Saturday, September 30, 2006

Spicy Fishy

I leave J watching the utterly incomprehensible Syriana ( I lost track whilst cooking) to share tonight's recipe which I invented myself.

You will need:

Frying pan ( pref non stick)
Steamer/saucepan with lid and steaming device

Slab of salmon or two salmon pieces

A. Big slosh red wine vinegar
Heaped Tablespoonful peanut butter
Chilli dipping sauce ( the sort you get in a jar, or you can make your own)
Quarter teaspoon sesame oil ( can be missed out)
Generous teaspoon Nam Pla ( Fish sauce)

B. Whole Lime
Fresh coriander ( torn or chopped)
Cornflour piled onto a dry chopping board
Sunflower oil or ghee or butter
Heap of green veg to steam

Mix all the wet ingredients together ( A) and marinade the fish in them. Leave for at least an hour in the fridge.

Cut the marinaded fish into thick strips about 2 inches wide. Cover with cornflour and chuck into a pan of hot bubbling sunflower oil/ghee ( olive oil is too heavy). Medium heat. Enough oil to deep fry the fish, covering the base of the pan to about 2- 3mm. Turn fish after a minute or so, it's ready in three minutes or so - when the outside is crisp and the inside tender and flakes to the fork. Remove with slatted spoon.

Meanwhile, steam a big panful of spinach/green beans/mange tout/pak choi. (If the fish is done before the veg, pop it in between two hot plates/in a warm oven/ turn down heat off and stick a lid on the frying pan whilst you finish. Timing. It's a bugger)

Remove fish from frying pan,stay on medium heat, pour off excess oil, pour marinade into frying pan, sling in another dash of red wine vinegar or red wine, see how the the steam hisses, add steamed veg, mix about until covered with sauce, don't let it burn. Squeeze over the whole fresh lime and stir until the still-crunchy veg are covered in the sticky, sweet, sour, spicy sauce. Serve the fried fish strips and veg with chopped coriander chucked on top. Nice with an icy lager, or a gooseberryish dry white, or a green tea.

I will reveal the big exciting secret tomorrow. I want to talk to my family first.

Happy Saturday night.


Today I read...

Life in Hell, a Baghdad diary ( originally published in TIME magazine) starts with the descent into the ex-'Saddam Hussein International' airport, before taking the 'Highway of Death'...

'A lapsed Hindu, I'm nonetheless grateful for any and all gifts that purport to holiness; somewhere in my bags are a tiny sandalwood Ganesha, pages of the New Testament and a string of Islamic prayer beads. In Iraq, you want to have God--anybody's God--within easy reach.
Sister Benedetta smiles politely when I joke that many of our fellow passengers will be calling to their maker when the plane begins its hellish descent. To avoid being shot down by Iraqi insurgents, the pilot must stay at 30,000 ft. until the plane is directly over Baghdad airport, then bank into a spiraling dive, straightening up just yards from the runway. If you're looking out the window, it can feel as if the plane is in a free fall from which it can't possibly pull out. I've learned from experience to ask for an aisle seat...'

Nosemonkey is righteously angry in ''All Civilised People'' , Obsolete has a devastating fisking of Reid's conference speech , Channel 4 fact-checks the PM's claims from his last conference speech - which Chicken Yogurt dissects with trademark mordant wit.

Hell, it's all very depressing. I had a long conversation with the lovely Art Malik last night about the state of the Middle East and the history of Iraq ( where his family are originally from) and the UK/US foreign policy and it left both of us rather gloomy, which was a shame, as it was a damn good party.

I leave hoping you can raise your spirits with a link to new discovery, the fabulous Spinster's Quest. It has cheered me up after a morning of surfing a rising wave of anger in blogland. More from me later, when I have an exciting announcement to make...

Best of the Blogs

Deutsche Welle has been running a competition for 3 years
'You're a blogger? You know a good blog? You like blogs and podcasts and want to share your favorites with the world?Well, you've come to the right place. The BOBs -- short for the Best of the Blogs -- are here to keep track of the world's most interesting Weblogs, podcasts and videocasts, and we need your help in doing it. Suggest your favorites'

There's only 2 days left to nominate, and there seems to be a dearth of recognisable names in the blogs in English section, so I'm going to get nominating and I urge you to join in. Here you go. Suggestion form

Hat-tip Nosemonkey from Europhobia, (which was nominated for a BOB in the Best Journalism category in 2004), and a very big thank you to whoever nominated me.

Nina's Heavenly Delights Review

Warning: it is impossible to leave the cinema after this without feeling extremely hungry. This is unashamedly a food movie, as well as being a touching love story. I swear I leaned forward in my seat to smell the fragrance of chopped coriander as it was stirred into the sizzling, golden slush of onions, ghee, shredded red chilli and sweet garam masala. And of course, garlic, which the recipe's author explains 'dispels gloom'. Fans of Like Water for Chocolate and The Mistress of Spices will be familiar with the magical restorative powers of love and spices, and it is these themes that Nina's Heavenly Delights deals in, with a charming lightness of touch.

