Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: BERNARD TRAFFORD

WE'RE all living longer: that's beyond doubt. I see myself as part of the generation leading the way. Both my parents are still going strong in their 90s, making me an insurance salesman's dream. Sadly, though, even if I could command low premiums, I could only collect on life insurance by popping my clogs: I'm far from ready to do that.

Projections of longevity from Public Health England's Life Expectancy at Birth report are startling, though I'm not sure how the conclusions were reached.

Apparently a baby girl in Cramlington (yes, Cramlington) has a life expectancy of 105 years: the highest in the UK. It beats Basingstoke which managed a mere 104.3.

I confess that, despite my passion for the North East, Cramlington's a place I don't know. One of my work colleagues, who lives there, assures me I haven't missed anything: maybe that's just the usual self-deprecation of a native.

As for Basingstoke, that town's always had its detractors: not as seriously as nearby Slough, of course, which has never recovered from John Betjeman's famous poem, "Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough". Basingstoke features in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera, Ruddigore: Sir Despard Murgatroyd uses the name to soothe his wife, Mad Margaret, whenever she's about to relapse into madness.

105 years is an impossibly long time to look ahead. Frankly, I wonder if the human race will still exist by 2119. There are two reasons for feeling gloomy about that. The first is our track record of war, genocide and atrocity. I'll start with that.

Monday was Holocaust Memorial Day. Schools are rightly inundated by information about it. I can't imagine many institutions failed to mark it.

A colleague at my school ended a thought-provoking assembly by deploring the fact that there was comparatively little about the Holocaust in the newspapers. It seems we're keen to remind children in schools how such global-scale killing can take place, but there's not much of an adult media market in it.

My colleague expressed disgust that infinitely more space was given in the papers last weekend to Justin Bieber, the 19-year-old singing superstar who raced his hired Ferrari at twice the speed limit. …

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