Sunday, July 30, 2006

Britblog roundup & Chicken nugget

Thanks Tim & Justin!

ps...apologies all for the disappearance of my blogroll...i accidentally deleted it whilst putting together 'my favourites' will be reinstated soon.

Sailing today!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Meeting the Home boy

Well, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State met with us, survivors from the bombed Piccadilly line tube, on Tuesday evening.

Dr Reid is a politician, I suspect, harbouring a severe case of short man syndrome. I can picture him, as a youth, battling with his comrades in a bulldog like manner. Doggedly fighting until the end, stubbornly refusing to be beaten or shamed.

He has not changed much. Whether it is job, his age, or he has been unchanged since birth, I do not know. But I can say with certainly that one thing he adores is the sound of his own voice. That man can talk.

He purposely, I imagine, seemed to miss the point by a whisker; launching himself instead into wordy responses whilst ambling through topics he felt safe discussing. ‘Discussing’ is perhaps too balanced a term, it was more of a monologue which frustrated ‘survivors’ eventually felt brave enough to challenge.

There was the hint of a patronising tone, which emerged from time to time. Something which fired me up and made me more determined than ever that we should match him at his game. For a game is what it was, and what it has been from the start.

The Government do not want a public enquiry, or indeed an independent one. They will meet with us and the families of those that died, but it is lip service at its very worst.

He delivered the Government line, although it has been edited behind the scenes. They are running out of excuses fast. The last 2 remaining were money and resources. Lack of money is not an argument that would stand against a newborn child. So they are left with their last round of ammunition which they are spending fast. ‘Resources’ it is, the reasoning behind the ‘no’. With Bloody Sunday (7 years and £20 million) cited repeatedly as a glowing example. ‘Surely’ I queried ‘it is your job to do it better?’. How is ‘this is a bad idea because last time it went wrong’ a credible reason not to forge ahead and do what’s right?

I told him that I felt the Government had been on the back foot since the moment those boys blew themselves up. They had been reactive instead of proactive. All we had heard was them telling us the reasons they weren’t going to have a public enquiry, where were the positive steps they were taking? ‘Surely’ I asked ‘ the single aim of every person in this room, is to do our damdest to stop this from happening again, and make sure we learn everything we possibly can from this experience so that next time we do it better?’. Sincere nodding all round to this. We should be working together, every single one of us, to uproot the seeds of this hatred, instead of playing political games. ‘This Government’ I said ‘ has been nothing but negative and defensive whenever this subject is raised’. A pause, a purple face followed by his retort ‘I am NOT being defensive!’ spluttered Dr Reid. Point proven I think.

Then how, I wondered, can a public enquiry be wrong? ‘I don’t care’, I told him, ‘if the enquiry brings up nothing more than we already know, I don’t care if it means you can turn around and say; you see, we were right’’. But there is no excuse to leave a single stone unturned and this will only be done by an independent party.

‘Resources’, he muttered from behind, his now familiar glow. ‘Muslims…Arabic speakers…ethnic minorities…takes a long time to train… it’s not lack of money it’s lack of trained manpower’. He said that MI5 had more important things to do like preventing further attacks. ‘Some questions’ he said ‘just don’t have answers’. MI5 has grown from 1,000 staff to 2,500 and is still expanding. At any one time, he said, there are tens of major terrorist investigations underway.

We have a lawyer in our midst and she was quick to interject. ‘Ten?’ she said’ at any one time?’ ‘In that case, could you tell me how many were involved in the case of the four bombers on 7th July’. He squirmed and avoided and would not answer the question. The point, she was powerfully making, is that it couldn’t have been more than about 20. An inquiry would not be carried out by MI5 itself, the clue there is in the word ‘independent’. Hence as many people as required could be gainfully employed in seeking the facts and that would not hamper the fight against terrorism. They would be lawyers, most probably, not members of the security services. Only 20 would be called upon to give evidence which would not, I suggest, hamper their productivity whilst it was happening. So, it seems to me, that resources has been quashed as an excuse too, so what is it now?

The question of the influence of Iraq came up and was, again, dismissed. 4 terrorist attacks have been prevented in this country in the last 15 months, he told us. I asked him how many had been uncovered prior to 7th July. I was hoping for it to be less and that giving me an opening to ask him why he thought that was. He was one step ahead though (that is why he is Home Secretary and I am not) and didn’t answer. Instead he told us that the first al Qaeda plot to be foiled in this country was in 2000 in Birmingham. He kept doing that, throwing in facts that we were bound to not know thus tripping us up on our way. In his opinion the first war in Iraq had a greater radicalising affect than this one. ‘Jermaine Lindsay, at the time was 4’, someone helpfully pointed out ‘I doubt he was radicalised by it at that age, do you?’

