fate all at tea

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FatalityTrains are running 30 minutes late due to a fatality on the line.

The other commuters hasten their weaving around each other as-if the delay urgencifies their platform dash.

As a nation we give 2 minutes still, silence,  to the people who lost their lives in wars. Fatalities, deaths. Like this one they have an unattributed cause - Suicide or accident?

Was this fatality a person who’s life was

  • so very painful that the thought of being smashed-into by a speeding train was a release from the pain of their life.  Suicide.
  • ended unexpectedly. did they slip and fall? Accident.

I watch the faces of the commuters pushing me aside in their platform rush. Coats rustling and mumbling.

I’m alone in my stillness.  Taking a moments silence to mourn the fatality, person’s death,  is not part of the behavioural script ‘what we do’ for commuters and station staff.

It seems like it should be a time when we should be hugging each other, wiping away each others tears, expressing our helplessness and then slowly moving on. I hug myself, wipe away a tear and turn towards the platforms.

That evening I tried to find out about the 2 people who’d died in train fatalities that day. The news reported the delays to the trains, the things that affected most people’s everyday lives. Nothing about the people who died, not even a name. Sending condolences to strangers isn’t a part of the what we do nowadays. Kay’s recent blog post had a quote from John Donne which seemed most apt:

No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee….”


4 bits of lovely banter on “fate all at tea”

  1. Kay G. writes:

    I know just what you mean by this. Beachy Head is known as one of the top suicide spots in England and people even make jokes about it but I see nothing funny in someone being so distraught that they would jump off a cliff or put themself upon a railway line. My heart breaks thinking of anyone who would take his or her own life. And what if the deaths on the rail line were by accident, and people think that they are suicides. What a terrible thing.
    Maybe we should send that John Donne quote into the newspapers, perhaps it would give them a heart.

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  2. James Sutherland writes:

    This happened up here a few weeks ago, with my usual train to work being cancelled due to “person struck by train”. Later, it was being explained away with the more generic title of “incident”.

    There are many options, running the gamut from tragic accident – someone falling off a platform in front of a through-train, a car breaking down on a level crossing at just the wrong moment – to suicide, for reasons on a spectrum of their own, from a newly-diagnosed terminal illness to someone under investigation who couldn’t face their crimes being exposed. (I understand a suspended and disgraced policeman jumped under the 10:22 Paddington-Hereford train just 3 weeks ago, for one.)

    For anything other than a simple accident, I suspect the family would prefer the privacy of anonymity. There was a suicide here, 2-3 years ago – a young female psychiatric patient, in our adolescent psychiatric unit, who hanged herself in the grounds. As always, the police attended (required by law for any “unexpected” death) – and an American woman I know who lived across the road photographed their investigation of the scene, then gave the photographs to a local tabloid, which printed the photograph of police at the scene the next day. My mother was horrified at this intrusion, and hasn’t spoken to her since.

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  3. wendy writes:

    James, that’s a really strong point, well made, I hadn’t considered how the family of the deceased would feel if the name were published. Not publishing photographs of the dead, crime scenes, has been a fairly common theme across ages – with some gruesome exceptions … (e.g. Jack the rippers victims )

       1 likes

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  4. wendy writes:

    BBC Breakfast news item -last year 236 people committed suicide on UK railways – 3000 Network Rail staff have now been trained by the Samaritans. Awesome

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