Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Wednesday 30th November 2016

I CAN understand a 14-year-old girl’s dying wish for a chance, no matter how unlikely, to come back healthy to enjoy the life illness has robbed her of.

But I just can’t help thinking that the cryogenics industry is a gigantic con trick, deluding people into the belief that they can defy death at some point in the future. You could argue that science is advancing every day into realms we would never have considered even wildly possible just a couple of decades ago. Many cancers, once a death sentence, are now being cured. People are being given a second chance at life. One day they will no doubt come up with a cure for the terrible scourge of dementia which terrifies so many people as they get older.

Last week the High Court allowed the teenager to be cryogenically frozen in the hope that, when a cure for cancer has been discovered, she can be woken up and cured. She has died since the ruling and her wish has been carried out.

However, one distinguished professor of neuroscience has already said cryonics is based on “wishful thinking” and companies selling the packages openly admit there is no current procedure for resuscitation. Death for a 14-year-old is a shocking thing. But mercenary companies offering an expensive deal, with no proven benefit, are dangling hope in front of patients and families that can only bring more division and grief.

I’m no scientist. I failed chemistry and physics. But I can’t get my head round the concept of filling a body, quite probably brain damaged, with transfused blood then sending that defrosted person into the operating theatre. It isn’t going to work. It can’t work, surely. Clive Coen, professor of neuroscience at King’s College, London, said that fixing the widespread damage at some future date was “fanciful.” More hell than heaven.

Would I want to be brought back to life 200 years from now? Not likely. Of course it would be fascinating to see the changes, but more likely than not egotistical politicians would have blown most of the planet to smithereens by then, if a giant asteroid had not got here first, and it wouldn’t be much of a life to contemplate. By then all your friends and relatives, apart from a few others also frozen, would be gone. Without financial resources and a place to live, the world would be a strange and frightening place.

Two 76-year-olds were being interviewed by the BBC last week. They have chosen to invest their savings in the big freeze. But even if it does work, they will be coming back as arthritic 76-year-olds with a brief life span ahead of them. There are just so many flaws in the concept of cheating death. Ultimately, bringing that 14-year-old back to life would be a very sad thing to do. Sadder even than her premature death. Rather than trying to cheat death, perhaps we need to come to terms, no matter how difficult, with our inevitable mortality.

We’ve overcome the taboo that used to surround cancer. No longer is it whispered in hushed tones, as if it was a family disgrace to suffer the disease. We’re even getting to speak openly about dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s time to deal with the other great taboo, that of dying.

WALKING BACK TO HAPPINESS

WEnortherners have taken it as read for years. If you need to spend some time thinking out a problem, go for a good walk.

Finally, our soft southern brethren have caught up with the idea. But, being soft southerners, they can’t just take a brisk but pensive stroll. Oh no, they’ve got to turn it into a spiritual exploration of the self.

Street Wisdom is an urban walking group now in 25 countries around the world, offering three hour workshops in a mixture of solo walking, meditation and group therapy. You turn up at an appointed spot bearing your personal problem and, while walking round the city centre, you tune in to your instincts and lo, it’s problem solved.

At least that’s what they claim. An ex-opera singer called David Pearl, now titled creative consultant, founded ‘Street Wisdom’ to challenge people’s thinking processes and waken their senses prior to a debrief and what Pearl calls a “mini digital detox”.

I’ve been doing it for years. A quiet wander along the shores of Derwentwater or a ramble up Latrigg or Walla Crag, even just a stroll in the park, provide the perfect remedy for a columnist’s writing block.

I don’t need all that gushing claptrap about locating my inner self and releasing my unhappiness and frustration. As for the debrief, it generally finds its way quite naturally into the Herald, without a “tuning up” and “winding down” session or what Mr Pearl describes as “solid neuroscience.” While they’re still seeking their inner selves in SE1, I think I’ve worked out the simple fact that fresh air, exercise and the best views on the planet are all I need to get the creative juices flowing. It worked for Wordsworth and Wainwright so it’s good enough for a lowly hack like me.

HERITAGE ON OUR DOORSTEP

DESPITE an increasing number of Britons who are abandoning plans for foreign travel and “staycationing” closer to home, it’s a shocker to find that comparatively few are likely to visit Hadrian’s Wall or the Brecon Beacons, according to a new poll.

Don’t they do British history and geography in schools nowadays? Does nobody watching all the TV programs that show the wonders of our native countryside feel fired up to get out there and discover for themselves?

I was up at Hadrian’s Wall just last week. Admittedly, the weather was a bit brisk, but there was hardly another soul to be seen, and yet back in the Lakes the streets were busy with tourists buying cagoules and shiny new boots and chomping on their fish and chips. The British Heart Foundation, which ordered the survey, found that 80 per cent. of UK residents had never visited the wall. It’s apparent that many of our great outdoor attractions, the Giant’s Causeway, Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, the Peak District and even the Angel of the North, lack domestic holiday appeal.

And yet overseas visitors are big fans of our heritage sites. They spend more than double per trip compared with domestic tourists according to another report commissioned by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Visits to theatres, museums and national parks brought in £7.4bn last year, revealing just how significant international tourism is to the UK economy.

It seems that overseas tourists value our great British heritage far more than residents of the country do. Being able to name the capital of Peru, or write an essay discussing the economics of Southern Africa, might be all very well, but somewhere along the way we’re missing out on learning about the treasures on our doorstep.

USE THEIR MISGUIDED TALENTS

JUST a thought as yet another Asperger’s kid with amazing computer skills faces extradition to the US for trial, accused of hacking into government databases, including those of the US Army, Department of Defence, NASA and the FBI. Lauri Love faces a 99-year prison sentence if convicted. It’s a very similar situation to Gary McKinnon, the computer hacker who was spared extradition when Theresa May intervened in his case.

Mr. Love’s legal team is appealing against a judgement in September that approved his extradition. Unlike Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for an eternity, he is not a darling of the Lefties, being delivered trays of goodies by celebrities like ex-glamour model Pamela Anderson.

It’s unclear if Lauri Love did any damage other than causing acute embarrassment to the US authorities. Unlike Assange, he did not set out to wreak security chaos, nor has he been ordered by a succession of British courts to go to Sweden to answer a rape allegation.

Instead of threatening to lock up young men with an unfortunate proclivity for playing elaborate pranks, should their undoubted talents not be utilised for more positive purposes? Perhaps they could tell the Americans just why it is so easy to hack into their systems.

If young lads sitting in their bedrooms can crack systems so simply, it hardly fills the public with confidence in the security of on-line services like banks and mobile phone providers, let alone government security systems.