Skip to main content

Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile.

Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile smile smile
While you've a lucifer to light your fag, smile boys that's the style,
What's the use of worrying, it never was worthwhile, so...
Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile smile.

100 years since the outbreak of World War 1 and songs that were about this war or made famous by this war, are getting a lot of airplay. I watched a delightful rendition of it on BBC1 just the other day, but what, exactly is this song saying, and is this a healthy message in a time when we know that many people are struggling with depression, and in the shadow of news that a man who used to do a lot of smiling, and made us smile too, Robin Williams, could not face it any longer, and took his life?

Stuffing your troubles into an "old kit bag" - meant that you did not really deal with them and - if you don't deal with them, then they will always weigh you down. 

SMILING is all very well, and it occurs to me, I may be wrong, but if your heart is not smiling, it takes a conscious effort, and some energy to let a smile appear on your face. If however, your heart is smiling, then you will find that that smile just appears automatically. We live, it would seem in a culture in the West, at least in the English speaking world, that really has a hard time with public expressions of sadness like crying or wailing. "Boys don't cry!" - that's what we are told. So to display genuine emotion is regarded as the antithesis of masculinity, and in a culture such as ours, not being masculine is a huge problem for a boy or a man. So if I can't be real about those those emotions what do I do instead?

Well the song says it, "While you've a lucifer (a match struck on any rough surface - carries light) to light your fag, smile boys, that's the style." 
Smoking is a way that lots of people deal with stressful situations - and war is stressful - but so are a lot of other things. Other people use alcohol, and others various kinds of drugs. 
Robin knew this and yet it was the booze and drugs that were his undoing. "Dutch courage" is a euphemistic way of saying 'drinking to build up courage to do the thing you would not do if you were sober.' - whether that thing needs doing or not is another question, but some people need, or feel they need 'dutch courage' just to face life. 

Of course booze and drugs are the obvious intoxicants but some people consume copious mounts of food, usually of the wrong kind, and they call it "comfort eating". Other addictions, that are not necessarily about what one consumes, but what one does, usually in a solitary way, a closely guarded secret is how some people cope with that "troublesome kit bag." Self-harm is becoming widespread problem. 

Ultimately when the kit bag is full to bursting with all those troubles, and the face is exhausted from all that smiling,some people decide that they have reached the end of their road and they give up - and they decide to end it all. 

I know that there are many who feel let down by Robin Williams, some may even be angry. I have heard this word bandied about in reference to Robin's suicide - selfish.

Was Robin Williams being selfish - you can insert names of many people, both famous and not, who have committed suicide? 
In one sense, Depression which in my opinion, and from what I gather the opinion of most people who know about this, is the gateway illness that leads to suicide, is a selfish disease. It draws the sufferer into himself or herself. It is as if, they are aware of the rest of the world, but there is a numbness in that area, and all the focus is on oneself and in particular in one's own predicament, which will vary from person to person. Depression, draws a person in on themselves, and thus the thoughts and feelings of others, even those nearest and dearest to them, become distant, and thus at its worst ebb, the sufferer simply wants to end the pain, and if they see no way to do this, they decide that they must end their lives. In this sense, I believe it might be true to say that suicide is selfish. But selfishness is also really about getting as much of something for yourself and refusing to share. In that sense suicide is not selfish.

I think that in order to accuse someone of being selfish, you need to understand what it was that brought that person to the brink. Though as I have said, depression is always there where suicide is being thought of, usually the person will express some other reason, not depression, for killing themselves. They may have left a letter to loved ones, trying to explain why they did it, or they may leave no note, and understanding the stigma attached to suicide, try to make the death look accidental, but they would have had some motivation, some reason why they believed that this was the only way out:

One BIG reason is SHAME. A person is deeply ashamed of some action or thing they have done. The thing they are ashamed of may amount to a shocking crime, or it might be that the person has built the matter up in their own mind to be a lot bigger than it really was. For some it is the shame of having committed a heinous crime which they know will be exposed to the public, and that they will likely face a lot of jail time, or it might be the shame of having not done as well in one's exam as one would have hoped. Today is the day that the A-level students get their results and there will be those who have failed or simply not got enough good grades to get into university. Many people especially young people commit suicide because they realise that they are gay or transgendered and they know or believe that they will be rejected by loved ones, or lose their job. Some do this because their environment has sent them the message that who they are is unacceptable to society (which is not, or should not be the case. 

