though it was while I was a student in London and I am not sure I could afford such a weekly treat in those days. It was about the care of your tyres – something for an owner-driver of a minivan to find fascinating – Those little wheels went round lots of times in getting from place to place and the loss of thread, not to mention the risk of nails in the roads, meant you should check the tyres quite often and try to be sure their pressures were correct and balanced.

The essence was that tyres do not like doing nothing and will be at risk if your car simply rests beside the road or in a garage. On the other hand they do not like doing anything too quickly – acceleration, deceleration, starting and stopping all put a strain on them and wear away the thread. Cornering is another problem – putting strain on the sidewalls. Humming along at a steady pace on a straight road is what tyres do best.

Well – it seems sensible to be aware of what causes harm to tyres – but if we are to get anywhere we sometimes have to deviate from their sedate preferences.

Some people thrive on taking risks. Much of the entertainment of funfairs and the like depends on putting people into situations which are scary – but hopefully safe. Most of us will accept a degree of risk – but not too much and not too often.

The covid pandemic has placed us in a situation where we have lost confidence in our previous experience of normal life – meetings with strangers, friends and even close family have been labelled as potential hazards – and prohibited for our own protection by law. We are asked or required to wear masks. We are asked or required to wash our hands or to use hand-gel at every going out and coming in. My reading is that covid is mostly spread by respiratory droplets – is hardly a hazard in the fresh air, but more likely to be transmitted indoors when in close proximity with others. Wearing a mask when walking in the park or countryside is probably unnecessary. Not wearing a mask in the supermarket – may be reckless and irresponsible. But I am not sure that handwashing beyond the usual civilised routines is necessary.

I need to remember a code for the burglar alarm – or risk a dreadful noise every morning which will wake the household and part of the street. I need a code to use my bankcard for purchases above a certain cost – or risk embarrassment in the queue

Rules have changed on the suitability of petrol for certain makes of car – Is mine one which is affected?

But mostly I am thinking about the science which tells us of risks which increase our chances of developing illness which will lead to disability or earlier death.

This week we are told that being too wide to fit into jeans we wore when 21, increases the likelihood that we will develop Type 2 Diabetes and all the hazards which this predicts People who ‘can’t fit into jeans they wore aged 21’ risk developing diabetes | Diabetes | The Guardian

Somehow I guess very few people will be surprised to hear this. Some people have remained naturally slim. Others have put on weight and are aware of the hazards – too many have become overweight or obese. As with smoking, drinking alcohol or using other psycho-active substances, the knowledge of risk is there – multiple risks covering the full span of physical health, mental health, social and economic wellbeing.

We are learning more about the impact of life-style on the risk of developing dementia in later life. After being a hidden knowledge for too many years, the probability that a career in professional soccer predisposes to dementia is now widely understood – Jimmy Greave has recently died with dementia, both Jack and Bobby Charlton – and several others from the England tram of 1966 have fallen victims. The systematic studies from research in Scotland on professional footballers has sealed the knowledge.

Hazards are not limited to dementia – motor neurone disease and Parkinsonism are also found more commonly. And the risks are not limited to people who head the ball a lot, or event to soccer – all contact sports are guilty – and even short exposure is now being seen to have measurable effects Rugby players’ brains affected in single season, study suggests | Rugby union | The Guardian

These covid months have shown that some people will not listen or understand and will behave in ways which are dangerous to themselves and others. That’s not right and we must have ways to help them see sense.

But I am concerned that many of us are becoming so anxious and risk-averse that we will lose the joy of living by losing all trust in our surroundings – the physical environment and people. There is a middle, safer road which allows us to join n thrilling and engaging activities which lift the soul – but do it in moderation and with balance and regard for others.

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