Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

On Sunday I celebrated Chinese New Year. It is the year of the dog. I am very happy with my lot in the Chinese calender, I am a monkey which has always struck me as the most spirited of the Chinese star signs.

Our annual Chinese New Year celebrations have come to mean a lot to me. I lived in Hong Kong for several years during my 20’s, another experience which moulded me into the person I have become.

Perhaps your 20’s are always the time in which your adult self is formed, but I think there was something special about those years which will be with me for ever.

One of the reasons I left (and there were many) was the ‘ex-pat’ nature of life out there. I have experienced first hand what it feels like to be excluded from your local society. I tried, I really did, but me and my Chinese counterparts were poles apart. Of course I had Chinese friends, but the ones I felt close to had all spent time, or been educated, in the UK, US, Canada, Australia; ‘The West’ as we like to call it. The colonial nature of this division of cultures also sat uncomfortably with my principles. So I came ‘home’, back to the seamlessly integrated, multi cultural land of good old Britannia.

There was something in this feeling of alienation which threw us all together though, us ‘gweilos’. We were all hundreds of miles from home, away from friends and family. There was liberation in the feeling that you could be anyone. No-one knew your past, no-one knew your history, you were just you, here and now. You could only judge on what you saw, not on what you knew. We had all escaped from our pigeon holes, but were thrown into one huge ‘white’ one together. I met people out there who I would never have come across during my life in London. We were all different, but we shared a common bond, we had all set off into the unknown looking for adventure. I have been united with my fellow passengers from 7th July in the same way.

There is a depth to the friendships I formed out there, which will last for ever. We were all alone, floating islands with no past, we became each other’s family. I was tried and tested in that humid land. It was a time of many firsts. My first close shave with death, my friends were by my side. My mother wanted to jump on the next plane, but I told her she didn’t need to, I had my ‘family’ around me. My first arrest, hand-cuffs, strip search and all, I have dined out on that story for years, (although my mother didn’t get to hear that one). My first dead body, at a funeral, it meant so much to them that I go and say goodbye, so I did, and I have never forgotten it. And of course, the real reason why I came back home, my first love.

Some have stayed, some have come ‘home’. Others have moved on across different oceans. Once a year, the date dictated by the moon, those of us who are here, feast together and remember.

There were 13 of us this year, and 2 babies. This is it now, the babies are coming, this was the first year with sprogs. People have come and gone, but I have organized this little gathering for 9 years now and it is one of the highlights of my year.

We remembered where we started, in a basement in China Town. We have gradually climbed the ladder with the years, on Sunday we went to Hakkasan. We couldn’t afford it, but we are of an age that we should be able to, so we did it anyway. What the hell, and it was worth every penny. We talked, we laughed, we remembered, and we were together, this little family of ours, and the food just kept on coming.

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 30, 2006


It seems to be my question of the moment. Why did the bombers do it? Why did those kids kill Damilola? Why doesn't Tony Blair want an enquiry? Why can't I sleep? Why is my friend being such a twat? Why Why Why?

Today I have another one.

Why can't I post comments on anyones site any more?

Later....thanks for all your help guys (not!)...but seems i have been permitted back into the land of commenters.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

I've fallen for my shrink

Oh what a cliche am I?!

Single, emotionally unstable girl falls for understanding, sympathetic, charming older psychiatrist. I am so sad.

I even thought about what I was going to wear today. They commented at work how smart I was looking. One of the boys even smirked 'you scrub up well'. The truth is I have read his first report on me to my GP. Two things have lodged themselves in my mind. The first has been niggling away at me ever since and I was determined to prove him wrong.

'She presented as a tall, casually dressed woman'.

'Casually dressed'?! He could have said 'fucked up, over emotional, neurotic freak' and I would have been less riled. 'Casually dressed' indeed. I'll show him.

The second comment made me laugh. It is ingrained in my records for ever. I hope the government have a good probe and go to town with their Freedom on Information Act.

'She is very angry with Tony Blair'.

I liked that.

As always I was dreading it. I felt sick as I sat on the bus and wondered what was the point of dragging it all up again. But we didn't drag it all up, we never do. We talked about the last month, how I'm feeling now and my plans for the future. He knows how I feel, he understands, and he thinks it's all 'normal'. That is the most reassuring part of these visits. I walk out with a spring in my step feeling like a normal human being for a few hours.

He said my progress was 'encouraging'. I talked about the problems with work, sleeping, I even told him about the deterioration of my friendship with Claire. He said it was all 'normal'. Oh joy!

He hit the nail on the head with Claire . He asked if I had always been the stronger one in our relationship, and he was right, I have. He told me this often happens in situations like mine. She is used to me being there in her times of need, she counts on it, but now I have found out that when I am in need she can't cope and she runs. It was up to me to decide, he said, but if I was comfortable with this arrangement then our friendship could last. He pointed out that some friendships last the years just because they're there, out of habit rather than strength. When something like this happens it leads you to reassess and sometimes you may realise that you're not actually getting anything out of it. It's like cleaning out your wardrobe, I guess, and throwing out much loved clothes that don't fit you any more. Maybe we've grown out of each other.

He was worried about my sleeping and concerned about my lack of concentration and productivity at work. He interestingly pointed out that sometimes we judge ourselves unfairly. Sometimes we have a warped recollection of how in control we were before the trauma and we compare ourselves to a falsely high standard. Perhaps he's right, maybe I wasn't as wonderfully efficient before as I think I was. I do know, though, that I have never forgotten a meeting before.

I am doing well, though, I can't ask for more than that. 3-6 months he said, before I'm fully recovered, although as he always reminds me I will never be the same again.

We are never the same though are we. Each day changes us in a small but invisible way. I am determined to recover, although sometimes it feels like a never ending challenge. I will keep on fighting through, with the help of my loved ones and fellow passengers.

Will I be 'me' again, or will I be someone new? I don't know, but I'm sure as hell going to be someone better.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

WARNING: Giving up smoking can seriously damage your hand

I have just spoken to a friend of mine. He was a Marlboro reds man through and through. If ever anyone berated him about smoking full strength tobacco rather than the more lung friendly 'Light' version he would respond 'there's no such thing as Cancer Light'.

He gave up for new year. He works freelance and has been pretty quiet of late and feeling extremely frustrated and sorry for himself. Yesterday he was pottering around his flat trying to do some filing. He piled a heap of paperwork on top of a stool. It fell off scattering itself all over the room. He lost it. He blames the fags. His pent up anger released itself as he punched the nearest wall with all his might. He has shattered his hand and and has just come out of major surgery. His right hand, now he can't even work.

Moral of the story? Don't give up smoking!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Remembering Damilola

The resurgence of the Damilola Taylor murder case today has given me the opportunity to reflect upon the purpose of this blog and ask myself ‘Am I still me?’

I am able to compare my thoughts and reactions to this second trial with the feelings I had during the first one in 2002. This is a case that I have held exceedingly close to my heart. My greatest love was a relative of his. When I saw Damilola’s beautiful smile beaming from the Standard tonight my heart skipped a beat, there is such a family resemblance. It not only took me back to 2000, when he was murdered, but to a time before that when my own wounds were still raw.

Damilola’s murder came 7 years after the heart wrenching death of Stephen Lawrence. Stephen’s murderers still walk free. However, thanks to the unswaying determination of his parents this monumental injustice has, at least, been the catalyst to fundamental changes within the police force and the country as a whole. Lord Macpherson introduced the phrase ‘institutional racism’ to the English language and it could not be ignored. It is still here, the terminology and the racism. Those in power have been forced to sit up and listen. Changes have taken place, the Metropolitan Police have had to overhaul the very core of their thinking. They are not there yet, but the Lawrences, in their inimitable manner of focused calm have ensured that it cannot fall off the agenda.