I think HOPELESSNESS sometimes leads to suicide, as one feels that nothing can be done to fix or resolve a problem - like spiralling debt that has got out of control. The hopelessness of a patient with a terminal and painful disease, and it is often this category of sufferer who lobbies for the right to "assisted dying" like those who have gone to Dignitas where this is legal. It is people in this category that give me the most difficulty in terms of whether I am in favour of the "right to die". You see, from the Christian perspective, and perhaps other religions too, it is only God's prerogative to end life and a person should not do anything that would/could end it prematurely. I would always urge the person to keep going, and not give-up on God. But I acknowledge that not all people, and even if they are, they just feel that trying to cope is just too much. 

Maybe in some way linked to the previous two issues, is the sense that they ONLY represent a burden to others and genuinely believe that they are "A BURDEN" - This is one of the reasons why those who oppose assisted dying are against it. The old person may genuinely believe that they are more trouble (expense) that they a worth (beneficial), and so will opt for suicide so hat they stop being that burden. The same may be of disabled people.

Some may have been advised of a serious DIAGNOSIS, again, this may be linked to shame or hopelessness, or both, but they basically cannot imagine coping with the effects of the illness.

Whatever it is, I think, and I want this blog to be a positive message, even though the subject matter is somber, we need to help people find their own smile, not one that they plaster on their face, to hide the fact that they are suffering, but that genuine happy place that can be within the reach of everyone. What is it that can make us smile again. 


Had I been born a girl, my mother informed me, that I would have been named Joy. Joy is an inward quality that, in my understanding, emanates from a place of well-being, contentment, and security. If we have those three things in place, it is likely that we will be joyful. Joy is not the same, in my understanding as happiness. Happiness may be transient, and dependant on factors over which we have no control, but joy, I believe is a state of mind, and one that is achieved, by a conscious decision. having said that, I do not believe that joy requires striving or effort. In the Bible, joy is a fruit of the Spirit, that is, according to Galatians 5:22-23, joy among other things, comes about by the Spirit's gifting. This would imply that only Christians can be truly joyful, and many people I know, would endorse that view, and the counter to that that without being a Christian you cannot be joyful, and many people thus will even question the salvation of a person suffering from depression. Let me state a very clearly that I absolutely do NOT agree with that premise. Depression is an illness, and Christians like anybody else can become depressed, just as they can get diabetes, or suffer heart conditions. I also want to say as clearly as I can, I do not believe that a Christian who commits suicide has lost their salvation, as I believe that the salvation effected by Christ through his death on the cross, dealt with all sin, period. To this end, therefore, pontificating about whether suicide is a sin or not is a waste of time. If it is a sin, it is a sin among the many for which Jesus paid the price..That said, suicide should not be regarded as an answer, to the problem, no matter how overwhelming that problem is. 

Happiness, may arise because we have just watched The Mrs. Doubtfire movie, which Robin was the title character and it made us laugh, or it might be that we have got out exam results and they are very good, or at least better than we expected. Joy though, whether you are a Christian or not, is something, that wells up inside.  

Being real

"Smile boys, that's the style." - well he needed a word to rhyme with smile, but there is something about this that really encapsulates what this song is about. Style - reminds me of fashion - are certain clothes/make-up/hair-dos "in style" or out of fashion? Style is about adornment, how we LOOK (to others), and many fashion styles, are crafted to hide those aspects of our being that we feel embarrassed about. Thus a person like myself, who may be regarded as chubby, is advised not to wear horizontal stripes because they accentuate the chubbiness.

So, in this song, the boys are quite literally advised to wear a smile. 

Morale, amongst soldiers, is a very important thing. And this is why modern armies do pay for entertainers to entertain the troops. Often this entertainment is more of a distraction from the heaviness of war. It is a legal high, to help the 'boys' forget, for just a while the imminent threat of the enemy, over the hill. I am not condemning this practise, just acknowledging that it exists, and trying to see it for what it is. It is, in effect, an opportunity for the soldiers to 'pack up their troubles in their old kit bag" - the problem is as the songs and the jokes fade into the background and the sound of mortar-fire rings in their ears and the sight of their wounded and dying co-combatants play themselves as a movie-clip on a loop before their eyes, that kit bag bursts at the seems. 

There is a real need to be... REAL. To see the situation for what it is. To know how one is, emotionally and to acknowledge that. If that means crying, and I don't care how masculine you are, YOU NEED TO CRY FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES.

JESUS WEPT... Jesus was a real person with the same emotions that we all experience and he was not ashamed to express those emotions. WEEPING, some may in their mind's eye envisage a woman standing or sitting demurely, with tears running down her cheek. SOBBING - Cry noisily. It says Jesus wept - I wonder if that was translated correctly - or if it should have said "Jesus Sobbed?"