On the subject of the errors he has admitted in the narrative ‘we never said it was comprehensive’ he said. Oh well that’s ok then, silly me. They fully intend to communicate any further errors to us and will do their best to inform us when stories appearing in the press are untrue.

They are compiling a ‘lessons learnt’ report which will cover issues from before the attacks to concerns raised in their meetings with us. This is a ‘dialogue’ they said which they intend to continue. When pushed the Home Secretary would not commit to meeting us again, Tessa Jowell, however, did.

So another day, another meeting, who knows what was achieved; but at the end of the day, the most important thing is that I AM FEELING BETTER!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Oh John Reid John Reid......

...why did the blood keep rushing to your face?!...did we get you angry or was it just the hot flushes creeping up on you in that air conditioned room?

My does he love the sound of his own voice....he tried to stop us getting a word in edgeways but I'm afraid we were rude enough to interrupt.

It was infuriating, frustrating & exasperating meeting the Home Secretary tonight. But I have to admit it was bloody good fun!

More later,my bed is calling.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A strange, and unnerving, coincidence

A year ago today I met a man at a party. We talked and laughed and flirted all night whilst his disgruntled girlfriend looked on. We childishly argued about who was the tallest, went into the kitchen to measure each other and all of a sudden he kissed me.

I was so taken with him that when I left I scrunched up a piece of paper with my phone number scrawled on and slipped it to him as I shook his hand goodbye. He called me the next day.

The girlfriend is no more and during these last few months he has been a friend and more, and sometimes less, but never, unfortunately, a boyfriend. He has helped me through my darkest days and people who meet us think we are a couple. (His birthday is on the 7th of July.)

I have begun to accept our strange relationship for what it is and have given up hoping that he may eventually find ‘commitment’ in his heart. So last week I went on a date.

It was an internet date, something I have not done for a very long time. But, with the anniversary (of the bombings) behind me, I decided it was time to start afresh and, at least, give it a go.

We had a few drinks, the conversation flowed and led to a dinner of Argentinean steak. It all seemed to be going swimmingly until he started quizzing me, in uncomfortable depth, about my past relationships. When he was finished I felt it was only polite to reciprocate. Quickly a common theme developed, it seemed that all his ex’s were ‘incredibly beautiful’. I must add at this point that he was hardly a picture postcard but seemed keen to get across his apparent talent of snaring feline goddesses. Eventually I couldn’t help but comment and he smiled smugly. ‘I have to be honest’ he said, ‘but given the choice I always favour beauty over brains’. It seems that, by his strict criteria, I wasn’t attractive enough, or perhaps I am too brainy. I have to say I have had a few Adonis’s myself, in my time, but would never insult a smiling pot bellied man with this information.( His birthday, too, is on the 7th of July.)

Words of wisdom

I had a GOOD day at work this week. Yes, I nearly fell off my chair too.

I had a meeting with an artist, we are working on a rather unique and challenging project together. I went to his studio by bus (not tube – oh joy!) and found him working in oasis of calm hiding behind a drive through McDonalds and a Texaco garage.

He is in his sixties, tall, with a crop of striking, thick, white hair. His calm and casual manner belies a quiet confidence. I have worked with him before and he is so unassuming that it is easy to forget the enormity of his success until you wander through Tate Modern and spot his work singing out from the walls with a joyful clarity.

We chatted, swopped ideas and gossiped about the array of individuals involved in this project. ‘I have found’ he said’ that it is always the most forceful of speakers who find themselves listened to in this world. They can be ignorant, stupid, and even liars, but if they speak with unfaltering confidence people will listen. Groups of people struggling, to make decisions will fall on these characters with relief and awe. He seems to know what he’s talking about’ let’s do it’.

How many situations does that ring true for? I found myself thinking of our desperate leader and smiled.

I started telling him about something the client had told me he had agreed to do. ‘Did I?” he laughed. ‘Oh I guess I probably did, as Picasso said ‘the easiest way of saying ‘no’ is to say ‘yes’’!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Good news at last!

I heard joy in the voice of someone I love tonight and it dried my sodden spirits like the roasting sun.

