Hilary Corke called "Pompeii", in which the poet asks why the people of Pompeii didn't run away from the volcano which swallowed their town. He answers his own question: the volcano was "always there, making particular rumblings the less cogent". What could the people do, he asks, "but till our vineyards, paint our atria, pay formal visits to the homes of friends ..."? He finishes in the present day, "when all the world is one volcano grown; and though we would fly, there is nowhere to fly to."
In a way, I feel we're doing that right now. We're threatened by terrorism in the air - and I listen to people on a vox-pop moaning that they can't take their handbag on a plane. There is daily carnage in the Middle East - and I'm off to sing about a mouse facing up to a cat. And it's not a matter of putting a brave face on things - we just get on with our own lives because there is indeed nothing else we can do.
When I was a small child, growing up in Glasgow where there were gaps in the tenements - "that's where the landmine fell" - and old air-raid shelters to play in or on, I used to wonder at the stories of my parents, about how they had gone out for a walk on a warm evening and had to run like mad when the shrapnel began to fall around them; how they sat doing the crosswords in old copies of The Glasgow Herald in their lobby press during air-raids - how could they do such everyday things? Was their whole consciousness not occupied with death and fear?
Apparently not. We seem to have the capacity to live with the horrors we create - or even, in the case of people in the shadow of a volcano, the potential for natural disaster. We only get caught up when we are directly affected - see my reaction the other night when I worried about my travelling Americans. I even manage to forget about nuclear submarines until I see this from my window - though it was much harder to forget when Dunoon was a base for American Nuclear subs. We seem to have the capacity to be entirely self-absorbed until catastrophe strikes.
And maybe it's just as well. Or is it?