I’m sure you get thousands of pleading letters each day, but please read mine. I’m 33 years old. I read your column every week and always feel in awe of your wisdom and kindness. I’m a mental health nurse, so I take great inspiration in the way you reflect your compassion onto others and I hope my patients would say I do the same.
Now please, Bel, speak out on the unethical mandate that is about to pass within the NHS. So many of us do not wish to be vaccinated. But many members of the public still believe we are selfish, despite Omicron confirming this is not an illness of the unvaccinated.
It is unfair to think of us this way. We have been holding the NHS up for the past two years. I have worked relentlessly for 14 years caring for the seriously mentally unwell. Having already had Covid, I do not need three Covid vaccines to be safe to do my job. There is no reasonable, scientific, ethical or logical reason to be forcing this upon NHS staff.
At one point, many believed transmission was an issue of the unvaccinated. We now know this is untrue.
I’m beginning to feel that ‘Because I’ve had the jabs, you should have them’ has become the reason to force this on others. Please use your compassionate words, Bel, to steer people in the right direction.
We are already so understaffed. NHS staff are prepared to leave in their thousands. They will not sacrifice their bodily rights for any career. Nor would anyone else. Please help us!
This week Bel Mooney advises a 33-year-old reader who works as an NHS mental health nurse and doesn’t want to be vaccinated
All your very kind comments to me are left in here (I usually edit such compliments out, for obvious reasons) because my honest response to your email will certainly be disappointing — and that’s a great pity.
I fear you will find me lacking in the very ‘compassion’ you praise — but what can I do?
The person writing this column (which occupies my mind a great deal of the time) is a human being with her own strong views and feelings. Otherwise, I couldn’t do the job. Your heartfelt letter reveals one of the good, sincere, hardworking individuals (many in the NHS, many not) without whom this society would founder. I must — and do — respect what you write and can easily imagine the affection you have won from those you have helped.
It’s painful to read through the lines of your email and realise how this is affecting you. Yet I, too, have equally sincere views about vaccination — so find myself at odds with yours.
Thought of the day
‘You have to hold on, Mal. This is all there is, this life. If something is gone out of it for you it’s your job to replace it.’
from Elegy For April: Quirke Mysteries Book 3 by Benjamin Black — the pseudonym of John Banville (Irish novelist and Booker Prize winner, b 1945)
When I was a child growing up in Liverpool in the 1950s it was commonplace to see children with legs in irons because they had contracted polio. They were viewed with universal pity and, of course, our parents were terrified that as vulnerable children we would catch poliomyelitis.
So when the polio vaccine programme began in 1957 (when I was 11) I’ve no doubt that the vast majority of parents were grateful.
I remember getting the jab — and us all feeling rather excited. Did people complain that it was too much of ‘an unknown’? Probably.
What I do know is that the disease has been almost completely wiped out across the globe. There were only 33 reported cases in 2018, representing a 99 per cent drop over 30 years.
Tetanus, measles, influenza, hepatitis A and B, rubella, whooping cough, mumps, chickenpox, diphtheria . . . you are a nurse and I am not, but we both know the nation’s health has been immeasurably improved over the years by vaccines of many types.
Each year I am glad to get my flu jab. In this age of travel, people accepted that certain countries required vaccines against Yellow Fever — to name but one. Did they ask what was in the magic potion going into their arms? No.
So why all the fuss about the vaccine against Covid? I simply do not understand.
During 2020, my friends and family pinned our hopes on a vaccine. What brilliant news it was when it came. I am proud of this country’s vaccination programme and wholeheartedly praise Boris Johnson for the part he played. I was glad and relieved to have my booster and, if there’s another jab going, I will happily stick out my arm.
Would you call me stupid/deluded/ill-informed, Jen? I doubt you could possibly read my words over months and make that accusation.
It worries me that the NHS march at the weekend was joined by more than 1,000 anti-vaxxers and activists spouting ludicrous theories, like saying the jabs are part of a global plot to control and/or kill the population.
Never mind anti-jabs, this is the sort of stupid conspiracy chatter, fed by the contagious derangement of social media, that has infected the western world as perniciously as any virus.
As far as I am concerned, such people are as bad as the far-Right groups to which many of them have links.
Let me be clear. I am not talking about you or the NHS colleagues who feel as you do. Nor would I accuse anybody of ‘selfishness’ when they are expressing views they hold dear. What’s more, I am instinctively opposed to coercion, which does leave me somewhat confused, I admit.