When Damilola was murdered the country sighed together ‘not again’. Another black teenager violently butchered in a south London suburb. The similarities were unnerving. I remember thinking that at least they would get it right this time. The world’s media were upon them watching their every move. Hovering, waiting for an excuse to dive in for the kill. When the trial collapsed I was incredulous. It was based on the evidence of a seemingly ‘unstable’ 14 year old girl whose story was endlessly inconsistent. This, coupled with tales of vast sums of money being bandied about by the Daily Mail, led to the embarrassingly pathetic disintegration of the Crown Prosecution’s case. It was a disgrace. I was filled with fury and disbelief. I ranted and I raved, I felt sick with despair at the state of our criminal justice system. As a white person I felt responsible. How could this happen again? Why could our country and courts not protect him?

I felt nothing compared to his devastated family, I felt ashamed at my anger when I witnessed their dignified resilience.

This time around it is different. I read about the ‘mistakes’,

“At the Old Bailey on Tuesday, prosecutors said the new evidence -- possibly missed through "simple human error" -- pointed with certainty at the three defendants”

But I don’t feel anger. I feel relief for the family and admiration for the Police officers who have doggedly been rifling through the evidence for 6 years. They have not let it go, they have not forgotten. The pressure on them at the time must have been crumbling. I can, now, understand how they could have cobbled together a case in desperation in order to placate their numerous critics. I count myself amongst them. I cannot imagine how his poor parents are going to sit through another trial, listening a second time to the horrific accounts of the murder of their remarkable son. I hope to the very depths of my heart that this time it is not in vain.

The boys being charged were 12, 13 and 14 at the time. Damilola was only 10. This leads me back to a previous post, the understanding of hate. It takes me along the same train of thought of trying to understand why. Why did the bombers do it? Why did these kids do it? Maybe I will never understand but I’m going to give it my all before I give up.

I don’t know their ethnic origin. The eldest of the three is the only one who can be legally named, Hassan Jihad. What does this tell us? Is it relevant? Or was it just a random act of violence. They were kids, did they know what they were doing? I think they did.

It is more evidence of what I fail to understand in this world, but this does not mean I will ignore it.

Damilola’s parents and family deserve to see justice done, their pain and their patience has been incomprehensible. My love goes out to them and I am praying for their son, and our society.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Perfect day

Yesterday I think I made up for my meeting-forgetting uselessness of Thursday.

I had friends for dinner last night. One of them sent me a text when she got home which sums up my day beautifully succinctly. It also happens to boost my flailing ego at the same time, so I am going to share it with you:

'H, thank you! You are amazing, cycled to see whale, had hair done, bought prawns and cooked amazing dinner! You are a legend!'

Boy do I feel better.

Very sad about the whale, but so glad I saw him, it was awe inspiring seeing that huge dark tail emerging out of the water, it took my breath away. It filled me with hope.

I am not a whale expert and my opinion is probably completely invalid, however it seems to me they should have stayed away from him, banned all boats on the Thames and let him figure it out himself. Instead they scared the shit out of the poor thing, no wonder he didn't make it.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

From Osama to whales

Well, I was all ready to have a good chat about Osama tonight, but I'm too exhausted so watch this space.

Yesterday I had a bad day. Today was better. I was feeling encouraged by the fact that I haven't had 'the fear' on the tube this week. Having just sat down to write, I've realised that I was off sick on Monday and I went to Manchester today, so I only actually traveled beneath the surface for 3 days. Not such an achievement as I was leading myself to believe. An achievement all the same.

I've spoken about my lack of motivation at work before. It doesn't seem important. I keep oversleeping. I can't concentrate. My short term memory is on a par with the days when my staple diet was marijuana and white wine. I can be a bit of an anal perfectionist these days ('these days' being pre 7th July), I can't abide messing up, especially at work. This has meant that I rarely do. Yesterday I did.

It all started when the client I was going to see today called up and told me she thought our presentation was 'crap'. In the old days I would have defended myself, done my best and if that hadn't worked would have put the phone down thinking it was her problem. I know our presentation was great. They used to call me 'the rottweiler' at work, I didn't take any prisoners. Yesterday I tried to explain my opinion, but she kept the upper hand. I put the phone down and I cried. CRIED! Jesus, it's a job, a client, what is wrong with me?!

As if that wasn't bad enough, the whole scenario upset me so much, I had long conversations with my client's boss, I sent emails, I tried to rescue the situation. By 4.00 I had done all I could, I ate a belated lunch and calmed myself down. I looked at my diary and my heart leapt into my mouth, in fact it leapt out of me completely. 2.30 meeting with new client, huge job we've just won. I FORGOT!

He was charming. I told him I'd got stuck in a meeting and he seemed to completely understand. Then he said 'I was just worried about you, I thought you might have got stuck on the tube or something'. God I nearly cried again, not his fault, but he didn't know quite how close to the bone he was.

So today I went to Manchester for my sins. I schmoozed. I smiled, I flattered, they love me again. Mission accomplished! So I have saved one near disaster, I have a feeling, in my current state of mind, there will be many more.

I arrived at Euston to be confronted by a picture of a whale on the front of the Standard. I had to go against the grain and buy one. The girl in front of me said 'It's not April is it?' 'So have they found the Loch Ness Monster in the Serpentine?!'. A whale in the Thames.

It has always been my dream to see a whale. I have seen dolphins galore and they never cease to bring joy to my heart. On the 7th July I eventually made it to Cornwall. We woke up the following morning to find the bay teeming with basking sharks. It was magical. Today the whale was hanging out in Battersea, where I work, I was in bloody Manchester.

Tomorrow I'm going to get up early, forsake my run for a bike ride. I'm going to cycle along the Thames and look for the little beauty. I hope he will survive his visit to our wonderful city. I hope the shock doesn't kill him. I hope we can heal each others souls and live to see another day.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Message from Asia

Bird Flu hits Hong Kong Disneyland

I received this from a friend in South East Asia today. He usually writes me no more than a line, so I am touched that he has spent the time to pass on his advice to me. I am moved that he has time in his life to be concerned about me. Somehow I also feel annoyed and I'm not sure why. Much as I feel I cannot cope with this thing on my own, it rattles me when people tell me how I should be coping. They are probably right, but I don't like to be told.

"I hope that with the start of the new year you can get some closure on the events of last year, it was obviously a very traumatic time for you, but maybe something positive came out of it, new friends maybe?
Don't count on any help from the government, they have there own agenda, there is only one person who can bring closure to this and that is yourself. It will take time, yes, but you should start to look forward rather than back. I think that's the best way to move forward. Don't want to sound like I'm preaching but am a little concerned that you are getting a little stuck up on what happened. It's easy for me too say this, I wasn't there, and I guess living in Asia for so long makes me think 'Asian', i'e shrug it off and say its fate.
Life is far too short to let what some wankers did effect you.
Anyway I hope that this year things get better, not back to as they were, as that will never happen after such an event, but better."

He did attach a hilarious picture which almost makes up for it!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

How do we understand hate?

I have always been a bit of an underdog-supporting type. My friends have expressed many opinions on this trait over the years ranging from ‘too kind’, ‘mug’, ‘stupid’ to ‘woolly jumper wearing liberal’ and ‘Stoke Newington leftie’.

I confess I am all of these things (apart from stupid, or indeed woolly jumper wearing)) and I’m not in a hurry to change that.

I have engaged in various debates with people since 7th July, many of whom have found it hard to understand my lack of anger towards the bombers. I don’t hate them, I don’t know how to.