One statistic that has come out in the news, following reports of Robin Williams' Suicide, is that more women seek medical help for depression and are on the prescribed medication for depression. This does NOT mean that women suffer depression more than men, but simply that more women with depression seek help from their GP than do men. Part of the reason, I would suggest is the whole "boys don't cry" mentality that makes depression a stigmatised illness. 

There IS help for people with depression, but that help is only there if people seek it. Sometimes people can identify that they are depressed themselves, but more often than not, it takes another person to point it out. If you talk to your doctor, they should diagnose the depression and advise you of the appropriate treatment which, will likely include counselling sessions. Counselling is about talking about what it going on inside you and perhaps what has happened in the past that might be a root factor in the depression. 

There is NO SHAME in talking to someone about what hurts. It would be a SHAME if you don't want to talk about that thing, and you suffer when there may be real help just there to resolve that hurt. Also, we need to be patient - if you have an infection, and the doctor prescribes antibiotics, you are not going to see the infection disappear, and it is also important to keep at it, even when you are feeling better. If you are having counselling sessions, KEEP GOING, even when you think you are out of the woods, because, you may find that you were simply walking through a clearing in the middle of the forest, but you need to go back into the forest.


What's the use of worrying, it never was worthwhile,

Finally a line of the song I can agree with - WORRY, is a very draining activity, and definitely NOT WORTHWHILE.  But if you don't worry, and you don't stuff it into the old kit bag, what do we do with our "troubles?" - As a Christian, i would say to you, take them to God in prayer - pray about it. I would say that to the non-Christian too. You may be surprised at how that helps. I realise that my atheist friends will scoff at that, and say if there is no-one there to hear the prayer, what is the point of praying. Good question, I suggest, that there are different ways to pray. It may be that you spend time meditating, and during that meditation, you may come up with an idea that will help you resolve the problem, or give you a new perspective on the problem that will help you bear the burden of it better. if you are a song-writer, write a song about. If you are a poet, write poem. If you are an artist, you could paint a picture that may bring the issues into sharper focus. If your trouble - is money problems - maybe you can sell the picture, poem or song!

Jesus said, "Do not worry. Consider lilies of the field, they do not weave or strive and yet Solomon in all his splendour was not as beautiful as one of these." If you are a Christian, then you are called to trust God. 

There are things that simply put, we cannot do anything about. Worrying will not change this at all. So, on this I have to agree, the song is right, worrying is never worthwhile, but worrying doesn't help, what does?

Kit bag full?

That old kit bag is full. To be absolutely honest, we all have a kit bag. We all from time to time, push down that trouble and smile, even though everything on the inside is scrambled and chaotic. The reasons we do that are numerous. Just as we would take care where we put our literal kit bags, we take care about where we put down and open up that kit bag - the one with all the troubles in. We want to know that it is safe to do so. We want to ensure that the people we share what's in the kit bag are safe. That they won't embarrass us, or tell everyone what's in the bag. The sort of things we carry in that kit bag are the sorts of things that i referred to above that cause some people to think about committing suicide. Things we are ashamed of, rightly or wrongly. If I stole something, that is something that I would and should feel ashamed of, but actually the remedy is not to conceal in the hopes that I don't get caught, but I should rather own up to the theft, and repay what does not belong to me. (I am NOT confessing to having stolen anything - it was just an example). Another example is a person who, as a child was abused. That person might be carrying the memory of that abuse in that kit bag - and feeling ashamed. The thing is, in this case the person was the victim, and they do not need to be ashamed. I know that is easier said than done. Again, they need to take that memory out of the bag and share it with people who they can trust to handle the situation appropriately. 

Yesterday, as I was walking away from the job I had been doing, towards a bus in Ilford - I ha just crossed over the road by pedestrian crossing. A car whizzed passed me and a man stuck his head out of the passenger side window, looked back at me and laughed in a loud sarcastic ridiculing laugh. I do not know what this stranger found amusing about me, but I have to confess, I was startled, and upset, and it took my mind back to when I was a little boy and some older kid was laughing at me. (I didn't know what he was laughing at then either). I had the presence of mind to motion with my hand towards my head - "Are you crazy?" and he was gone as soon as he appeared.  But there it is - I could have taken that incident, and packed it away in my kit bag, and smiled as if it didn't affect me, but as I share that with you, I say that thing, and the earlier incident that it reminded me of, are OUT OF THE KIT BAG - i am not going to smile - they hurt. But I give them to Jesus, because to quote a different song, "Jesus took my burdens and he rolled them in the sea, never to remember any more." 