But just as this issue distresses you, so it distresses me to realise that good people like you may now even choose to give up their jobs. Why? Because refusing the vaccination which the rest of us have willingly and gratefully received is more important to them than ministering to the sick people they were trained to help.
That is a sad choice, yet I think it a bad one, too. But I have, in fairness, printed your letter because if there are readers who think the same, they can read your words and be glad of a kindred spirit.
You ask me to ‘steer people in the right direction’ — and wrote in good faith clearly expecting me to agree with you. But in equally good faith, I reply that for me the right direction is to be sure you are vaccinated, for your own sake and for the sake of your families, friends and communities.
And also, in your case, for those all-important patients, too. I view the anti-vax marches and the self-consciously dramatic shedding of uniforms by NHS staff with sadness and disbelief, but also with quite a lot of distaste, too. I’m really sorry, but there it is.
My ex has moved 500 yards away
In last week’s column your words ‘if people seem on top of the world remember they may in fact be feeling the weight of the whole globe crushing their spirits’ jumped out of the page at me. I have been putting on a brave face for the past nine years and everyone thinks I’m fine.
My husband and I were married for 32 years. We ran a business and had two sons. It was hard and I was promised a better future when the firm was sold in 2006. We moved back to our home county and had lovely holidays.
Then, in 2012, he packed his bags (I was at work) and left to live with a colleague. But he insisted I was still his ‘first choice’ and said he’d be coming back because he’d made a big mistake.’
We divorced four years later after he made ‘another big mistake’ when he bought a house with her three miles away. I stayed in our home. However, six months ago they sold their house and bought one 500 yards from mine.
Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Names are changed to protect identities.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
My question is what kind of woman can tear another’s life apart then move so close? What kind of man, knowing he broke his wife’s heart, can come back to live so near the home they once shared?
The direct answer to your final questions — so well-expressed but full of anger and heartbreak — is: ‘Any sort of man and any sort of woman.’
I’ve long ceased to be surprised at the hurt people inflict on one another, while giving an appearance of kindness and thoughtfulness to the rest of the world.
A man I respected and liked ended his 40-year marriage in an email, then lied through his teeth for months, denying another woman.
He then caused his shocked wife untold additional stress and pain by driving a viciously hard bargain over their assets. But a good man, a responsible man, a pillar of society . . . and so on.
What made him act in such a cruel way? Why, love . . . of course.
He wanted a new marriage with a much younger woman — and got it. And your husband went on lying after he left, holding out false hope that he’d one day return. Perhaps he was in denial, but it added insult to injury.
I’m afraid people behave in this way when they know they have done something hurtful and ‘wrong’ and turn their back on that self-awareness. In the end, they put their own happiness first.
It’s just awful for you that they have chosen to move so near — a fresh, harsh, selfish blow you do not deserve. To me, it’s inconceivable that they’d want to, but there’s no end to people’s capacity to shock. What can you do but go on being brave?
In your uncut email, you tell me you have been promoted in a very good job and you do sound remarkably composed, in spite of the pain. Let your independence and friendships focus your mind. Let that couple witness you living your best life.
And finally… Let’s focus on giving, not taking
At the moment, I have three friends who are suffering from cancer and I find it has concentrated my mind on how to live. I’m not talking about trying to keep healthy, although that matters. No, it’s about how to live the best life possible.
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
Each of my three friends is a role model. One (whom I think of as the sister I never had) had her operation yesterday and will (I know) continue to blaze, warming the hearts of those lucky enough to know her.
My second friend has been treated for a long time, but never complains or allows it to hamper her extraordinary, creative life.
The third friend, an Italian, is the oldest — both in age and the length of our friendship. I first met A in 1971 when I was a young journalist and, although she was more than 12 years my senior, we formed a deep bond.
A gentle, sweet soul, she lives in North Norfolk, which makes it hard to visit. And the other day her email made me cry. She wrote: ‘I am psychologically all right — and grateful that I am still here to love my dear friends.’
She wrote in a similar vein many months ago: ‘I am so glad that I have wonderful friends to love.’
So please join me in marvelling at her emphasis — active, not passive. Not about being loved, but about having love to give. Not about clinging to life for her own sake, but because it enables her to love others.
Writing this column I’ve become used to people longing to be loved — indeed, bewailing the fact that they are not.
I don’t say that critically, just as a statement of fact. Nor do I want to imply that I have become indifferent to their needs, because I haven’t.
But my friend A inspires the thought that if only the wish could be flipped, making it about giving not taking, about generosity not need — then the world might turn out to be more embracing.
The vast energy of love can sustain us unto death — and work miracles.