Watching the news last night, I realised that the bombings were just another manifestation of something I had been trying to understand all my life. Hate.

The seedy secret videos of BNP leader Nick Griffin froze my heart and sickened my soul. I have tried to understand Mohammed Sidique Khan and his compatriots. In my most ‘leftie liberal’ moments I have even tried to blame our society for allowing them to grow up in an environment which enabled such hatred to germinate and bloom.

I do not feel the same way about Nick Griffin, but should I? I do not have any urge to understand him. When I heard his words I felt the first early rumblings of hatred. What is the difference between these 2 men? One was prepared to die for his cause, but the fundamentals of their hatred are the same.

‘The court heard how Mr Griffin addressed a crowd at the Reservoir Tavern in Keighley on 19 January 2004 and told them that white society had turned into a multi-racial hell-hole as Asian Muslims aimed to conquer the country.’

Khan expresses similar sentiments in his video where he tries to justify and explain his actions. He claims that UK foreign policy is "oppressing" Muslims. These two extremes of society are fighting a common cause against each other. They are locked head to head, differentiated only by their chosen enemy.

In order to comprehend Khan, we need to understand Griffin. They are fuelling each others hatred.

I am currently reading ‘The Word and The Bomb’ by Hanif Kureishi. This morning I read a passage which helped me on my road to understanding:

‘At this time I found it difficult to get on with anyone. I was frightened and hostile. I suspected that my white friends were capable of racist insults. And many of them did taunt me, innocently. I reckoned that at least once every day since I was five years old I had been racially abused. I became incapable of distinguishing between remarks that were genuinely intended to hurt and those intended as ‘humour’.
I became cold and distant. I began to feel I was very violent. But I didn’t know how to be violent. If I had known, if that had come naturally to me, or if there’d been others I could follow, I would have made my constant fantasies of revenge into realities, I would have got into trouble, willingly hurt people, or set fire to things.’

I have much further to go in my quest, but each day I am learning that people DO hate. We are not all the same and some people do not deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt. Before I can accept this I need to truly understand.

I am not there yet.

Pictures from the tube

Cozy clones.........are they touching?

Monday, January 16, 2006

January Joggers

I started running last Easter. I gave up smoking and invested in the most aesthetically disturbing pair of shoes I have ever had the misfortune of owning. Having always looked down upon these pained, strained, lycra clad lumberers ('get a life' I was fond of muttering as I drove by) I had now joined their ranks and I was hooked.

I had no Idea then what a sanity saving move I was making. These last few PTSD ridden months my running has been the very foundation of my recovery. I was off work for 8 weeks, even now I find it hard to comprehend. Sometimes I worry I was overreacting, how can I have needed to be at home for so long. I kept myself busy, I didn't succumb to the mind numbing lure of daytime TV. My life became ruled by lists, I never managed to cross more items off than I added. I was chasing my tail but at least I was chasing something.

Throughout those dark haunted weeks I clung on to the routine of my feet pounding the earth as if my very existence depended on it. It was my life raft in the midst of a fierce stormy ocean. It kept me afloat, it kept me alive. 'Weak in mind, strong in body' I thought, and clung onto it for dear life.

I was free when I ran, my thoughts wandered, my heart pounded, my muscles strained, it was liberation. The first time I cried I was running. I wasn't really aware of the music playing through my headphones, before I knew it there were uncontrollable tears streaming down my cheeks and Chris Martin was singing to me:

'Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
Tears stream down on your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face'

The tears continued to stream and it felt like something had been opened, the champagne cork had flown off and the bubbles were escaping. It was joyful relief.

I have to confess to being a bit lax since Christmas. I blame the January blues, the grey skies, the dark damp London gloom. Yesterday I went for my first run of 2006. I extracted myself from underneath my duvet, put on too many layers (it really wasn’t that cold) and hit the pavements. It felt great to be out there again. But something was different when I got to the park. The narrow worn track around the perimeter had multiplied, now there were about five muddy lines across the grass. It all looked slightly unfamiliar, it had changed. I kept running and was relieved at the ease with which my legs were moving, I wasn't paying much of a price for my lazy start to the year.

I became aware of people overtaking me, I rounded the corner and found one of them crouched and panting under a tree. 'Pace yourself' I thought smugly. I followed my usual route, enjoying the random mix my ipod was playing for me. I found myself jostling for space. Two chatting girls in front, you could hardly call it running. I overtook them as a burly rugger bugger in shorts flew past me. There were people coming towards us too, it was all getting a bit chaotic, I didn't like it. Then I noticed the dazzling flashes of white against the muddy ground. New trainers, everywhere. I saw the slightly surprised looks in their faces 'what am I doing here?' they seemed to be thinking. I felt superior and rather territorial. This was my park, my earth to pound, it had been invaded. January Joggers, I hope they don't last. I hope February brings a bit of peace to us old timers.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What's the weather like up there?

I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked that in my life. I am 6ft 2. I am a girl. I am tall.

''Do you play basketball?' and 'Gosh you're tall' are other old favorites. The ingenuity and the wit behind these comments never ceases to dumbfound me. Everyone who has ever uttered one of these sharp witted one liners has delivered it with the originality of a cloned mouse. They are stunningly convinced that never before have I had the good fortune to stumble upon a being with such show stopping humour. They are wrong.

You would have thought that a person such as myself, being in possession of such obviously superior intelligence and wit (not to mention height) would have gathered, over the years, a collection of piercing retaliations to throw at these clowns. I have not.

What do I do? Sometimes I ignore them, usually I mutter 'yes I know'. Boy oh boy do I make them feel small. I walk away with my head held high satisfied with the efficient manner with which I have deflated them. I am pathetic.

What is the answer? It's out there, but I have never found it. I have a badge that says 'not to scale'. I thought that was funny for a while. I nearly bought a t-shirt declaring 'no I do not play basketball'. Nothing comes close to expressing the indignation I feel towards these numpsters. I need help.

What makes them think they have the right? What is so unique about us tallies? Do inebriated suits walk up to overweight girls in bars and ask 'are you a sumo wrestler?', do builders whistle at my vertically challenged sisters 'hey shortie!'? What is it about being tall? Why do people feel they have an open invitation to comment upon the glaringly obvious? I don't know.

I hated being tall when I was a teenager. I think, however, we all despise something about ourselves during those hormone fuelled years. I have grown into my height, it has shaped my personality and now I walk proud. It makes me different, I am memorable. Of course there are times when I would love to be able to slip under the blanket of a crowd and become invisible, but mostly I enjoy being different. I am me.

On the 7th July we were plunged into darkness, we remember each other from the words that were spoken. We recall men, women and voices but we do not remember faces. Our bonds were formed through being there together, through talking and touching, not from seeing. It is very rare that people from the same carriage recognise each other visually. Everyone remembers me.

Friday, January 13, 2006

I have a sore head today......

It is Friday 13th and the tube didn't blow up!......

Life is good.

I have just read Rachel's
latest post, I cried, but my heart is full of hope and happiness.

Thank you Hassan for your beautiful words.

You have said all I would ever want to say, or hear.

LATER (head better)........I have now read Hassan's piece about 10 times. I sent it to everyone I know, we read it in the pub after a few bottles of vino tinto on Friday night. It never loses its strength.

The press and so called politicians in this country are the self proclaimed spokespeople for the Muslim community. They feel they are qualified to report back to us underlings what this community thinks. Why don't they just let them tell us themselves? Well we know why, but Hassan's words just brought it home to me how rare it is to hear directly from the people this government are so fond of speaking on behalf of.

