It is hard not to be gloomy at the moment, don't you find? For Brits it is always hard, but what with the "triple-dip recession" imminent (does that mean the double-dip is finished....???!!), dumps of wall-high snow landing across the country, crushing limp frost-bitten daffodils and necessitating the rescue of pensioners, it is especially difficult. With friends, shopkeepers, cabbies, blogs... ur national Licence To Moan has never been stronger.
BUT I have some perspective for you. It comes from the life of the poet John Keats, about whom I have been reading in Nicholas Roe's stunning biography. Here are some facts. I think they speak for themselves.
By the age of twenty two Keats had lost many close members of his family, including his father, his mother and his beloved brother Tom, whom he nursed to his death from consumption over months and months, realising in the process that his own intermittent sore throat and chest trouble probably meant a similar, premature end awaited him too.
It did, when he was 25 years old.
Keats was a qualified doctor as well as a great poet. He knew that avoiding cold bitter weather was paramount to staying healthy. But during the last three years of his life the English winters were especially harsh, with FREEZING TEMPERATURES LASTING THROUGH MARCH. Keats, reliant on walking everywhere, (due largely to cock-ups with wills, wrangles and sheer bad luck, he lived in a state of near-constant penury) splashed out on new thicker shoes and a warmer coat. But it was too late. His chest troubles worsened. Within two months of Tom's death, he was chronically ill himself. An infection the following winter saw him coughing blood. He fought on, but it was clear he was dying. A last ditch effort to see off the illness by moving from the dank cruel London winter of 1820-21 to the relatively balmier climes of Rome, failed. After months of excruciating pain, he died on February 23rd 1821, far from home, with only one of his many friends at his side.
During the course of those last years he managed to write some of the greatest Romantic poetry in the history of English literature.
Oh yes, he was also in love with, and engaged to, a woman whom he could not touch for fear of making her ill too.
So when my son (aged 24) muttered a complaint this weekend about the golf course being shut due to bad weather, I mentioned some of the above facts.
I keep thinking about them too. Perspective. I find it really really helps.