So, here in sunny England the snow continues to be the main focal point of our attentions. As I look outside my office window now I can see the beautiful evergreen trees with the powdery, white dressing covering the branches. The quaint humpback bridge over the canal that connects my little lane to the main street looks like it has been white washed and icicles are hanging from the bottom of my car. Snow really is quite a magical scene setter.
However, when snow falls we are also requested by the readers of news that we remember those people who find it less magical and more, well, “dangerous”. Every year these groups are highlighted in the same way. The Elderly: make sure they’re warm, make sure they have milk and bread (I think, somewhere down the line, newsreaders confused “the elderly” with “hedgehogs”). The Homeless: help out at a local shelter or give them some tea and/or coffee (but not crack). Lorry Drivers: They get stuck on the roads in “arctic (or “artic”) conditions” and struggle to make deliveries so help them with shovels. Office Staff, Shop Workers, Postal Workers… the list is endless.
Of course, all year round, it is right that we remember those less fortunate than us. What irks me when the snow falls is that, year after year, one group is left out of the equation. Sure, we should think of all the aforementioned groups of people. I’ll add in there parents with children who can’t make it to school and the emergency services. All of these groups deserve the concern and thoughts of us all. However, as I say, there is always one group of people who continually gets overlooked. People With Vices.
“But who are these people with vices?” you may have never wondered in your lifetime. Well, to help explain I shall give you some examples I have made up with my own brain.
Imagine, if you will, Peter. Now, I should point out at this instance that Peter is a fictional character and doesn’t actually exist. He is, however, based entirely on my friend James Chambers, 112 Victoria Lane, High Wycombe, HP13 3RT but, in order to protect my friend’s identity, I shall call him Peter. So, imagine “Peter”, a hard-working family man with a beautiful wife who I shall call “Amy” (who isn’t really the wife of James, Karen). Peter and
Karen Amy life in a lovely 3 bedroom house that they bought based on their combined incomes from their respective jobs. Peter is a freelance journalist who writes for overseas publications, Amy is Head of English at the local secondary school. They live a contented and uneventful life together with their comfortable jobs and their small but perfectly formed social circle. Or, at least, that is what Amy believes.
Owing to the current global financial situation, the publications that Peter writes for ceased to use his material 11 months ago. Unable to face breaking the heart of his wife, Peter didn’t tell Amy this. For the past year, Peter has carried on the facade that he is a successful, well paid writer when, in actual fact, Peter hasn’t had an article published since December 2009. Peter relies increasingly on credit cards which his wife doesn’t know about. Each morning Peter waits for Amy to go to work and, 10 minutes after her car has disappeared around the corner, Peter heads to the local bookmakers because Peter’s vice is that he gambles.
Now, once again, I highlight the plight of People With Vices at this time of year. Imagine the past week. Peter has gone upstairs, Amy has gone to work, Peter has then gone to the bookmakers. However, upon arriving in the warmth of the bookmakers welcoming bosom Peter then finds that the day’s racing has been cancelled because of the snow. Peter has the money in his pocket to spend – he survives off an increasing number of credit cards Amy doesn’t know about and he can not well afford – but he doesn’t have the races to spend it on. He will be unable to chance making any profit today. Or the next day. Or the day after if the snow continues to lay on the ground.
In this situation, what does Peter do? He drinks. He takes the money he has in his pocket and, in an attempt to numb the confusion and disappointment, he goes over the road to the pub and he loses himself in whisky. Whisky after whisky. He comes home late, drunk, depressed. Amy can’t understand why he’s in this state and Peter won’t explain. This goes on for days until finally, when the snow is still thick on the ground and the money in is pocket is jingling more than folding, Peter has to explain. To confess.
Peter tells Amy, his beautiful, trusting wife everything that has happened. Amy can’t understand why he lied, he can’t understand it either; surely marriage is about honesty and sharing. Amy is confused, she can’t trust him and Peter doesn’t blame her because, in a rare moment of honest clarity, he knows he can’t trust himself. Amy goes to her mother’s for the night; maybe longer. Peter is left at home, he sits in the dark and unscrews the whisky bottle. This time he needs to drink to erase the pain of her leaving, the pain of his lies, the pain of not knowing why he got to a point in his life where he’s feeling so much pain.
Sat in the lonely darkness, Peter turns on the television. It’s only 6 o’clock, although it seems later, and the BBC News is just beginning. “Good evening”, says the announcer in a jovial way that suggests she hasn’t been outside her warm studio since the snow began. She will, once again, overlook People With Vices for another year.
So, please, when the snow is falling and you’re rushing to help and elderly person get that last loaf in the Co-Op, do remember the People With Vices. People Jim, a 65 year old financial manager who’s been married to Jean for 43 years. For Jim is a good man and a man who couldn’t love his wife more. Jim and his wife, although they love each other deeply, haven’t shared carnal pleasures for almost 5 years now and Jim, still an attractive and charismatic man, has needs and desires. This is why Jim’s only vice is that, once a week, he visits a “massage parlour” because, in his mind, paying a professional to see to these needs is the best solution.
Imagine Jim’s situation this week. He can’t make that drive to the massage parlour for “physical relief” because the snow has made the roads too dangerous. Instead, he sits at home, frustrated. Guilty for feeling that way, but frustrated all the same. Jim can’t get out, his 27 year old divorcee neighbour asks him to help with her heating, Jim’s natural charisma charms her, she seduces him and, in a regrettable moment of frustrated desire, Jim concedes. The snow has caused this man to risk everything and, even though the snow will eventually melt, the love child that he has now fathered will remain with him forever.
At this time of year it is easy to remember the elderly, the poverty stricken and the workers who are struggling through the cold. All I ask is that you remember one other group too. Those People With Vices. Have a look now and, if you suddenly realise there haven’t been any kids on your street corner for the past few nights, have a root round and see if you can find a few cans of cider. It may just be that they haven’t been able to get to the shops.
I can guarantee, you’ll feel better just for knowing you’ve helped.