I have said many times since 7th July that the only way forward is for us to understand WHY it happened. I hold no anger towards the bombers, I feel pity and confusion. I want to know why they did it. I want to get deep under their skin and really understand. I want a public inquiry for this very reason. The only chance we have of stopping this from happening again is to understand the reason. Why did 4 young, educated, intelligent, stable, mentally healthy, British young men blow themselves up in London with the specific intent of randomly killing their fellow citizens. They didn't care who they killed, they just wanted to kill. They were prepared to sacrifice their own lives, some left behind wives and children. What drives a man to do this? I want to know.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Now here’s a spooky thing

I used to sleep so deeply that an ex-boyfriend once said he worried I was dead. I don’t any more, I am very much alive in my sleep, and usually awake.

It’s getting better but I seem to have a thing about 4.00 to 5.00 in the morning. Last night it was worse. I play a little game with myself now. When I find I am defying sleep for no apparent reason I entertain myself by trying to guess what the time is. Hardly a wild night out I know, but it keeps me amused whilst the rest of London sleeps. When I’m bored of that I sometimes send a text to a friend in a different time zone, it’s comforting to know that there’s life out there.

The first time I opened my eyes last night I thought ‘Here we go again, I’m bored of this game, 4.30 am to be sure, it always is’. But no, I’d been lulled into a false sense of security, I thought I knew the rules, they’d thrown a dummy, it was only 2am. Jeez, a bit of variation at last, now how’s that for late night entertainment, I had been fooled

For once it didn’t take long to fall back into slumber, despite the excitement of seeing a different number glowing out of the darkness. Unfortunately it wasn’t peaceful. A nightmare, I always seem to resort to violence now. A few weeks ago I woke up beating the crap out of my pillow, last night it was my duvet’s turn, kicking the life out of it. I am thankful to be single through these nights of combat, if I wasn’t I probably would be by now, or I’d have been locked up for husband battering.

So here I am, face to face with the old familiar 4.30am. ‘Hello again’ I thought, ‘missed you earlier’. This time I was wide awake, I texted New Zealand. I gave up hope of regaining my unconscious state, but decided to remain in close contact with my earlier assailant. The duvet and I snuggled up and stared at the ceiling listening to the rumbles of the world outside.

The next thing I knew I was having my third innings. Guess the time again. Eyes still firmly shut and 8.22 flashed before them. ‘It can’t be’ I thought ‘that would mean I’ve overslept’. It was impossible, the very nature of oversleeping requires an absence of consciousness. I opened my eyes and there it was……..8.22am. How did I know?!

Psychiatric care fails patients

Well blow me over with a feather....You don't say!

I am not throwing stones at my own argument here, but what is the bloody point of the government paying money for woolly reports like this.

I could have told them that....and have been trying to tell people that for years.

I take my hat off to people like Marjorie Wallace of SANE who has the patience and perseverance to be a voice out there battling for sufferers of mental health problems in our community.

The resources the government wastes in psychiatric hospitals, for an almost primitive service is a disgrace. The system is crumbling around us, people write reports, they pledge money, nothing changes.

As it crumbles, the staff who have dedicated their lives in trying to help these people are lured off into the private sector. Quite frankly I am not surprised, but it is a crying shame. People who have it within them to make a difference do it because they DO want to make a difference. But to do this they need support and resources which they are not getting. So what does the government do? It hires agency staff at ludicrous hourly rates, in their thousands. Money well spent I say.

Most of these staff come from abroad to make a quick buck. All they are interested in is clocking up the hours, filling in their time sheets and collecting the cash. Even if they are more well intentioned, they are completely unable to make any difference whatsoever as they are shuffled from one hospital to another on a daily basis. This gives neither them or the patients any consistency and helps no one.

'Too many patients are fearful of mental health services'....well I wonder why?! Filthy wards, terrible food, no privacy or security, possessions stolen on a regular basis, violence, suicides, I could go on. These environments would make even the sanest of people fall apart.

'More patients than beds'......and do you know what they do with them when they can't find a bed?...they put them in PRISON! For weeks, sometimes months until a bed becomes available. Constructive.

'Too many people are also fearful of those with mental health problems'....fuelled by tabloid headlines about crazy murderers let out of hospital too early. Do you know how many people are murdered by sane people every year?...hundreds. Only a handful are killed by people with mental health problems (despite the fact that 1 in 4 of us suffer from mental illness at some stage in our lives) yet they hit the headlines every time.

And whilst I'm at it, none of these reports ever seem to mention the starkly obvious fact that 90% of patients in psychiatric hospitals are black males. Why I wonder?

I'll get off that particular soap box now.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

There's a moose loose aboot this hoose

I went away for a few days over christmas, I arrived home to be greeted by a loud squeaking noise & a little black ball of fluff scurrying across my kitchen floor. I am a girl, I screamed.

I don't like mice, they are vermin. I live on my own, I have no pets, If I want company I invite it round. If you're not invited you're not welcome. Suddenly mice seem to be everywhere. I went to a friend's for dinner on Friday night, she's just bought a cat, she's had enough of the invasion of the mice every winter. She already has 2 kids, the cat is number 3. It sleeps with a hot water bottle.

I hate cats even more than I hate mice, so that's not an option. Then I was on the bus and overheard a girl talking on the phone to her friend, I could hear her sqealing down the phone, she had mice. 'Call pest control' her friend said. I did that once before whan I had mice many years ago. Mr pest control turned up in a boiler suit, went into the kitchen and shut the door. He said it was best we didn't see what he was about to do. He came out a few minutes later with a plastic bag and blood down the front of his boiler suit. So that's not very appealing either.

My brother started telling me about humane traps. What am I supposed to do, collect them in a cage and when I've got about 20 of them drive out into the country & set them free, only to invade someone else's privacy with their scurrying, squeaking and shitting. No, I need to kill them 'the fuckers will rue the day'........(I've always wanted an excse to say that). Traps are no good, I'm too squeamish, I would faint if I had to touch a dead, bloodied mouse. So poison it is. So far so good.....

This unfortunate fellow, on the otherhand, went for a much more dramatic solution, sadly I think he will rue the day, but I guess the fuckers did too.

'Mouse burns down house in revenge
By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles
(Filed: 10/01/2006)

A mouse wreaked revenge on a pensioner who tried to kill it by tossing it on to a bonfire. It scuttled back into the man's house and set the building ablaze.

Luciano Mares, 81, had been bothered by mice, so when he trapped the creature in his home he was determined to dispose of it.

"I had some leaves burning outside and threw it in the fire," said Mr Mares, of Fort Sumner, a village in New Mexico.

As planned, the mouse caught fire. But then it suddenly sprinted back towards the wooden house and ran beneath a window.

The fire, which took the efforts of 13 firemen over three hours to extinguish, destroyed the entire contents of the house.

Mr Mares is now staying at a local motel.'

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

They are sucking me in again!

I am not going to write about this again, but I keep getting sucked in

Here's a post I left on an anti war site today:

'i am not a conspiracy theorist
by hollyfinch on 10.01.2006 [11:19 ]
I am a great believer in freedom of speach and our right to the truth. I am as enraged as others on this site by this governments lies and hoodwinking over Iraq. I have always been against this war. I have voted labour all my life until the last elections. I just couldn't bring myself to vote for Tony, I didn't trust him any more, and I still don't....so I voted for an alcoholic instead! well i probably have more in common with him these days....

