I heard the news today, oh boy…

Yesterday in Strasbourg the corpse of man, who had been dead for three years, was found in his apartment. The radio had been on 24 hours a day for those three years and the window wide open. Nobody had missed him or enquired about him because his rent and bills were all paid by standing order. Yesterday I cooked a success and a disaster and shared the enjoyment and disappointment with my wife. I spoke to our son in London on the telephone several times about his next shoot ( he’s a food photographer) and to our daughter, who lives nearby, about the nightmare of builders in her house during half term. On my way to the dentist I waved to a couple of acquaintances as our paths crossed on the nearly empty roads passing through the nearby forest. I even mouthed a “bonjour” to the widow of the recently deceased farmer who used to live opposite us. She now lives elsewhere for the majority of the time, but was visiting her old home yesterday. In essence, not only were people aware of my existence and me of theirs, but we also communicated and shared life. That this sad event should happen in a busy metropolis was the least surprising part of the news. It is clear that social networking and virtual reality is paramount and that without them there is a real chance of exclusion. For me to say that our eyes are glued to the screen and the keyboard is akin to the owner of a crack den warning of the dangers of drugs. The dead man was old, but that is like saying that the Mayor is fat. There is no need to modify the noun except, maybe, with the adjective “alone”.


About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in Digital photography, France, friendship, harmony, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to I heard the news today, oh boy…

  1. Mad Dog says:

    I know what you mean – the poor old man next to me broke his leg and almost didn’t make it to the telephone! He’s now in a purpose built flat for elderly people, but didn’t want to move house, as he’d lived in the same place since 1950.

  2. Mary Cadogan says:

    I have just got back from the funeral of a near neighbour who lived all his life in our village. It seemed all the village came to say goodbye to him and family and friends talked of his long and full life in our village where it seems impossible to be anonymous. And long may it continue to be so.

  3. Like Mary mentions above, it´s the same in our village. Even though we live outside the village, people still care and keep an eye on each other….even for me, an “outsider”…they came round with food for us when I had been in hospital. And as for funerals…it´s a mark of respect for the whole village to turn out and offer their condolences to the family.

  4. We hear things like things like this more and more often in the States…so very sad, to be so disconnected from life and other people that no one misses them for months or years. Here, too, it’s much more likely to happen in an urban area than a small town…

    I love the photo you chose today…what a wonderful, character-filled face. He also reminds me of an elderly gentleman who used to shop in our store – he wore plaid carpet slippers everywhere for the last 5 years of his life.

  5. Oh my. That’s one of my paranoid fears because, even though I’m dating someone, I live by myself right now. I’m hoping it wouldn’t take that long for anyone to inquire about me! Though I talk and visit with several people everyday, including my boyfriend who comes over quite often. I’m glad I’ve got this blogging thing under control. Ha!

  6. ChgoJohn says:

    We, here in Chicago, had a wake-up call about 10 or so years ago during a truly deadly heat wave. A number died alone in their overheated apartments & homes. Now the city posts alerts during heat waves instructing people to check on their elderly neighbors and family. My neighbors are, for the most part, advanced in years and I check on them when I don’t see them out & about — just as they did with me when I was seriously ill some time ago.

  7. Misslisted says:

    There is a man who comes to the clinic where I work. He is in his late 80’s and he always comes alone, doesn’t seem to have anyone… He is always on time for his appointments, never misses them. Recently another doctor called to report he’d no-showed for his appointment. I have tried to call him several times. No answer and he has no voice mail, the phone just rings and rings. If I don’t reach him today, I suppose I will send the “authorities”. I fear he may have met a similar fate as the man in your story…

  8. ceciliag says:

    As John says it is indeed an issue that we can address and solve. I have my old people who I visit twice a week, they are alone, no relatives, all their friends dead, it would be days before the man at the PO or the girls at the store thought to say where is Ed. Also people do not go outside in the U.S. anymore. I lived here in that little town when i was 16, everyone had a swing chair on their porch and in the evenings every swing chair had someone in it. (Hi there, how are ya? as us teenagers walked about as teenagers used to) You would notice if he was missing. Now it is never. No-one is outside. No more swinging chairs. I blame Air Conditioning. Honestly. I do. c

  9. Chef Scar says:

    What a sad story, but perfectly related and enhanced with a superb photo. The title is a grabber as well. Isn’t it wonderful that so many of the Beatles’ songs can used to illustrate the universality of life? Along with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen they were the Bards of the 20th century. Thanks Roger!

  10. chefconnie says:

    It just shows how important it is for everyone to be involved with the elderly in our community. Thank you for this eye opening post.

  11. spree says:

    I know it’s not the English way, and maybe not the French’s either… but I find a story like the one you just told utterly heart-breaking to the point that tears fall on the keyboard. I’m not sure of all the reasons why to me it’s actually s a d d e r that this man was old. To be old, alone, forgotten, not missed would be a very sad way indeed to leave this place, after a life spent living here.
    I appreciate very much the intentionality with which you went about the rest of your day, Roger, reaching out, touching, a word here, and there, laying claim to this life and your many connections. Thank you for a touching and touchingly real piece.

  12. A wonderful photo and a poignant tale. A reminder to us all…..

  13. I find the elderly sometimes choose to be alone.. my mother-in-law has to be coerced to come out to our homes for an evening Sunday dinner. She used to be the matriarch, thrower of parties and extrovert. Now her dog receives her abundant joy and affection (thank goodness she has him) and she only occasionally reluctantly visits.. then she can’t wait to get back home. I think it’s an issue of having a space where she feels safe and comfortable. And the dog is her loyal companion because he will stay there right at her side. While I love being alone, I can’t imagine a elderly life of solitude… It seems so forlorn…

  14. Such a way with words you have. Also, I’m glad I don’t auto-pay my bills!

  15. Firstly, you set the mood nicely with your title…on of my favourite songs; so haunting in its words. Sad, and bizarre when you hear these stories, wondering…how can that be? I fear with social media, this disconnect with become even more wide-spread.
    How I love, love the shadows and tone of that picture; magnifique ~

  16. Alli says:

    It’s always sad and shocking to hear news like that and we all wonder how it could happen. I now live in a small community were everyone could be though of as a little nosy and in gossipy but at least we notice when someone hasn’t been seen for a day or two.

  17. We all are so sophisticated and knowledgeable thanks to papers, TV news and Computers. To not notice a man missing for such a length of time is unimaginable.

    Interesting, sad post showing the indifference of people.


  18. argone says:

    Let me put it this way : if I don’t tweet for three days … and if I don’t update my Facebook page for two days …. would my friends worry ?? ;-))

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