Eyewear has predicted for weeks that this would be a difficult autumn in the UK, and now, unfortunately, the swine flu pandemic has been confirmed in the last few days. I have become rather tired by the stiff-upper-lip attitude of many of my British friends. They are being a little too stoical, I feel. Obviously, there is no need to panic, but neither does complacency seem in order. Latest figures suggest between 12 and 16 million Britons will get the swine flu this winter. Of those, between 25,000 and 30,000 are predicted to die. In a usual flu season, that number is more like 4,000 deaths. An almost 8-fold increase in mortality, especially one that will predominantly effect young people under the age of 60, is a pending tragedy, not a ho-hum situation. That many of the victims will be those with AIDS and underlying conditions alarms me, as I have close friends who are ill in such ways. Also, as a lecturer, I am concerned for my students, who always seem to have a flu or cold at the best of times. There is a blase Darwinism, or false sense of machismo, that steels a lot of the nerves responding to this coming medical disaster. But, as far as I can see, there is a chance, and not a slim one, that some of those we love will not survive the year, due to the first pandemic in 40 years. That puts elections for poetry positions in perspective.