It's perfectly natural to moan and complain and to bewail our luck and circumstances. However, things are sometimes brought into perspective by having a glimpse at the lives of the truly unfortunate. It is these moments which help us remember that, compared to most, our lives are pretty good.
This most recently happened to me when I made a rare visit to the theatre to see Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van.
Now, I'm not a natural theatregoer – not compared to my wife anyway – but seeing as it was her birthday and she's a huge Bennett fan, I thought that just this once I'd both treat her and join her.
Boy am I glad I went along. It's a beautiful and humane piece about the relationship between Bennett and a woman who one day parks her Ford van in his garden and stays there in situ for years.
The play is painful and political, while all the time being funny and personal. Although it is Bennett whose act of kindness lets the itinerant and homeless "van lady" stay in his garden, it is through the prism of the juxtaposition between his life and the van lady's that we get to see just how well the life and circumstances of Bennett, and much of Britain, compares with someone who is truly down on her luck.
For her there is no insurance or safety net. She has only her van and a few possessions. She's so poor that she actually recycles her sanitary pads, a detail which somehow manages to be simultaneously, awful, funny and touching.
The Lady in the Van: on tour in Britain now and recommended to even the unlikeliest theatre goers, such as Euro 2012 addicted transit van drivers like myself.