Nina Shah ( Shelley Conn) is the disgraced daughter of an Asian Glasweigian champion curry restauranteur, and it is he who ignites in her a passion for recipes cooked instinctively, ''following your heart''. Duly obeying her heart and instincts, Nina bolts from the altar leaving her fiance Sanjay ( Raji James) , from a rival restaurant, humiliated - and the prospect of a glittering curry dynasty in ruins. The family are more than gloomy when the prodigal returns to Glasgow three years later; they are bereft, for Nina's father has died, leaving half The New Taj restaurant hocked as a gambling debt. Encouraged by her glamour-puss friend Bobbi ( Ronny Jhutti), who now nurses his own dreams of being a Bollywood dancing queen, Nina throws herself into the West Coast curry championships with her charismatic new business partner, Lisa ( Laura Fraser), another childhood friend. Hot glances are exchanged over hot stoves, plunging Nina deeper into gloom at the thought of bringing further disgrace upon her family. The prospect of restoring The New Taj to former glories looks doubtful, as the headstrong Nina ignores what her heart tells her. The magic of her father's recipes fails, and the spices leave a bitter taste in her mouth. It is passion and instinct, of course, that makes spices sing, and until Nina accepts the gift of Lisa's heart and the unexpected risks of love, neither the perfect chicken curry, nor the family fortunes stand much of a chance.

A colourful cross cultural confection of love and spices, don't forget to book a table afterwards to make sure your belly is as warmed as your heart.

(And its based on director Pratibha Parmar's own experiences of love striking in the kitchen. Whatever she cooked, I want the recipe. )

Trailer, website

Friday, September 29, 2006

Nina's Heavenly Delights

It's the opening weekend for a 'sweet love story' -Nina's Heavenly Delights, a film I've been looking forward to seeing. The Guardian preview made much of the fact that it features 'an unapologetically upbeat lesbian relationship, which suggests that times have seriously changed for queer British Asians'. DIVA magazine meanwhile calls it a 'lesbian curry romcom'. Me, I'm just happy that it is now possible to watch a mainstream film in which lesbianism is no big deal. (Mainstream Hollywood only seems to 'do' gay women as shockingly deviant, titillating softcore, or the new favourite, worthy but miserable. And show me a gay female character in a mainstream movie where her lesbianism isn't the be-all and end-all of her charcterisation. It's pretty rubbish.)

What's even more rubbish is the stats on women working in the film industry. According to Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D., School of Communication, San Diego State University, whose study
The Celluloid Ceiling:Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women in the Top 250 Films of 2005

'Over the last four years, the percentage of women working as directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors on the top 250 domestic grossing films has declined from 19% in 2001 to 16% in 2004. Women accounted for 7% of directors in 2005.'

'By genre, women were most likely to work on documentaries and romantic comedies and least likely to work on horror, action, and animated features. Women comprised 29% of individuals working on documentaries, followed by 27% on romantic comedies, 23% on romantic dramas, 20% on comedy/dramas, 19% on dramas, 14% on comedies and science fiction/fantasy features, 13% on action and animated features, and 8% on horror features. '

Why is this? I would have thought women were just as visionary, just as determined, just as creative as men behind the camera. Is it a content thing? A funding thing?

The feature in DIVA reveals how the UK Film Council’s New Cinema Fund turned down director Pratibha Parmar's funding application stating ''lesbianism has had its sell by date''‚ as one of the core reasons. This view was apparently shared by 'most film financiers'. (There you go, seems lesbianism is merely a passing craze. Perhaps I had better get down the road to local ''boho dyke hotspot Stoke Newington'' (c) my friends Eva & Sophie to spread the word.)

The First Weekenders Group , which has the strategic goals of 'increasing the number of women directors working in film, television or other media, building audiences for women directed films, increasing awareness of women's contributions to film and television history, and developing a community that will increase employment opportunities for women in entertainment. By turning up to watch women-directed movies on their first weekend of opening, you can help to keep films in cinemas for longer and make a difference.'

So that's what I'll be doing, and if you want to support women in film, then bums on seats is the way forward. The ethnicity and sexual preferences of the bum's owner are not relevant: a good love story is a good love story.

Released in selected cinemas in the UK from 29th September. PG.

Reviews here, here, here and later on from me

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Gays in the military

'I know I'd rather die in a terrorist attack than suffer through an uncomfortable shower with a gay...'

Genius from The Daily Show captured by towleroad). ( hat-tip, urban 75 messageboards')

The Rules Of The Game Have Changed update

Ecletech, Doghorse and Bo Bo D'Or noticed the post 'The Rules of the Game Have Changed' and have sent me an m-peg of it set to scarily martial music. It's brilliant. You can listen to it here.

Thank you very much, talented Tim!

A moment of introspection

You know, I think I've been writing about politics so much recently, because it is easier than writing about how I feel. A lot of my frustration and anger can be shifted into political argument, and besides, it is also a way of getting back to normality for me. I was always very interested in politics; after July 7th happened, the interest in the news became overwhelming. Being unwittingly at the epicentre of one of the biggest news stories in UK made the personal, political and the political, personal. And so it has gone on ever since.