I am fighting for a public enquiry, we need to know the truth about Iraq, the truth about why 7th July happened. But I do NOT believe that the government was responsible. 4 young muslim men boarded those trains and that bus and blew themselves up out of hatred. That is my opinion and I am entitled to it. (It happens in Israel every day, why not here?) I want to understand WHY they did it. I want to stop it from happening again. You obviously have your opinions, but please do not try to preach to me and convert me to your way of thinking. I do not believe in god and I do not believe the government blew up my train. No preacher is going to convince me otherwise on either count.

I do not want my words or my account of what happened to be used as collateral to back up your claims. I do not want the waters of my message to be muddied by you guys. Mike malaysia, I apologise for implying that you personally have been responsible for the treatment some of my friends have been receiving for conspiracy theorists, I apologise for tarring you all with the same brush. I hope you can prove to me that you are not like them.

Stopwar, thank you for your kind words, I know the story kept changing, it was bedlam, chaos, confusion, of COURSE it kept changing.

What I find difficult to understand is why it is so hard for people to accept that these 4 young men carried out this crime. Isn't that enough of a conspiracy for you to get your teeth into? Why is it easier to believe that the Government did it? I find it extraordinary. There is hatred in this world and it seems to me some people just can't accept it. I am not in the game of hate, I am trying to forgive. This is my journey, this is what I need to do to move on. I hope you can appreciate and understand that. Thank you for listening. '

Monday, January 09, 2006

at last i laugh on the tube!

male, 50 something, shorts, no socks, no shoes, 6th jan, reading the economist.......why?!

well he made me laugh anyway!!

6 months on

The Wounded Angel by Emily Young
It was a cold damp and gloomy day in London yesterday. It was 6 months after the bombings on 7th July, a day when so many lives were taken away and others were shattered.

Half a year, is it really? When I sit on the tube and it breaks suddenly, loudly, without warning, it feels like 6 minutes ago. When I am drinking and laughing with my fellow passengers, I struggle to remember my life before, it could be 6 years.

Kings Cross United were meeting to mark this day together on the platform at Kings Cross. Five members had volunteered to read the service between them. I was reading the names of those that lost their lives in the tunnel that day. Yesterday morning I felt uneasy. I was filled with uncertainty about what we were doing. I felt I needed to move on and this ceremony felt as if it was dragging it all up again. I had volunteered to read the names, I didn't know these people, who was I to remember them when so many that loved them were struggling with the emptiness.

For a moment I had almost decided not to go. I would just go and meet them in the pub afterwards. They would understand, someone else would read the names. Then I thought of all my fellow passengers, the police, the London Underground staff, the driver, I thought of my friends, how we had supported each other through these last 6 months, and I wanted to be with them, I didn't want to let them down.

We met upstairs in Kings Cross, trying to look discreet. There were about 30 of us in all, carrying flowers and wreaths which we were trying to hide. We hoped we had managed to put the press off the scent. We wanted to remember in private, this was for us.

Steve and Gerard (the British Transport police who rescued us) were with us, they were not on duty, but they couldn't help shepherding and protecting us, it was reassuring to have them there, always on duty.

The atmosphere was somber, but as usual we manage to laugh and joke and fight of the nerves, we all knew it was going to be difficult, emotional. For some it would be the first time they had been back here. As we descended the escalator, fighting through the football fans we all silenced. The station staff were magnificent. They cordoned off a small area for us at the end of the platform, by the mouth of the tunnel where so many of us had been trapped. When we arrived at this spot there was an almost simultaneous outpouring of grief. We wept, we held each other, we were together, we remembered.

The station must have been crowded, trains pulled in and out, apparently a tube driver stepped out of his carriage for a moment to reflect with us. I was oblivious to everything except our little group, the words, the tears and the tunnel. We held hands, we were shaking. The list of names spilled out of my mouth, I could hear myself, I didn't stumble, I felt as if I was standing behind myself watching. My knees were shaking, I took deep breaths to stave off the tears. At the end of the ceremony we left the platform slowly, I paused for a moment and stared deep into the darkness of the tunnel. Silently Steve put his arm around me and lead me away, he had guided me from this place once before, but we were strangers then.

Afterwards I felt drained, exhausted, emotional, but proud, proud of us all. I had a cigarette, then many more, damn and blast, but I had to.

We were meeting in the pub later, most of the group went after the service. I went home for an hour, I just needed a moment. I lay on the sofa, watched super-nanny and ate Marks & Spencers microwave lasagne. Refreshed I went to meet them all in the pub. Old friends, new faces, all laughing and happy, united with our common bond. 'Some marriages are based on less than this' someone once joked, and it's true, We feel like we have known each other for ever.

More congratulations to Steve on his MBE. He looked bashful and uncomfortable. " I was just doing my job' he said. 'I wish I could take Kings Cross United with me, you are the real heroes, I'll tell the Queen about you'.

We raised our glasses, we are not heroes, we were just on a tube together, now we are friends, but not heroes, it could have been anyone, it could have been you.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Kings Cross United rememberance ceremony

'We are here today in fellowship, to remember our fellow passengers from the morning of July 7th 2005. We think of them often, especially those who did not finish their journey. We think of all those who loved them and knew them. We think of the injured, the desolate and those who mourn. We think of the victims of the other London bomb attacks. We think of all those whose lives were changed by the events of 7th July. We think of the victims of all acts of terrorism'.

ALL: We hold them in our thoughts.

'We think of those who helped us on that morning and afterwards, the staff of London Underground, especially the drivers of our train and the staff of Russell Square and Kings Cross. We think of the police officers, the fire officers, the ambulance drivers, the emergency services, the doctors and nurses and surgeons. We think of the kindness of passers-by and we think of all those who love London and who thought of the people of the city on that day and who held us in their thoughts.'

ALL: We hold them in our thoughts

'We remember our fellow passengers from our train
James Adams, Samantha Badham, Phillip Beer, Anna Brandt, Ciaran Cassidy, Rachelle Chung For Yuen, Elizabeth Daplyn, Arthur Frederick, Karolina Gluck, Gamze Gunoral,
Lee Harris, Ojara Ikeagwu, Emily Jenkins, Adrian Johnson, Helen Jones, Susan Levy, Shelley Mather, Michael Matsushita, James Mayes, Behnaz Mozakka, Mihaela Otto,
Atique Sharifi, Ihab Slimane, Christian Small, Monika Suchocka, Mala Trivedi'

ALL: We hold them in our thoughts

ALL: When we all got on the train we did not know that for some of us it would be a last journey, and that some of us would not come home.

We did not all finish our journey together, but we carry you in our hearts. To all that loved you, knew you, worked with you, miss you, our thoughts are with you.

Wherever we travel, we know that we are all fellow passengers,and we are with each other on our journey.'

Silence for one minute

A short prayer from the gentle service of Compline, at the end of the day
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake.

ALL: Amen.

If you were on the Piccadilly line train and wish to contact fellow passengers you can email us at kingscrossunited@yahoo.co.uk.

If you weren't on our train but feel affected by the July bombings you can talk to the 7th July Assistance Centre on 0845 054 7444.

If you want to leave a message then you can leave a comment on the blog and it will be passed on to Kings Cross United. It helps if you leave the email for fellow passengers to use as we answer the emails in our spare time and it does slow up our response to survivors if we get a lot of other mails to go through. Thank you.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Give us a break Ken

I feel exhausted. Four days back at work and that elevated feeling of relaxation has been shattered. Just getting out of bed and facing the day after a yet another sleepless night takes all my energy. I have bags under my eyes, my frown lines look like tectonic faults and my teeth are aching from grinding them at night.

hey ho.....and last night I got a letter from Ken.

For one naive moment when I read TfL on the envelope, I thought that someone was finally, officially, acknowledging that I was there on 7th July. No-one ever has. All the help and support I have received I have found on my own and through the help and advice of my fellow passengers at Kings Cross United.

