I used to read how suicide was a major killer of men. That’s something you don’t really take notice of until it happens to your friends. Since hitting 45 I have lost a number of friends. Some to illness, an accident or two and one acquaintance with a drugs overdose.
Recently an old friend from my childhood took his own life. Now, usually the death of a friend brings a feeling of profound sadness. In this case it was a mixture of sad, and anger. Some days the anger drowning out the sadness.
Growing up on the fairground, there was a real tight gang of us. Hitting our mid twenties, most of us found love and some of us moved away from the North East, losing touch in the process. JJ and I had been friends up until we both moved. We didn’t see each other for probably 20 years, then we met up at a mutual friends funeral. We ended up sat talking that long, that both of our spouses rang to see if we were ok, as they had expected us back hours before.
Catching up on things we made a commitment to get together again. He was particularly impressed that I had acquired my pilots licence and we agreed to take a flight together. In the run up to Christmas we had been texting each other to try and arrange a night out, but our respective diary’s stopped this. On our last text we agreed to pick it back up after Christmas
That was the last contact I had with him. A few days into the new year, my dad rang to tell me that JJ had killed himself.
There aren’t many funerals I cry at, its just not in my nature, but I did at that one. All the old gang were there, except Cliff, who is in prison. I was struck by how everyone had turned into a hugger. That wasn’t the macho gang I remember from my youth. But is that part of the problem. Men are expected to be macho, not to cry, to be inscrutable with their feelings.
It Can Be Frightening
Deciding to talk about this with my circle of friends, what I discovered was frightening. Probably 90% of them were on antidepressants. A couple admitted that they had seriously taken steps towards ending their lives. One described how he had sat there with a gun to his head trying to pluck the courage up to pull the trigger. Something snapped him out of it thankfully, and he threw the gun down, only to have it go off and narrowly miss shooting himself in the head! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with him.
If you read the government statistics then it shows that the so called Generation X, basically my age group are most at risk of dying from either suicide or drugs overdose.
So whats this got to do with the headline. Well, one of the funfairs we used to operate at when I was a kid, was in a little market town on the Yorkshire Dales called Leyburn. One day me, JJ and Cliff, the one in prison now, had gone fishing. Three of us sat there with one rod, when JJ suddenly jumped up and ran away.
As I sat staring at his back, Cliff suddenly jumped up and ran the other way. Still puzzled I set off after him, catching him quite quickly due to my longer legs I asked between gasps what was up. “They are coming to kill us he screamed”. ???? Looking over my shoulder I suddenly notices a herd of young bullocks stampeding towards us. Now I don’t know if they intended harm, or they had just set off at a gallop because we were running. And to be honest I didn’t care at that point. We reached a tree, which thankfully was climbable and both shimmied up as far as we could get.
The herd of bloody cows, formed a circle around the tree, then all promptly laid down looking up at us. WTF. Eventually they slowly dispersed, probably bored waiting for their meals to come down. In the event we were up their almost 8 sodding hours.
And what of JJ, the one who got away. He went home watched some morning TV, had his lunch, played with some of the other kids, then near teatime decided to tell what had happened. We ran into the rescue party as we finally managed to come down out of the tree and were making our way home.