(I have nearly finished reading ‘The Corrections’ by Jonathan Franzen and it has dawned on me that I have not the faintest inkling of how to put together words)

This particular story started 3 years, 7 months and 3 days ago with a phone call from the police. I had only been in my job for 2 months when my mobile rang that morning. I knew they were going round to section him the night before, this wasn’t the first time and I never slept when it happened. I always feared the worst, but this was beyond my darkest imaginings. ‘We’ve got someone here you know’ he said ‘can you guess who?’. Well that set me off on the wrong foot for a start. How many sectionable friends, who were likely to have had their front door smashed down by the police that night, did he think I knew? My first thought was for my friend, what had happened to him, what had they done? It didn’t enter my head for an instant that this gentle, caring, loving, but very sick, man might have done something to them.

‘Is he ok?’ I asked in a panic. ‘He’s fine’ he replied (he was lying).

’ Why is he there? What has he done? Has he got a solicitor?’

‘I can’t tell you that I’m afraid’ (why not?!)’ There’s a duty solicitor here, don’t worry’.

Well this was all new to me but it didn’t sound right at all. He can’t tell me? A duty solicitor? No, I need to get on the case. Years before he had been sectioned and I had met his solicitor. I couldn’t find his name in my head. I started, frantically searching the internet ‘mental health lawyers’ and such forth. I couldn’t call his mum, couldn’t break the news until I knew the facts. Finally a familiar name appeared and I picked up the phone. It was still early and he had just arrived in the office. I gave him the sketchy facts I knew and already I sensed trouble ahead. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked. ‘It’s probably a coincidence’ he said ‘but I heard a story on the radio as I drove in this morning, something about a mental health patient attacking a policeman, It’s probably not him though’. The moment he uttered those words I knew it was. His life is over I thought.

Immediately I evacuated my desk and rushed across London to the police station. I called his family, the solicitor was already there. We all sat and waited. I will not and cannot describe those painful hours, but I have made myself remember them today. Eventually they let me see him. It was like an illusion. My darling friend broken and babbling. Pacing around a cell in a torn white paper suit with stitches in his shaven head and bruises across his beautiful face. I held him tight and tried to let him feel the comfort of human warmth. But he was in another world, the shock and the trauma of what had happened the night before had taken him away from me.

To tell the tale since those beginnings would take a book, and a pretty miserable one at that. Suffice to say that after a short stay in prison, a few, incomprehensible, appearances in court he was transferred to a secure psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with schizophrenia. I promised him, that day at the police station, that I would not desert him, and I have kept to my word. He feels he has been a burden, but it has been a pleasure to support him through his years of solitude. It doesn’t take much to be a voice from the outside world every day, to give him a home to visit when he was eventually allowed leave. For the little it took from me, the help and security it gave to him was exponential.

I don’t know how he has got through his lonely days. But there has never been a word of complaint, a moment of self pity, or a feeling of despair. He has knuckled down and, as only he is able, got on with the job. He has been a role model in that ward of his. When I visit I am struck by his quiet assurance amongst the drugged up existences surrounding him. He writes the most startling poetry and is doing a journalism course in which he excelling. His memory is beyond the sanest of imaginations.

Today, his exemplary attitude and patient perseverance has finally been rewarded. At his tribunal the judge told him that nothing in any of the reports that he had read was affecting his decision. He was granting him a discharge based solely on the way my friend had handled himself during the hearing. He had proved himself beyond any shadow of a doubt as an intelligent, articulate and compassionate human being. That is the man I know and love. Finally someone has found a way through the prejudice of madness and seen him for the man that he is, my friend, free at last.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Thank you

Thank you one and all for all your kind messages of support. I have not had the strenth or time to reply to you all yet but I just wanted to say how much it means to me and how much it helps.

Thank you also to all of you who stood up for me on the Comment is Free blog. I have learnt to ignore the trolls and imagine them as 14 year old boys wondering what to do with their willies & finding power in front of a keyboard. I was actually glad of the abuse as it encouraged so many people to come forward and be positive and that was the point of the piece.

Now I am off to eat lobster in the rain!


Forewarned was not forearmed

I am holed up on the drizzly south coast of England. Wiped out and emotional, completely unable to face going back to London. I have taken the day off work because my body is telling me to stop. I have been running on adrenaline for weeks, just as I did directly after the bombings. I am going to learn from my mistakes, even if the government are not, and I am taking it easy today.

I really was hoping that forewarned was forearmed. I knew the anniversary was going to be tough but I thought this knowledge would help me get through the day. I wrote on here and on the Guardian site, the day before, how I wanted it to be a day of hope and celebration. I am afraid to say I failed miserably in that task.