Then I opened the letter. A bloody fine! Apparently I was filmed driving in a bus lane at midnight (0.00 exactly!) on Shoreditch High Street on 12th November. Thanks Ken.

I know the law is the law, and just because my train blew up & just because I was ill doesn't make me above the law. But really, a bus lane at midnight? Have you ever tried catching a bus at midnight? They are few and far between. I fully support them during the day, and in rush hour, and I never knowingly drive in them at these times. I always check the sign to see when they are active, obviously this time I didn't, I just assumed that midnight would be ok.

I remember that night. I went to dinner at my godmother's. Her husband has just left her. Aged 65 she has had to move in with her newly married daughter. My parents were going and I felt obliged to go even though I hadn't really been out for weeks. I was still off work at the time suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was going through a particularly low stage where I just didn't want to see anyone. However it was my godmother, and my parents, I had to go.

I was miserable company all night & drove home feeling guilty that I hadn't made more effort to be cheerful, but I couldn't, it all seemed so meaningless. I remember driving through Shoreditch too, I had my window open as I was having a fag, the roads were busy, people out on a Saturday night having fun. A mini pulled up next to me at the lights, the guy in the passenger seat wound down his window & said 'my friend really likes your car'........'thank you' I replied 'I like it too!'. My mood was transformed in an instant, I drove home with a smile on my face.

Ken wiped that smile off last night. I know he doesn't know, but still. I have spent a small fortune on cabs since 7th July. I didn't get back on a tube for 6 weeks, I still avoid it if I can. I was off work for 2 months, I then went back part time & was paid a fraction of my salary. Now I get stung with a £100 fine. It's not worth fighting, it will just cause me even more stress. I will just pay it and try to forget about it.

I have had my forms to claim compensation from Ken's charity, that he set up after the bombings, for months. I have been undecided about claiming as I felt that there were so many others who needed it more than I did.

Last night I filled them in. Today I will post them.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Back underground with the rats

I was feeling quite pleased with myself last night. Yesterday I went out for lunch with my bosses to celebrate me finally coming back to work full time, we drank champagne. I had managed 2 days of commuting in rush hour without feeling afraid. I was feeling positive and hopeful.

This morning I free falled back down into terror. It was all too familiar, and took me back AGAIN. I was late. There were no tubes on the board. When it did finally arrive it was a sardine tin. I just couldn't get on. Immediately I felt dissapointed with myself, a failure. The next one arrived, slightly emptier, I got on but I was already feeling sick. I stood in 'my spot' like I always do. I have to be where I was that day, I haven't travelled on any other part of the tube yet. Silly supersticion but I can't crack it.

By the time we got to Arsenal (1 stop) I wanted to get off. My 'shrink's' voice was echoing in my head 'you have to ride through the anxiety'.....don't get off, don't get off, I was telling myself. the train filled up quickly, it was as packed as that day. I tried not to look up so that I didn't actually register how crowded it was, but I still knew. We arrived at Kings Cross, I was shaking and feeling sick. Then there was an announcement 'if there are any London Transport Police in the station can they please come up to the platform'. 'Oh God, what is happening?'.....still I stayed on. I thought of Steve, the policemen who rescued us (now an MBE & our 'hero' and I felt a bit calmer). The train kept stopping in tunnels, I didn't wast to put my ipod on in case I missed anything. If something happened I wanted to hear it, be aware, be ready to react.

Gradually the crowds started to thin, I managed to get a seat. I was brething heavily, I could feel my teeth chattering and my hands shaking. I finally arrived at South Ken, I ran up the escelators gasping for fresh air, I couldn't breathe under there. I came out into the daylight, dazzled, shaking, relieved and I DIDN'T have a fag!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Do we care how much money the bombings cost?

Before Christmas I was called by a journalist from the BBC World Service.

He told me he had been carrying out some investigations into how much the London bombings cost. This is his story . He asked me what my reaction would be if he told me they had cost 'only a few hundred pounds'. It's not often that I find myself speechless. For once I wasn't speechless from shock, anger or disbelief, I was speechless because I just didn't care.

I felt rather pathetic as I eventually replied 'I don't know really'. Most unlike me I can assure you! I was just bemused and couldn't really see the point of the conversation. I told him that what I really cared about was the lives that had been lost and what had driven these young men to do this.

I really don't think that money is the issue. Once the mindset is there the money will come whether legally or illegally. It doesn't cost money to kill people. You can stab someone with a kitchen knife for pennies, you can pour petrol over a sleeping family's house and burn them alive for the price of a match. It doesn't cost money to kill, and quite frankly who cares if it does.

I care about learning from what happened, about having an independent public enquiry, about making this country a safer place to live in, and I don't care how much that costs either.

He seemed surprised at my indifference and kept pushing me to get some sort of a reaction. He told me that the Madrid bombings had cost significantly more. I reminded him that they weren't suicide bombers in Madrid. In London they paid with their lives, what is worth more?

I told him I could quite see how these atrocities could be carried out on a shoestring. There were 4 men involved, possibly a handful more. Personally I do not believe in this theory of an almighty Al Qaida power which is trawling the world and brainwashing vulnerable young men. I believe they did this on their own, they brain washed each other. What does it cost to do this? A couple of flights to Pakistan to receive basic training, materials to produce the explosives, train tickets to London, what else? Why should it cost any more.

52 people were killed....hundreds were injured and are still suffering...that is the cost and that is what we should be talking about....not money.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

back to school tomorrow

well the 'holiday' is over - as they say in the good ole US of A. More on political correctness later!

I have had a wonderfully relaxing time spent with loved ones. I have eaten for england, scotland ireland and even wales!...and drunk for the whole world. I went to church, sang hymns, lit candles, gave and received presents, walked in the park, ran on the beach & along clifftops battered by horizontal rain. I have stayed up late, slept later and spent 10 blissful days ABOVE GROUND! Not a single tube, that was my christmas present to myself. Tomorrow I have to fight my way back on and it's going to be a damn rude awakening.

I have sat on the sofa all day long on this stolen bank holiday, I watched The Maltese Falcon, Ghandi, 102 Dalmations....my brain is numb. I tried to read a book and kept myself from searching my drawers for a stale old fag by knitting and chewing nicorette....it's revolting!

I feel refreshed, but still not quite ready to face the world tomorrow. These days my job has slipped from the forefront of my mind. It feels rather pointless, self indulgent and at the end of the day I just don't care as much anymore. Clients, deadlines, even colleagues no longer have the same importance, I feel removed from it all. I loved my job, I was good at it, last easter I was promoted to a Director, now I just don't care. My psychiatrist says that this could be seen as a good thing. It's healthy, he says, not to let work rule your life. He's right. But now it doesn't, I'm not quite sure what does, and that is what I need to find out.

I was invited to a very old friend's wedding at the end of January, in New Zealand. Recently I have found decisiveness to be somewhat elusive. I have been over and over whether to go or not until I bored myself sick. Eventually I decided not to. I have always been the queen of holdays, but somehow it felt like running away. 3 weeks in new Zealand with my dear friend, I would have had a ball. But then I would have had to come back, and what would have changed, nothing.

Last night she phoned me....she called off the wedding on New Years Eve. Poor man. Rcently a friend of hers has died, and another (yours truly) has had a near escape. She said that she'd realised that 'this isn't a dress rehearsal'. She knew it wasn't right & she called it off. It's sad, but right.

We all need to remeber that more often. It's just such a shame that it always seems to take such tragic events to remind us. So remember....be happy....you deserve it.

