Claire Black: Online death test not for me

'Online test to see if you're about to shuffle off? I'll pass'
'Online test to see if you're about to shuffle off? I'll pass'
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WHENEVER I’ve been asked if I have a five-year plan, often at dinner parties where a long discussion about property prices and how hard is it to find a good plumber have just concluded, I’ve guffawed.

It’s a fairly foolproof way to hide an existential crisis in the making, I’ve found. I’ve then insisted that I don’t really know what I’m doing in five months from that moment, never mind five years. But this question takes on an entirely different complexion if the answer is, oh, I’ll most likely be dead.

Ubble. Have you heard of it? Have you done it? Surely you wouldn’t. Surely no one would?

Well, I know that’s not true because basically anything launched on the internet, as Ubble was two days ago, no matter how scurrilous, weird or dysfunctional attracts millions of users before people realise how scurrilous, weird or dysfunctional it is and then spend several months, if not years, trying to remove their profile and get off the automatic mailing list for it. Yes, LinkedIn, I’m looking at you.

But Ubble is odd on a whole new scale. Based on a questionnaire which scores 655 measures that can affect the chances of premature death (the proper research was published in The Lancet), it is a simplified survey aimed at those between 40 and 70 which will calculate your risk of checking out in the next five years. It asks questions including how fast you walk and whether you’re married or not and, if you’re a man, how many cars you have. (No, I don’t get that either.)

Who would want to know that information? And to what end? Would it help us to live with more urgency? Would it encourage us to pay more attention to the details of life – you know, smell the flowers, go dancing in the rain, tell the people we love why we love them rather than just assuming they know that because we hang about with them all the time?

We all know that we’re going to die so how come we don’t do that stuff anyway? And if we don’t, can’t we just accept that. Do we really need a deadline to motivate us to live?

Kafka said the meaning of life is that it ends, but that doesn’t mean we have to know the date and time. It strikes me that attempting to know this stuff is about trying to control the uncontrollable because that’s what scares us about death – we never know when it might come our way. So surely that’s all the motivation that any of us needs to live the best life we can? To do the stuff we want to do rather than spending all our time sitting at our desks, or sitting in traffic jams or staring at the goggle box every night of the week. Unless, of course, those things are precisely how you want to be spending your time.

I’ve never understood why people need to climb mountains, or jump out of planes, to feel alive. For me, it doesn’t take so much. A walk in a beautiful forest. Managing to get all of the peel off an apple in one piece. Am I a simpleton? Deluded? In this instance I happily choose ignorance over information.

Andy Murray serves ace for feminism

I DON’T want to turn this column into an Andy Murray fanzine. I know he has been playing rather good tennis at Roland Garros in recent days, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I am interested in this: “Have I become a feminist? Well, if being a feminist is about fighting so that a woman is treated like a man then, yes, I suppose I have.”

Those words, spoken by Murray at a press conference in Paris last week, are a less ambivalent, more straightforward declaration of feminist credentials than plenty of women in the public eye seem to be able to make. His statement was prompted by the criticism that has been heaped on his coach, Amelie Mauresmo (pictured), who Murray says has been treated differently to any of his former – male – coaches.

Mauresmo has been, according to Murray, “slated” every time he has lost, a fate that never befell her predecessors. The same people who blame her for his every loss will somehow exclude her from any role in his victories. It feels good and right to know that the player himself won’t be doing the same.

Behave yourself, Alex

‘BEHAVE yourself, woman.” I know Alex Salmond likes to shoot from the hip and never (ever) tires of hearing his own dulcet tones. But that little cracker, spat at the minister for small business, Anna Soubry, in the House of Commons last week wasn’t a slip of the tongue, or an ironic “joke”. It was indefensible sexism. Just as it was sexism that time Salmond said that Nadine Dorries was “extremely frustrated”. And just as it was when David Cameron told Angela Eagle to “calm down, dear”. Politics is a rough old game. But the kind of comment that Salmond made is shameful. «