One morning at his home in Paris, Alfred Nobel was understandably surprised to read his own obituary in a French newspaper.
Not only because he wasn’t dead at the time — he hadn’t even finished his breakfast, but he lost his appetite on seeing the words, “The merchant of death is dead.” Clearly the writer wasn’t a believer in not speaking ill of the dead. Many of whom would have been seriously ill, of course, prior to dying. Nobel must have experienced mixed emotions on discovering it was his brother Ludvig who had died, grief and relief, perhaps.
None of the 5 eponymous Prizes has ever come my way, because for some reason there is no Nobel Prize for Journalism, and I can’t believe the prize committee members are totally free from blame in that respect. They could have created such a prize with the stroke of a pen, not that most modern journalists would recognise a pen even if it came with a free bottle of invisible ink. Or a free bottle of whisky.
We are living in an Age of Blame. There have been many such ages before (“How could you not spot an iceberg, helmsman, there were polar bears climbing all over it!”) but our era now possesses universal technology to make deniability difficult, or ludicrous. Managers of losing soccer teams appear at press conferences and blame the ball: “If that shot had gone in, it would have been a goal.”
Once, when votes were tied for Lord Provost, my local town council cut cards to decide the winner, and the loser flung the cards everywhere, blaming a queen of hearts for his misfortune, like many men before him. Just as well they weren’t playing darts.
Nobel blamed his own invention of dynamite for causing him to be reviled as “a man who found a way to kill more people faster than ever before.” Which was rather unfair on dynamite, like me blaming a knighthood for passing me by without even a nod (or a sword) of recognition.
And we have begged the question for long enough. Who is to blame for the pandemic? For its pervasiveness throughout society? Or the grave repercussions of playing games of chance with our health at stake, versus the wealth of economies/airlines/hotels/restaurants/theatres/ football clubs/night clubs and hairdressers? Too many knaves and jokers in that pack for my liking, give me Happy Families any day.
If we are going to indulge in a needle match, I know which needle I prefer, and there would be a nurse at the other end of it. One never wants to read one’s own obituary before breakfast. That’s why I always put Long Life milk in my coffee before I exercise my teeth on a box of Ritter Sport chocolate.
A bar of Ritter is designed to fit into the pocket of a sports jacket, but somehow that never happens, since luckily I don’t own a sports jacket. Although I am thinking of buying a camouflage outfit with six pockets. And then who could blame me, if I filled them with chocolate?