Monday, January 02, 2006

to all you conspiracy theorists

you are sad and pitiful people. as you readily admit you know no one involved or affected by these BOMBINGS. We are living with it every day, we were there, we know. Who the hell are you to comment? What business do you have? This is our story, our experience and our life. We have to live with it, pick up the pieces and struggle through every bloody day. People risked their lives to rescue us, people DIED. Who the hell are you?

And for your train spotter minds, I was on the last carriage, there were emergency lights that came on in that carriage and emergency lights in the tunnel. There was no fire, it was a BOMB not a fire. Human flesh does not ignite. Put that in your bloody pipe and smoke it.

It's 2006

Happy New Year to you all.

Maybe it should be a defining moment, maybe it should be a new start, but in reality it's just another day. The Chinese, for instance, will be celebrating the beginning of their new year on 29th January, it will be the year of the dog.

We all need to mark time in some way, we use these markers as milestones by which we judge the progress and achievements in our lives. I wish a new year could really mean a new start, however we cannot escape our years, they all come together in the being that is us today, we are formed by our past, but we can still create our own future.

I ended 2005 with hope not hatred, I feel proud and honoured to be able to call so many of my fellow passengers my friends, I would not be where I am today without them. I raised a glass to them at midnight, we texted and phoned and we are meeting up on 7th Jan to mark 6 months since the bombings.

I have just got home. I'm sitting on my sofa eating chocolate and drinking Lucozade, Gone with the Wind is on TV. What more could a girl want?!

I spent last night at a friend's in west London. Four of us sat around the dinner table until at least 2am. We consumed seven courses of mouth-watering deliciousness and copious quantities of alcohol whose colour and texture changed with every course. It was heavenly and I can't think of a more perfect way to end this year or better company to see 2006 in with.

John went out with a good friend of mine at university, that's how we met. When she dumped him he was heartbroken and I think he thought by befriending me he could weadle his way back into favour with her. He even came and travelled around Kenya with me for a month as she had been there the year before and he thought it would give them more common ground. Sadly for him his plan backfired, he never got back together with her and has been lumbered with me as a friend for the past 17 years instead! He is now happily married to a wonderful lady called Lucy. Sometimes her friends ask her if she feels threatened by John's friendship with me. This summer, for instance, we went kite surfing on the south coast, we camped and shared a tent, Lucy was on holiday in Canada. She delights in telling people the story of our trip to Kenya to explain her lack of concern. John and I were camping deep in the Turkana desert with a group of others, huddled under the shade of a lone tree. The wildlife in whose company we were sleeping didn't bear thinking about. I was woken early in the morning by John, who was lying next to me, swearing loudly. My immediate thought was that there was some deadly creepy crawly in the tent. 'What is it?' I asked in a slight panic.....'I've got a hard on!' he said. I took a moment to weigh up the situation and realised I had two choices, tent with John's hard on or desert with hungry beasts. I chose the desert, and fled the tent at great speed in my pyjamas!

He is one in a million and has been a pillar of support to me throughout our friendship. His flat is like a second home to me and is a place I naturally gravitate to when times are tough. It's therefore not surprising that I've spent many a night there over the last 6 months, and I'm sure I will spend many more.

I eventually phoned Claire at 2am, she was in Devon with her boyfriend. I can forgive so many so much, I feel no anger towards the suicide bombers, but I am finding it difficult to forgive her and I don't know why. I am not angry that she went without me, I'm angry that she didn't have the guts to tell me that she was going without me.

Then I spoke to another friend. Long drunken emotional conversations riddled with much mutual appreciation. I felt rather elated after the call. Ten minutes later he called back....'did we just talk?!'. My elation was burst in an instant, like a balloon!

I am here to see 2006 and I am lucky to be, we all are. I have thought of those families who are without someone they love this year because of the hatred of others. I lit a candle for them at midnight mass on Christmas Eve. I was with a man who I have lit a candle for at Christmas for the last 3 years, he has been in a psychiatric hospital. This year he was by my side, I didn't have to light a candle for him, he lit his own.

'tomorrow is another day'

check out the Observer today

maybe you do need to know what happened after all

i wrote this several weeks after 7th july...late into the night, aided by 2 bottles of wine, many tears and tissues......

‘What has happened?’
(‘We are united’)

I can’t even remember what I did the night before, but I packed, late, so I packed everything. I was going to my favourite place on earth & I was going surfing. Cornwall has this amazing ability to make me forget about things that don’t really matter at the end of the day. Suddenly there is the sea and the weather and life, and nothing else matters. I was terrified I would forget something that would spoil my trip so I packed the lot. I remember finding my wetsuit in the middle of the night & thinking how incongruous a wetsuit was in Stoke Newington at midnight.

I slept in, as usual, and left in a bit of a rush. My work bag, my trolley dolly and yet another bag. Luck seemed to be on my side as a bus appeared and I hauled my luggage on as it took me to the station. Thank God, I thought, I don’t have to drag it all up the road to Manor House. The walk I did every day, and always in a hurry, always late. The bus was there, for once, when I needed it, and I had claimed back a few of those extra minutes I had spent in bed.

I think I may even have bought a ticket as the trusty Oyster card had run out. To be honest I can’t be sure. Everything that happened afterwards has somehow enveloped those earlier memories. What I do know is that there were people around going about their daily business of getting the tube. The person that stood behind me in the queue for the ticket machine might have had a different routine from me, and they may not be here anymore. How can I not know?

I stood on the escalator and didn’t walk down it, a habit broken by my late night packing excesses. The tube with luggage, I had meant to be early to avoid the crush. Something already wasn’t right…’severe delays’, again my memory fails, but I recall that heart sinking feeling…..’I’m late and now they’re late too’. People all over the platform, it felt unusual, I was late and things were not right. The platform was crowded and the board was empty. Not a train near enough to be announced. Why was I so uneasy?

Eventually it arrived. ‘Life’s too short’, the same old thought as it pulls in and the sardines flash before my eyes. Usually there is a thinning as it passes. I stand in front of the same advertising spot every day. I know that’s where the doors will be. The advert changes but the spot is always the same. What was it that day? I read it repeatedly every morning, despite the frustration it stirs up, I can’t help myself. Waiting and reading. This time there was no thinning, I didn’t want to get on.

I glanced at the board. Empty. It was never empty, there was always another one coming. Not today, I had to get on. I squeezed myself on with my cumbersome luggage and put my mind into rush hour neutral mode. Where did I buy the paper? I was reading it to distract myself from the claustrophobia. Trying to spot myself in Trafalgar Square the day before as we won the Olympics. What else was I thinking about? Who else?

My inner alert switched on automatically as we pulled into Finsbury Park. There are always seats to be had here if you can get yourself positioned so you can sit down just as they stand up. I tried to edge myself in between the seats, like a hunter. A man pushed past me, aggressively. People change when they are thrust into such uncomfortable proximity with each other. He was hunting that seat too. Were we fighting? The anger surged, and again ‘life’s too short’. Not even the prize of a seat excused that kind of disrespect. We had both lost. He knew it too and he couldn’t face me. He was in a suit, I think, and short. I could only see the back of his head, was he embarrassed? Suddenly I didn’t care and I broke the rule, I spoke. ‘That is so rude!’. He didn’t move, but he knew. And I knew. I had said it and I felt better. On we went, limbs touching limbs. Was I still reading?

No more memories until the bang. Was it a bang? I don’t remember being shocked, it was more like a pop. I felt that huge surge of mass frustration. Packed tube and now we’re stuck in a tunnel. For a minutiae of a second everyone switched off almost completely, a communal sigh, it’s too packed to get frustrated about this. Then it changed. Without a word, so many people and not a word, just a silent gasp of many voices. The lights went out and instantly there was smoke. Thick, black, smoke. My God, my mind was off, I need to turn it on again, this is different. This is bad. Wake up!

