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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

There are more questions than answers...

How are you? Keeping well? Getting ready for Christmas? Have you started your shopping? Are you doing anything nice this weekend? Are you watching I'm A Celebrity? Any idea why Gary Speed killed himself?

I don't mean to be glib about the death of Gary Speed, it is not a matter for humour and his family must be devastated.

Over the course of the last few years I have carried out the funerals for many who have chosen to take their own lives for a variety of reasons and some for reasons that are still unknown. For a family, having an answer to the 'why' question is very important but I do not believe that it is the business of anyone outside the family (other than in exceptional circumstances) and certainly not an area that the press and media should spend time on.

The internet is awash with speculation about Gary Speed and as someone once said, the rumour mongers are generating a lot of heat without a great deal of light!

Anyway, let's move on shall we?

My birthday week has come and gone, I enjoyed some time away and then time with family and friends and all has been well. The celebratory events culminated with my appearance on the BBC Radio  Nottingham Morning Show hosted by Mark Dennison and produced by the very efficient James Brindle.

Along with the very charming and supremely interesting Dr. Sue Pryce, we dissected the big news stories of the week including the forthcoming public sector strike and the number of obese women in the UK.

Of course we did touch on the Gary Speed story but we concentrated on depression as a cause of suicide.

Surprisingly both myself and Sue Pryce decided to unburden ourselves and reveal that we both had suffered from depression in the past and I think that in talking about it openly we were hoping that others would feel able to do the same.

I am not ashamed that I once fell into the black pit of depression, I know it was more than likely a chemical imbalance in my brain perhaps linked to some aspects of my work life at the time - but with great support from Mrs B, the medical profession (including a first rate psychologist) and some Prozac - I resurfaced into the world of light.

Men are not always very good at acknowledging what some might see as a weakness, but I have some very close friends who are also affected by depression and I know one of them is very open about how it affects his life; it is an illness not a weakness.

Dr Pryce is an expert on politics, I am not - but we did both agree that these strikes on Wednesday will change very little. The Government will not be budging and in a way I don't think they should.

The pensions issue should have been gripped years ago - and I know the unions are asking for fairness and equality in the settlements for their pensions but who decides on fairness and equality? Who judges which job deserves more or less?

When I worked in the public service I saw 11% of my wages taken each month to fund my pension, I'm not sure what the current figure is. If I was to invest 11% of my current earnings into a pension it would get me very little in return in fact it's nearer 20% that I have to set aside for pension contributions.

My pension contributions were well worth it and they offer me some real financial security but if someone had said to me that I might have to work a couple of years longer and the final return might be less I can understand that I might feel upset - but then if I was told I had at least eleven years to get ready for that change I might think that gave me time to reconfigure my plans a little.

Having read through the details of the proposals I see that those on low wages will be affected very little by the changes and that any benefits already accrued will be ring fenced and not affected - it looks quite fair. So what do the unions want?

I can't answer that question because they don't seem to have told us.

I understand how the withdrawal of labour is a tool which can be used to help draw the attention of issues to a wider audience but there is not overwhelming support for this strike - the biggest number I have seen is 61% of the public survey by the BBC thought the strike was a good thing but the breakdown of the figures shows that the main support comes from the under 25's who perhaps could be forgiven for not wanting to contemplate a longer working life...but we are all living longer and staying healthier for longer so why not work a bit longer?

I'm running out of steam now and can't be bothered to talk about obesity statistics other than to say what I said on the radio - let people be people!

Anyway, off with you all now, get about your business and remember to eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we have to pay extra pension contributions!

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