As a Christian, I feel I can leave my heavy load with Jesus. 
He said "Come to me, all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest."
Take my burden - that is the kit bag HE has packed for us... it is light. We may find that some of the things that were there in the old kit bag are still there, but the burden of them is lighter - and we may find, or realise that Jesus is helping us carry that old kit bag. 

So we don't have to carry the load by ourselves. And even if you are not a Christian and do not believe that Jesus will make your load lighter - we are exhorted and encouraged to carry one another's burdens, and if we share the load, we will find that the bearing of it is easier. 

So friend, find a safe place to put your kit bag down, open it up, and try and throw out the rubbish. The stuff that is still there, well maybe a friend can help you carry it for a while, and maybe you will just have to put that kit bag down every so often as you keep on plodding onwards.


A friend of mine posted something on Facebook which I share with you here as it really does encapsulate the issue of depression.

There might be antecedents or precipitating factors, but depression is a thing in and of itself. I have suffered from clinical depression off and on for decades. I have been hospitalized for it several times. I’ve taken a number of medications for it. I have received electroshock therapy for it. Childhood experiences probably did change my brain chemistry in a way that made it more likely that I would be susceptible to depression. My ongoing PTSD and social phobia and isolation causes stress that probably doesn’t help. But these factors don’t explain why I’m okay some days, and other days I just can’t stand it anymore. Nothing has changed all that much externally from one day to the next, but what it feels like for me inside my head does change.

People will sometimes ask, “Why are you depressed?” or “What do you have to be depressed about?” This implies that there is or should be a specific reason for the change in mood, and there often isn’t one. Sometimes someone will become depressed after being diagnosed with a disease, or after getting a divorce or after losing a child. People will then say that depression in those circumstances is understandable, and of course it is. But sometimes depression can hit you when you’re not expecting it, when it’s not so easily explained. And I think we should work at discussing this issue in a way that makes it clear to those who are depressed that they don’t need a reason or an excuse.

It’s not a personal failing on the part of the person who is depressed if they don’t have some kind of sob story to tell that will immediately play on the sympathy of those who hear it. The depressed person is in a lot of pain, and the depression alone should be cause enough for concern.


Popular posts from this blog

Boundary Marker

Wednesday evening and time for Vespers at St Mary's. However this was different. Along with the usual, wonderful calming tunes that permeate the environment, and the sound of the bells and the ringers practice their changes, this Wednesday had a visual component, the work of two local artists. Christine had an installation that explored the link between clothing and boundaries. It was the words "boundaries, real or imagined" that caught my imagination. I thought about the many boundaries that exist. Particularly our imagined boundaries. Or maybe not imagined, maybe they really do exist, in our own minds. 

Boundary Marker Where is your boundary marker?
What is your boundary marker?  A row of pebbles, or a painted line in the street?  A fence topped with barbed wire,  A brick wall with broken glass, set in concrete?
Is there an entry or an exit, or is it entirely enclosed? Is it it a sanctuary, a place of safety and solace, Or are you serving a sentence, self-imposed-  Of s…

"Christ is preached to an Ethiopian"

I thought I would check out the lectionaries readings for tomorrow. The 1st reading is Acts 8:26 - 40 and so I went to and put the reference in the search engine. Up it came with this title:
Christ is preached to an Ethiopian

So what, I hear you ask is wrong with that - that is what the passage is about isn't it.

If you are going to add subtitles to the Biblical text, please do not miss the main point. If you are unsure as to what the main point is, then consult the text. And since you are publishing a version, you should consult the text in its original language. Read it and see what is repeated. If you do that with the text in question, you will find that he word Ethiopian is not repeated but the word  eunuch is.

So what is the big deal about that? Jews did not have a problem with Ethiopians. Remember the "Queen of Sheba" . However, Jews did have an issue with eunuchs. A eunuch was cut off from the assembly, in accordance with Mosaic law. For the Chris…
Joshua 22 Effect of Exclusion
I have been mulling over this chapter over the past few days. It intrigues me. I will admit that it is narrative I was not familiar with. I know lots of Bible narratives, but this one had escaped my notice. So in case you like me had skipps over this bit let me try and give you the story in a nutshell.
These events come in, as you probably guessed, when Joshua was still in charge, The promised land had been occupied by the "Children of Israel". Who was Israel? He was Jacob, renamed Israel, and the children, were the descendants of Israel, and they belonged to "tribes named after the sons of Jacob and sons of Joseph (for the half tribes). Back track a bit to before they crossed over the Jordan, they were camped in the region on the Eastern side of the Jordan for quite a while. Now, as you do, a bunch of them kind of liked where they were living and wanted to stay. These people who were from the Tribes of Reuben and Had and the half tribe of…