Movement, and there must have been voices, but no instant panic. Confusion, I just felt it, I didn’t hear it. Did I wake up? What did I think? I’m stuck, I can’t move, it’s dark, but there are lights, they must have been emergency. It felt like a very slow awakening. I don’t know what happened first. There was a man, a hero, he was a leader. He threw all his weight into opening the doors. ‘Help me’, he said. ‘I need some men’. They wouldn’t open. Men appeared. How did they get there through the crush? They pulled, three on each door. It opened, only enough for him to wedge himself between them. I was swimming in sickly thick black smoke. Asthma, will it happen? What will happen then? I can’t move, I can’t get out. This isn’t a just good story for being late to work, this is real, this is serious, this is scary. I can’t get scared because then I’ll be frightened. I keep it together, how did I do that? His voice,’ it’s ok there’s fresh air coming in here’ keeps me calm. There’s authority in that voice. Deep down I know he knows no more than me. But he is telling us we’re going to be ok, and I believe him. I believe him because I have to. There’s no choice, the other option is too dark.

The overriding memory is of calm. There is panic, but not mass. The girl next to me is shaking like an epileptic. I hold her arms to try and stop her. It feels good to be helping someone, to be relatively more in control. The doors won’t open any further, but he is still between them. What is it? What has happened? Has the train just stopped and this is happening only to us, does anyone know? ‘Pull the emergency cord’ I say. No-one has even thought of this. ‘Then they will know’, I think. I pull it and it’s limp, I keep pulling but nothing happens. ‘It’s not just us’, I think. Something is wrong. The smoke keeps coming, ‘breathe through your clothes’ someone says. We all try, but somehow it seems pointless. Either we are going to die or we aren’t. Clothes aren’t going to change that. But still, another voice of authority is a comfort. What has happened? Why is there smoke? I try not to think but I have to, I can’t do nothing. I can’t stand and wait, to die. I have to think, I have to do something. There is smoke, there must be fire. Fire moves, fast. Don’t think, don’t think. You’ll lose control if you think like that, stop it. We’ve got to get out before the fire comes. I can’t die here, alone, next to the man I fought with. He still can’t look at me. I can’t die alone , in a dark tunnel, I can’t. ‘Break the windows’ I hear myself say, ‘’why don’t we break the windows’. They throw themselves at them, nothing. I remember the overheating train story and talking about the friend with a hammer only yesterday. Why didn’t I listen, why didn’t I have a hammer? ’I always will from now on’, I think. ‘From now on’ doesn’t exist though, the only thing that exists is now. They hang off the overhead rails and swing at the windows with their feet, they are relentless. Finally it shatters but still in one piece. Laminated? Toughened? I should know. They peel it back, cutting themselves, blood, but no-one seems to care. We are getting out. ‘What if the fire’s outside?’ someone cries. ‘Should we really be breaking the windows?’’ It’s alright’, he says,’ there’s fresh air coming in here’. I breathe, I am still alive.

They peel back the windows, and I feel sick. The tunnel is there. Ten centimetres away. I worry about getting my white jumper dirty if I have to climb out of there, but I know I can’t. There’s no space, we’re trapped, in a tunnel, drowning in smoke. Don’t panic, it will just breed panic,’ there’s fresh air’ he says.

I used the torch at some stage too, when they broke the windows I think. My dad gave it to me,’everlasting’ he said. It had saved me once when we got locked in the house in Cornwall, we had to climb out in the dark. It’s going to save me again, he will be so pleased, he has saved me with his torch. But he hasn’t, the tunnel is there, it has only helped us to discover we’re trapped.

‘Is there smoke in the next door carriage?’ ’Can we get the back door open?’ Messages pass up and down the carriage. We can’t move so the message has to. Chinese whispers.

I’m still in control, fighting the fear. This is fear. I have never felt this before, this is a new emotion, a heightened emotion, I am scared, I think I am going to die. I can’t die…….think!

There are rumours of the back door being open. No-one can see, we have to go by what we can hear. They say it’s open, but are the whispers true? ‘Get out, get out’ we cry. ‘Get out into the tunnel’. ‘What if the fire’s out there?’ ‘What if the tracks are live?’ More authority, male again, ‘they will have turned the power off’. How does he know? He doesn’t. They’re moving, they’re getting out. Thank God, it’s over, we’re getting out. I think there was quiet, there was sobbing but there was relief, we waited.

No-one was moving, why not? It shouldn’t take that long, they’re not moving, we’re still here.’ Are you getting out?’ ‘No!’ ‘Why not?’ ‘We’re scared!’ ‘Well we want to get out’. Voices, noises, frustration, panic, no, there can’t be panic. He speaks, ‘If you don’t want to get out can you move to the side. There are people back here who want to get out’. ‘We want to get out!’, that was me, I heard it. Still nothing, from somewhere ‘let’s push!’. Oh my God no, that will be chaos, we can’t have chaos, need to keep order. He is calmed, don’t push. We wait.

Smoke, oh God, this is too long, it’s not funny……….enough. Why is everyone black? Black lipstick, perfectly applied, black nostrils, someone even has black earholes, do we breathe through our ears? I must look like them too.

‘There are people on the tracks’ ‘Who?’ “passengers I think’. I can’t remember. More talk, more whispers, more smoke. Then it ended ‘Two policemen, I can see two policemen, they’re coming down the tracks!’ I am me again, relief, humour…….’oh that makes me feel a whole heap better, two policemen…great!’. Sarcasm, but it wasn’t really because it did. It was a joke, but it wasn’t. I think there was one earlier, when, I don’t know… ‘trust me to wear a white top today’.

They’re here, they’ve come to get us…….. they know.

Suddenly more than the moment matters, my luggage. What is in there? Mental checklist….nothing. Oh no wait…my ipod! What is wrong with me?! Life, smoke, fire, death, ipod! I can’t take my luggage, too cumbersome, will hold everyone up, I’ll look like a selfish, despicable, materialistic person. Leave the luggage. But I bend down, no-one will notice, unzip the pocket…there it is, put it in my bag, that’s ok, now I can leave the luggage!

Movement, at last, it’s actually happening, I never thought it would. I look at my luggage, leave it.

‘Is that yours?’ ‘Yes but I’m leaving it’. ‘Don’t be silly, you can’t leave it, I’ll carry it’……. Who are you?

The two little policemen are there, with a torch, helping us down. ‘How far is it?’ I say, I thought I’d heard half an hour, I couldn’t cope with that, I don’t know why, I was too weak ‘2 minutes’ they say, I could have kissed them….I know, policemen, but I could have.

We walked along the tracks, the girl who had been shaking like a stick insect was still next to me. Dark tunnel, everyone thinks that must have been the scariest bit, it was euphoria!

‘At least I know I’m crap in a crisis!’ she said, we laughed….’Yea, you can put that on your CV, ‘I’m crap in a crisis!’’ We were out.

Another policeman helped me on to the platform. Guilt, all the way along the tracks, the man with my bags, how could I have let him, they don’t matter, it can all be bought again, nothing in there matters. He emerges out of the tunnel, two heavy bags, the fruits of my late night packing.’ Thank you so much, I feel so guilty, thank you.’ ‘Were you going to the airport?’ ‘No, I’m going to Cornwall’ “Well have a nice week end then’ and he was gone…..British in a crisis to the end!

We walk up the steps and we’re outside, people everywhere, still calm…shock…black faces. We are united in our blackness and we don’t want to leave.