Friday, May 26, 2006

Sweet Tea

It is a strange legacy of our colonial past that tea drinking has become synonymous with British culture around the world. Indeed the first suggestion thrown at me by a chirpy policeman as I staggered out of the tunnel on 7th July was ‘I know it might sound strange love but I think you should have a cup of tea’.

I drink my tea strong, hot and without sugar. Earl Grey and Lapsang Suchong fall dead on my palette. A day cannot begin until a PG pyramid bag has been soaked, squeezed, diluted with milk and poured down my throat before it has had a chance to become tepid. As the hours progress my taste buds awaken, later I can accommodate green, white and even peppermint, but never, in the run of daily life, can my tea be swallowed sweet.

Twice, however, in the last eleven months I have guzzled this sickly substance as if it were nectar to my body. You know that something extraordinary is afoot when as soon as the bottom of the mug is in sight you ask for a refill and the sweetening of the liquid has passed undetected. During the normal stream of every day life it takes but a splash to hit my lips and my mouth rebels in horror and shock. On the 7th July, and again yesterday, this velvety substance was absorbed as if my very existence depended on it. It tasted like life itself and my body cried out for more. It is surpassed only by the dunking of a digestive biscuit, together they form an experience unparalleled to a shocked and weakened soul.

Sublime as the moment was, I can safely say that enough is enough. I have drunk more than my fair share of sweetened tea. If the need ever arises again I know it will be there to sooth and comfort, but for a while, at least let the sour tea live on.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Post narrative thoughts

You can read my post 'narrative' thoughts for the Guardian's Comment is Free here

Meeting with Tessa

Well either she's a genuinely lovely person or she's damn good at her job. Either way the gal did well. But we did better!

I wasn't expecting much but I walked out of that meeting feeling positive and encouraged. She appeared to listen, she gave the impression that she cared and she seemed to be willing to learn from us. The most encouraging thing that she said, for me, was that 'this is the start of a dialogue'. I was expecting it to be a one-question, one-off. There I've met them, I've listened, box ticked.

But it was more than that, I lost count of the amount of questions I & others asked. The meeting overran by an hour and more are planned. Many questions went unanswered but we were left with a promise that they would be next time. We shall see. It is still far too little far too late and however the dialogue develops it will never be a substitute for an independent enquiry.

What really stuck me throughout the meeting was the incredibly dignity that filled the hall. There we all sat, the same people who were trapped underground on that day, together again. Many were meeting others and telling their story for the first time. They told Tessa, voices breaking, how they have been suffering alone. Even the most iron hearted of MP's could not fail to be moved by what she heard.

No tempers were lost nor voices raised, it was that same calm stoical resilience that people showed on the day. I came away feeling proud to have been bombed with such a wonderful bunch of people.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

off to meet Tessa!

I have always been an old cynic. I don't know whether to blame the escalating level of my cynical attitudes on 7th July or old age.

I think this meeting will be 'lip service'. It is being held so that they can say it has been held. It is 10 months too late, nothing can make up for that.

Apparently we are allowed one question each. I have many but I think I am going to ask:

Who decided, and why (2 questions I know!), that the Department of CULTURE MEDIA and SPORT should be responsible for providing victims & bereaved with support. Wouldn't the Department of HEALTH have been a better choice?

Do you think I'll get away with 3 questions in 1? I'll let you know.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Thanks Tess

I got home late last night to a letter from Tessa Jowell. She was writing to warn me of the reports that were published yesterday. She wanted me to know that this was happening before I read about them in the press. She hoped I wouldn't find it too distressing.

She did apologise for the short notice.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Narratives, security reports and birthdays

Tomorrow is a big day, it's my BIRTHDAY!

It is also the day that the infamous 'narrative' is going to be published, along with a report by the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee.

I'm afraid I am quietly pessimistic. From the reports I have read by journalists who have had sight of these documents there will be nothing new.

The only positive angle that I can see is that it will be official. Not based on leaks, hearsay and opinions but it will be written down in black and white by the ISC and a 'senior civil servant'. Hopefully there will be no shirking of responsibility after this.

I want an apology, for the lies at least.

Now it's official, Tony Blair lied to the nation:
- The terrorists were NOT 'clean skins'
- They WERE linked to other terrorist groups
- The war in Iraq WAS a major influencing factor

I'm not sure we've ever heard him say the 'S' word & I'm not sure we ever will.

For me this is bigger than politics, it's not about blame, it's about understanding WHY this happened and doing our damnedest to stop it from happening again. Prevention will be achieved through understanding and intelligence not by implementing draconian anti terror laws.

Understanding the Muslim community at grass roots level will empower the 'war against terrorism' far more than locking up innocent men for 90 days. If these 4 men were 'not considered a risk' then they would never have been detained under the anti terrorism act anyway. They would not have been incarcerated against their human rights, without trial, for up to 28 days and it would still have happened. They happily carried ID so the new cards would not have helped. Nothing the government has done since 7th July has done anything to make this country a safer place.

Put money into the security services, strengthen international sharing of security information, particularly Pakistan and the US. Work with, not against the Muslim community, they can teach us more than we can ever learn. They hold the key to understanding what radicalises their young men. Get them involved, hire them to work for MI5, treat them with respect, listen to them and work together.

