On Thursday 29th May we were visited by friends from Wales. (For those of you outwith the YUK, Wales lies to the west of England and to the south of Scotland.)
We had just settled down to a chat over tea and griddle scones when we became aware of a loud noise overhead. It was caused by a police helicopter which circled above us for about forty-five minutes.
This had happened to us once before. On that occasion, we later learned, the police were tracking a gang of professional thieves who were stealing motorbikes and driving them away in a van.
This time, though, the helicopter seemed amazingly reluctant to leave our immediate vicinity, and when we looked out onto the street we realised at once that the police had blocked it off, both to the north and the south of where we live, and they were letting no one enter the area.
We didn’t know why, but assumed they were searching for someone – an escaped prisoner, perhaps, or someone who had just committed a robbery or assault.
We later learned that two brothers had been found dead, both as a result of shot-gun wounds. One was 71, the other 73, and both were in bad health with no prospect of improvement.
At first the police acted on the possibility that a third party was involved, but over the next two hours concluded that one brother had shot the other then himself. They now believe they were dealing with a suicide pact.
It may be hard for healthy people to imagine, but constant pain might cause a person to end his own life.
Various people have had sharp things to say about pain. Marcus Aurelius, the Roman equivalent of the down-home philosopher, wrote something to the effect that if pain is unbearable it makes an end of us. Very good, Marcus, but it doesn’t help us much if we’re on the receiving end and there is no escape.
So much for the consolations of philosophy. We must just be sorry that for these two gentlemen it came to such a pass that violent death was their only way out.