I went to meet my fellow passengers in Tavistock Square for the 2 minutes silence. I chose to take the tube. I wanted to go through the tunnel that day and watch for where the wires running along the wall of the tunnel turn red. This marks the spot where the bomb exploded, the red wires are new and stand out from the grime.The carriage was empty apart from a woman who sat opposite me with 2 young children. They seemed oblivious to the significance of the date and the journey they were taking, as we passed through the tunnel they laughed and joked and it felt like a good way to remember.

I came out at Russell Square and the hope started to fade. As I walked through the tunnels and waited for the lift I thought about those who had taken this journey a year ago. The injured, the wounded, the dying and the dead. I came out of the lift to find a station full of police. In a daze I wandered through and came across the mound of flowers which had gathered that morning. I stood and stared and was overwhelmed by the senseless loss of human life. A police officer came up and comforted me. I have no idea how she knew me 'you're Holly', she said 'you're one of the survivors, are you ok?'. Again human kindness and sensitivity prevailed, again I had been helped by a stranger.

I found the others in Tavistock Square, someone had bought balloons. 26 white, helium filled, balloons, one for each of the people who didn't make it out of that tube a year ago. We held them through the silence. As I looked at the spot where the bus had been blown up, I started to shudder with pain. As the tears flowed I could feel the wakening of a new emotion, one which had never visited me before. I looked at the empty street and listened to the silent grief....and finally I thought 'you fucking bastards'.

In that moment the anger and the hatred emerged. Anger which had been previously directed solely at the government. I looked down that street and I hated those 4 men with all my heart.

Afterwards I went to a beautiful, multi faith, service in St Pancras church. I hadn't meant to go, I am not religious and I had felt uncomfortable about grieving for the dead, for people that I didn't know. But these new feelings that were welling up inside me told me that it was the right place to go. I wept throughout that service and this time I was crying for the dead and bereaved. The St Mary & St Pancras School Choir tipped us all over the edge. The innocence of their voices resounded through the church and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. As they sang their way through 'Lord of all hopefulness' a nearby church warder passed over a box of tissues and said to me 'take a handful'. As the piano hit the opening chords of 'Make me a channel for your peace' even the most hardened of hearts in the church had crumbled.

I emerged drained, exhausted and starving. I went back to the hotel bar which had been our base for the day and ordered a blue cheese and bacon burger with chips. Energy and comfort, it was perfect!

Then it was time for the evening memorial in Regent's Park. It was a beautiful setting, the rain held off, and we sat in the midst of blooming greenery. When we arrived there was an air of mingling and chatting. So many people involved in those dreadful events have met each other at some stage over the last year. There was hugging and kissing as we all embraced familiar faces who had shared this journey with us. Again, I managed to feel hope and strength, seeing and feeling all these wonderful bonds of closeness which have formed in the face of terror.

Then the service began. As The London Community Gospel Choir opened with 'Something Inside So Strong' I felt rather numb and detached from it all.I thought, perhaps, I had cried enough, there were no more tears left to shed. Then the readings by the family members began. How they did it I do not know. They were so incredibly brave and strong. I listened to Marie Fatayi-Williams reading 'All is Well', followed by Kathryn Glilkson with her own poem 'The Moon'. I began to feel overwhelmed by the waste of it all. Sitting in this tranquil spot, surrounded by over a thousand people who were all still struggling to come to terms with their losses and traumas. It was all so senseless, all so tragic and all such a bloody waste. When Saba Mozakka read 'You can't have departed' as a tribute to her mother I was finally overcome. Friends from the train hugged and comforted me from all sides as I shook uncontrollably and sobbed. I was crying for the dead, the bereaved and the survivors. I was crying for the tragic loss of human life, for the thousands who were suffering as the result of the actions of 4 angry young men and, I am ashamed to say, I was crying for myself.

The anniversary was a difficult day, but I think, for those I shared it with, it was a good day too. I witnessed people who have never let go finally giving in and succumbing to their grief. The outpouring of emotions was immense, but ultimately cathartic and healing. I have found my hatred and my anger at last (for the bombers rather than the government), and it is probably good that it has emerged. I had no idea that it was in there, but as it was, and as we kept saying to each other all day 'better out than in'.

I walked arm in arm with friends from that day to lay our flowers in the floral mosaic. As we all clambered off the podium we gathered in a circle and, weeping, encouraged each other to celebrate the fact that we were the lucky ones that we had 'made it'. As our little circle dispersed, the tears continued to flow, I glanced across at the little gathering of power and exclaimed 'David Cameron is wearing fake tan!' Our tears turned to laughter as we saw his orange face glowing from the mass of dark suited men. 'You are naughty Holly' someone said 'you always make us laugh when we should be crying'.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


It is finally here, I am almost relieved already. I haven't had a moment but I'll write more soon. Tomorrow's post will be on the Guardian's Comment is Free site.