Tony Blair now needs to accept that British foreign policy over the decades has gradually helped to nurture the life of Islamic extremism. Afghanistan and Iraq were the wars that tipped the scale, turned fundamentalism into Jihad. There is no going back now, but we have to move forward. It is time that the government sat down and looked at the situation in Iraq sensibly and honestly. Death, destruction, civil war and a breeding ground for extremists. Even in the 'safe south' there is anarchy, British troops are being gunned down by Shia's in Basra. Shia's not Sunni's, it is out of control & I cannot comprehend this beast which we have created but it needs to be understood and it needs to be solved. It needs to be tackled by talking not killing, this has gone far beyond male brute force and machoism. It is not a war to be won or lost anymore it is a problem to be solved with intelligence and honesty.

Iraq is the key, intelligence is the tool. USE it and stop this bloody killing at home and abroad. This will be on your concience for ever. People are needlessly dying in the name of egos and pride. Before you shoot the man listen to him.

I can accept that mistakes can be made with security intelligence, but I cannot accept being lied to by my elected leader. I do not want to see heads roll withing the security services, this is not ablout blame it is about saving lives.

There is more to come out, of that I am convinced. From what I have so far read, there is nothing in these reports that we do not already know. I don't expect to be suprised tomorrow and it's just not good enough. If it cannot be public then let the enquiry, at least, be independent. I understand that there are security issues and information which may predudice the jury of current trials (although how true facts can be 'predudice' I am not sure I get) but nothing can be hidden in this quest for reconsiliation.

Only by its independence can an enquiry start to raise this matter above the political playing field and that is where it needs to be. These inside reports are a whitewash and an insult to the lives that were lost and destroyed.

Monday, May 08, 2006

I'm back and blue but a little bit new

Sometimes I wonder if it's worth going on exotic holidays to island paradises, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but I have always struggled immeasurably with the post holiday blues. You get away, clear your head, empty your mind and start to put the priorities of your life back into a sensible order, then bang you land at Heathrow with a skid and a shriek and the bubble is burst, reality hits as you breathe in the unfamiliar air dripping with chill.

As if that wasn't enough for a frazzled and peeling girl to contend with, I came home to find a landscape which had changed in every possible dimension. It was all rather beyond comprehension for my jet lagged, shell shocked, rum soaked brain. A romping '2 shags', a crumbling bully faced with undeported terrorists, a leader with a crazed glint of desperate panic in his eye, oh there had been easter madness galore in my absence.

Then there were my nearest and dearest, all with news and stories to tell. I began to wonder if there had been some mistake, had I lost track of time, had I been out of touch for 2 weeks or 2 years. There was one announcement after another. The most 'happy ever after' couple I know, split up. The friend who has been single for longer than she cared to remember, moving in with new beau. First one pregnancy, two days later another. My poor poor head. What was going on?!

And then there was more. Old flames started to reappear out of the wood-work. What was bringing them out? The scent of Spring? The first to call was from such a dim and distant past that I had no idea who he was. His excuse was that he'd heard about 'what had happened to me' and just wanted to make sure I was ok. Initially I was moved by this touching show of human nature. On closer examination, he had discovered 'what had happened to me' by Googling me, 8 years later. Why? Suddenly it felt rather stalkerish. Day 2 of reappearing exe's was explained by 'You just came into my mind and I thought I would see how you were'. Why am I popping up in these long forgotten minds all of a sudden?

I missed my blog whilst I was toasting my body, swimming in crystal oceans and showering in torrents of water cascading down volcanic mountains, I really did. Every thought, emotion and sultry sunset was worthy of a thousand words. I tried to write in my little book, scrunched up in my dimly lit cabin at night, but I kept bashing my head and getting pins and needles and just could find the right position.

I actually looked forward to coming home and tapping it all out as I relived those moments on my little laptop whilst gazing out at my blooming garden. But it was not to be. My computer is sick, possibly terminally. Perhaps it is put out that I left it behind, but this is harsh payment for abandonment. Not only am I internet-less and therefore blog-less, but 5 years of (un backed up) photos have mysteriously vanished. I am trying not to think about the enormity of this loss. I can’t face taking it to anyone in case they tell me they can’t be retrieved, in the same way that I put off going to the dentist when I suspect I need a filling. I have packed it up and hidden it in a drawer and have turned to blogging in my lunch hour instead.

Something happened to me on holiday and I am not sure that I understand it sufficiently to enable my description to do it justice. On a basic level, I cried. A lot. Surrounded by heavenly sights, smells and baselines wafting over the water, I wept like I haven’t for months. The sun, like no other, managed to penetrate those layers and layers of protection which have been slowly building since July. The ocean dissolved the gradually solidifying shells of self defensive armour. I was so overawed by the natural beauty and magnitude of my surroundings that bottled up emotions, whose existence even I had no inkling of, came flooding out in torrents.

I was confused and distressed by this at the time. I had been looking forward to this holiday with such anticipation. Hoping to escape my demons and memories and spend 2 blissful weeks in the company of my old self. I searched and searched, but to my immense disappointment and frustration she was nowhere to be seen .

Once I got home, however, and had taken in the news and gossip, stories and phone calls, a familiar little figure began to shyly show her face in the periphery of my vision. Every time I glanced at her she would melt out of sight, but she always returned. I treated her gently, let her find her place without pressure and interference, and gradually the visits became longer. She is still not back full time, but she is growing in confidence and finding her feet. I cannot tell you how much I have missed her, it has been so long that we are having to get to know each other all over again. Our relationship will never be as it was, but it will be deeper, stronger and full of mutual love and respect. Holly Finch welcome back!