Belfast Telegraph

How home fire after lightning strike left Branson in a real pickle

By Nuala McKeever

For those of you who don’t follow stories about the rich and famous, let me tell you that Richard Branson’s house burned down a week or so ago.

It was on his private Carribbean island, Necker, which is supposedly worth £16m.

Apparently the house was struck by lightning, which sparked the fire.

(I get all this important info from my daily trawl of the Daily Mail online. It’s a horrible activity which leaves me feeling miserable but someone has to monitor all that’s happening in the world, if only to remind oneself that there are aliens walking around looking like human beings but actually running on rightwing bile as opposed to oxygen and blood).

Anyway, I disgress. I mention Richard Branson because he’s been in my mind a lot this week, as his Virgin Media company has been bombarding my house with offers to install their TV, broadband and telephone products.

I understand that that’s what marketing is all about but, with the amount of paper they’ve used in the past several months just to tell me, over and over, how much better off I’d be with 60 million channels and free calls between 10am and five past every other weekend, not to mention the speed with which I could browse online if I bought my internet service from them, they could have saved a whole tree.

Multiply my bombardment by all the other people who’ve also received a tree-sized amount of paper advertising and there’d be enough of a forest to restore Necker to its pre-Branson-ownership days.

The media reported widely that, when the fire started, Kate Winslet, who was a houseguest, picked up Mr Branson’s elderly mother and carried her outside to safety.

Very honourable. It was also widely reported that Richard, who was sleeping in a smaller house nearby, ran towards the burning building with no clothes on. Also honourable but not such a lovely mental image, is it?

I feel sorry for the house guests on several counts, not least because the idea of running out of a burning house, only to be met by Richard Branson coming at you with his pickle waving in the breeze, would be quite a dilemma. Caught between a rock and a not very hard place, as it were.

Most, it appears, kept running.

Anyway, I digress again. What’s been exercising my mind this week is the fragility of life. There’s Mr B, loaded with money and white teeth and even he can’t avoid what we call ‘natural disasters’. I don’t know how he fares when it comes to avoiding ‘unnatural’ disasters but I imagine, like the rest of us, he simply switches Big Brother off.

Earthquakes, tornadoes, lightning strikes — there’s nothing we can do to stop them happening.

Closer to home, in the space of a few days, a dear neighbour of mine has died, I’ve been involved in a car accident and a close relation has fallen and broken her wrist.

Isn’t there enough potential misery out there in the world that we con’t control, without us feeling the urge to add to it with our own damaging behaviour?

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