Radio review: Robert McCrum on confronting mortality

Nuala McCann

Every Third Thought Book of the Week Radio 4

Woman's Hour Radio 4

Before you hit your 60th birthday, you might fall. Accidents happen.

Afterwards, you “have a fall” as writer and editor Robert McCrum notes in this essay on mortality. Notice the subtle difference.

He had a fall in the street and it got him thinking.

The title of his book, “Every third thought” is a line spoken by Prospero in Shakespeare's the Tempest when he notes that he shall retire to a life where every third thought shall be his grave.

McCrum wrote an inspirational account of his near fatal stroke at the age of 42 and his slow recovery. It's called with tongue firmly in cheek, “My Year Off” and comes highly recommended.

Every Third Thought is about that creeping sense that the future is not truly guaranteed and that the end game is in sight.

McCrum faced all that 21 years ago and now, at 60, his friends are joining him on the precipice where you stop asking where you are headed and rather wonder how much time you might have.

As a friend of mine once said: “It feels like we're next to put our heads up over the trenches.”

In McCrum's thoughtful way, he asks whether we can make peace with what Freud calls “the necessity of dying”.

The Australian parliament is currently considering banning Australian support for orphanages in developing countries as part of their establishment of a modern slavery act.

Lots of us might think supporting orphanages in the developing world is a good idea.

However, Australian senator Linda Reynolds told Woman's Hour that there were eight million children in so-called orphanages globally. However, she said 90 per cent are not orphans and even worse a lot of them have been trafficked and put into slavery to meet our desire to volunteer at orphanages.

It was a chilling thought.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access