Tomorrow I will reflect and remember but above all celebrate my life, my learnings and my wonderful fellow passengers. I am proud to know you all.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

'It's up to you'

I am just watching my old friend Tom Bradby reporting on Blair's latest stand. Apparently he can invade Afghanistan (twice?!), topple Saddam under false pretences and leave both countries with failing infrastructures, dwindling resources and suffering citizens, yet the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, fired by his actions, is ‘up to’ the Muslim community to sort out. I am almost speechless.

Where has that man’s understanding of the word ‘responsibility’ vanished to?

’It’s up to you”?!

How is that approach remotely constructive? It’s ‘up to’ all of us and spectacularly HIM. It’s up to me, my neighbour, my family and friends and every person I have ever sat next to on the tube. The rise in strength of the Jihadist’s cause in this country had been fuelled by our foreign policy. We have a fundamental responsibility, each and every one of us, to strive to unite our increasingly polarised society. He cannot wash his hands of this, it is not solely up to them.

How can they do it alone? We need to work together to build bridges, understanding and, most importantly, trust. It needs to be a 200% COMBINED EFFORT. The horrors of 7th July 2005 should never be inflicted upon another innocent person again. Tragically they will be, they occur every day in Iraq, increasingly in Afghanistan, in Israel and Palestine and around the globe.

The only way it can be stopped is to understand why it happened in the first place. What drove four, seemingly integrated, intelligent young men, born and bred in this country to blow themselves up on the tube, nearly a year ago, with the specific intent of randomly killing innocent people. I am honest enough to admit that I don’t know. Tony Blair would do well to do the same. But he, more than I, SHOULD know. And if he doesn’t he should be doing his damdest to work it out. ‘It’s up to you’ does not strike me as a man trying to understand.

I have just watched the best football match I have ever had the privilege of seeing. The spirit and perseverance of both sides was inspirational. Last night I was interviewed with three other Kings Cross United girls to talk about the positive aspects of the last year. That too was inspirational. These two events contributed in bringing me out of the terrifying hell into which I was descending yesterday. Tony Blair has done a damn fine job of quashing my newfound high spirits. I was going to take a break from 7/7 tonight. Watch football, drink wine & try to be my old self for a moment without the interruptions of the world's press. I watched the news and I had to write.

‘It’s up to you’ indeed. How DARE he?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Back we go

I am back there again. I was hoping that 'forewarned was forearmed’. I knew this week was going to be tough, but I was willing this knowledge to help me control the pain and the fear. It doesn’t seem to be working. My heart is racing, my hands are shaking and I am on the verge of tears. I am back where I was last September.

Yesterday I had my first panic attack for 6 months. I was in Cornwall with friends, staying in a beautiful house perched on the top of a cliff. The trouble is, I have been there before too. The evening after the bombings last year I drove down there with the very same friends. It was a surreal week end but I was glad I had gone. Cornwall holds a special place in my heart, we went on family holidays there throughout my childhood. It seemed like a logical place to be. Surrounded by clean, fresh peaceful air, away from the clogging smoke of terror struck London. We awoke in the morning to a bay filled with basking sharks. It felt like a special gift.

This time I wasn’t so sure. I had to take the tube on Friday morning with the same ‘trolley dolley’ full of luggage that I had carried on the 7th last year. When I emerged from South Kensington station I felt as if another journey had been completed. Cornwall was a different matter though. The views, the smells and even the beauty brought everything back. I was that shell shocked shadow of a person again, it all came flooding in.

I had anticipated this and taken the precious smattering of tranquilisers which I have been hoarding since I was prescribed them last year. Yesterday afternoon I took one. I am not sure if it was the panic attack I was afraid of or the prospect of having one in front of so many people. I didn’t want to cause a scene and spoil everyone’s week end, so I popped a pill and hid myself away with a newspaper for a few hours. For the first time ever I couldn't wait to get home. Back to the safety of my own bed.

Of course it may not have been Cornwall at all, it could well have been the fear of the week ahead. It was probably a combination of both. I know it’s going to be hard, I knew it was going to be tough, but it is still upsetting to find yourself taking such mammoth steps in the wrong direction. At least this time I know what is happening inside my mind and I understand why . I know I have the love and support of so many fellow passengers, strangers a year ago, who are all going through the same emotional mill.

Still, this week cannot be over soon enough.