These are in many ways bleak and depressing times.
The cold, damp weather and dark mornings are not the best start to our days at the moment.
The rising fuel prices make much of our travel more expensive and 2012 looks like being the year when more people than ever will lose their full-time employment.
If you look beyond our shores other countries seem just as bad with Governments like Ireland, Belgium, Spain and the hapless Tunisia all in one crisis or another.
Our short-term future as a nation seems gloomy with young people’s employment opportunities declining, public services shrinking and our beacons of hope for the future, our universities, wobbling.
The global longer-term news is, if it’s possible, even bleaker and recent reports about fuel, food and weather all seem to be varying predictions of doom.
Responses to these impending crises reveal something about each of us but also our collective character.
For some there is a temptation to react angrily – to protest, to shout or to physically demonstrate.
Collectively the French seem to have this default setting for any proposal that impacts on their lifestyle – strikes, blockades and public unrest for a period until it’s out of their system.
Others become simply overwhelmed by the magnitude of the crisis, or they find it hard to comprehend how they will manage.
They hope that by ignoring it will go away or others will solve it. It’s an approach that many will take in the months ahead – some will need anti- depressants.
Others still will engage with the debate, looking to mollify, modify, minimise impact and maximise benefit, to see what opportunities there are within any particular event to see if change is possible.
If it is impossible then they will look to the future. They will try to understand the issues and the options of response.
In the end, whether we temperamentally explode or implode as a reaction to any crisis, we need to move on as soon as we can, seeking to understand and engage.
In the long run this will mean better debate, more informed choices and more people shaping the communities and country that we live in.
One other way of coping with a world seemingly in chaos is to find an oasis, a bit of space to take some time out. A garden or a park or a walk on the beach or in the countryside are all places when we can re-charge our batteries and have a proper prospective on life restored.
Each year I comment on the RSPB annual Big Garden Birdwatch with the birds I have and haven’t seen. Well the first chaffinch of the year I saw this morning reminded me that it will be this weekend.
So if you have access to the internet checkout the RSPB’s web site and enter the birds that you see in your garden this weekend.
You should spend an hour on either day and log the birds you see. There is a bird identifier on their site if you’re not sure of any birds.
- See Friday’s Echo for a centre-spread feature on the Big Garden Birdwatch