Journal Column – Bucket List

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Bucket List

The coronavirus is still the main thing dominating the world today.  It’s human nature to fear the unknown, so when faced with a constant stream of bad news, alarming information and analysis regarding a mysterious virus, it is understandable people became worried.  Coupled with a perpetual tally of Covid-19 deaths and talk of a pandemic that’s the worst health crisis to hit the world in living memory, it’s no wonder many have become almost paralysed by fear.


Therefore, after several weeks of severe lockdown, social distancing and endless broadcasts of death and despair we are beginning, thankfully, to talk about what happens next.


There are a great many threats to lives and health that come in many forms and severity. For the most part we accept what they are and we balance the risk and dangers against other parts of our daily lives and how we want to live. To move forward from coronavirus we need the confidence to face up to it.


It is still early days on Covid-19, but it does appear to be slowing.  Also, data seems to be emerging that many may have caught it with mild to no symptoms.  This means the ratio between infection, serious illness and death could well be a lot lower than it first appeared and it may end up being similar or even lower than that of influenza (flu).  We are more accepting of flu, complacent even, given it is the third biggest killer of humans at around 3.2 million a year.  And that’s with vaccines for some strains.


On the 4th May it was reported that coronavirus has claimed 246,979 lives and is currently ranked 42 in the global list of causes of death. Granted, it’s only May and the number will increase further. Even if it quadruples by the year end, it will still only rise to level 15 and still be a third of flu. That said, it’s still nasty, but we have to balance infection by coronavirus against the wider damage to society and the impact on how we live.


Covid-19 is unknown and unfamiliar, so we tend to be more afraid of it. In contrast, those dangers we are more knowledgeable about we find easier to face and balance the risks they pose against how we live.  For example, road traffic accidents kill around 1.4 million people a year, but we accept this risk as worth taking in order to drive motor vehicles.  320,000 people die each year from drowning, but most people are happy to paddle, swim, surf or sail in rivers, lakes and seas. Closer to home, in Europe alone, around 50,000 people are killed each year while out for a walk and 20,000 while out cycling.


The biggest killer of mankind is sepsis. It affects about 50 million people a year with around 11 million fatally.  That’s a mortality rate of 22%.  There are many causes of sepsis including things as innocuous as minor cuts, scrapes and blisters.  Because we are familiar with dangers like these we balance the risks against the things we enjoy and want to do.  We regularly use our cars, go for walks, cycles and swims without really thinking twice about dangers they hold. We risk the potential of getting scrapes, cuts and bruises with almost every activity we undertake, but we don’t worry about getting sepsis stop us from going about and enjoying our lives.


For the past two months the threat of Covid-19 has put a stop to ordinary life as we know it.  So, like all other dangers we must do the same with coronavirus.


The modern phrase “Bucket List” first came to light following the movie, in 2007, of the same name.  At first, only people who feared imminent death compiled a bucket list. However, more recently, the expression has become more widely used for anyone to compile a list of the things they want to do, see or achieve in their lifetime.  Like many people, I have a bucket list, some of the things on it I’ve done, others I’ve yet to experience.  Bucket lists epitomise what enjoying the wonders of the world and living life to the full is all about.


Humans are by nature sociable animals and our togetherness and camaraderie plays a great part in our physical and mental wellbeing. There is talk of many of the social isolation measures becoming the new norm.  Many are now concerned that any prolonged confinement and increased restrictions on social intimacy will prove extremely detrimental for many years to come and perhaps a price too high to pay.


A world of staying at home with Zoom and devoid of things like:


  • Birthday parties
  • Watching children perform in school plays
  • The atmosphere of a sporting event or concert
  • Weddings and baptism ceremonies
  • Comforting and paying respects at funerals
  • Going to pubs, restaurants or cafes
  • The pride of a son or daughter’s graduation ceremony.
  • Being able to hold and hug a grandchild or grandparent


Is a world that doesn’t bare thinking about.


While we need to manage threats to life, we must also accept we will eventually all die.  So we should strive to live life to the full, because life is for living not existing.


In the end, our lives are made up of two dates and a dash. Write that bucket list and make the most of the dash.

paper This column was first published in the Newcastle Journal on 7th of May 2020