Right now, I can see that things still aren't properly back to normal, despite a great deal of effort put into trying to make it that way. Despite a promising early start, I now find it too difficult to get on the tube in the morning, if it is crowded. And it always is crowded, and so I can't get on. I get taxis instead, which I can't afford.

I get the tube back in the evening, though that is also hard: not so much the tube journey, but the walking back through the dark streets around Finsbury Park and the crowds of youths hanging about. They frighten me too, though I try not to let it show.

I find it extremely difficult to concentrate at work at the moment. It just does not interest me as much as it used to; it feels all wrong - too trivial - and the part of my life that used to get passionate about advertising seems a long way away now. Secretly, I would like to leave my job, and do something else. Writing. That's all I really want to do now. Not advertising strategy, not really, not any more. I try, I like my team, I smile and laugh, I am really grateful to my company for their support. I try to work hard, I try not to talk about what I am thinking and feeling inside. Somedays I wake up and I feel frightened, or sad, all day, or find that my mind is floating away from my desk and down, down into the darkness of the tunnel, and I am still re-living it, again, unwillingly feeling the horror and fear that I did not feel at the time. I was numb at the time. Sometimes I wish I still was.

I stopped going to counselling months ago. I don't take anti-depressants or sleeping pills. This blog is the only place I talk about July and after. The rest of my life goes on, and I try to stay connected to it all, with greater or lesser degrees of success. Some things are almost impossible. Admin. Listening to beautiful music. The dark smoke I still smell makes it hard to draw breath sometimes, and breathe freely, be normal.

I don't know how many other survivors feel the same. I know dozens who do, but I don't know the full number.

I've taken the day off work today as holiday, to be quiet, to write and to consider. Hence this blog post. I am reading my whole story all over again, from the beginning. It's making me sad to read it. It's very hard to think about all this stuff, and to think of all of these other people's stories as I am reading my own.

I have been asked to tell this story so many times, that it has become almost unreal to me. But at the same time, it has become a part of me, and now, still, much of what I do, think, feel is defined by the events of that July summer morning and after.

I have been asked to write the story again, the whole story, all of it. What happened before July 7th, on that day, and what happened after. The story of Rachel from North London, an anonymous commuter, like so many others, who got on a train one day, and for whom everything changed.

To jog my memory, I am listening to John Gaunt's BBC radio programme of 7/7/2005, which covers what happened as the events unfolded. Londoners call in, and tell their stories, live, during the show. I recognise the voices of some of the callers now, they were strangers to me then, but I have met them since, we were brought together by the bombs on July 7th.

I also re-read the thread on urban 75 where I first posted my account, which became the BBC account, which became this diary. My story was just one of many stories, and so many were hurt far more than me, so many were bereaved, so many were terrified. I can only tell my own story, and I tell it, over and over, simply because it helps me, and because people have said that it helped them, and because it could be the story of anyone. Or so I think.

It's hard to know what to do. I get verbally attacked, regularly, by people who question my motives, for writing, for speaking out. I have had to question my motives searchingly, myself. What right do I have to speak out and say what I do? When I was not badly hurt?

Only the same right as anyone else, and after all, this is just a small personal blog where I talk about what I think, like millions upon millions of other bloggers. Nobody has to listen, nobody has to read. But people do listen, they do read, and some of them leave comments, send emails, get in touch, amongst them many other people like me who were caught up in the London bombings, and other terrible events. They share their stories, and I am moved, and humbled, and grateful for their sharing them. It helps to know I am not alone, that I am like other human beings, and that we can listen to each other.

I have learned so much about other people through this event, and often what I learn surprises me. Blogging and publishing on the internet gives many people a voice and a means of sharing what they think. Not all of it is what you'd want to hear. Some of what is written is pure vitriol, some of it is pure compassion. All of it is deeply human.

Many voices, many millions of people. This blog, as I always said, is just one voice, from the darkness of the underground train. It's me, my story, and thank you for reading it, and for coming with me on this strange journey.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

'Party Pole-tics'

Well, I went down to Iain Dale's TV lair last night at 18 Doughty St and I must say he and his colleagues were very charming, and I am sure that it is going to be all very smart. The Polish builders are restoring 19 Doughty St to former glories ( the Spectator is down the road, not in the same building, to quash a rumour), and I am sure that I will learn how to use my pocket sized camera asap. And hopefully provide some interesting anti-establishment content.

We had an idea tonight at my pole-dancing class: that I would shoot a 2 minute weekly segment featuring my pole dancing students giving their thoughts on a hot political issue du jour. ''Stretching our bodies, stretching our minds'', volunteered one dancer. ''Spin, then a spin!'' said another. The idea is that the girls will answer a political question, then demonstrate a pole move. I will email the question round on Monday, and the dance students will respond with their thoughts on film in class the next evening. The students include a barrister, an advertising manager, an administrator, and a student so there should be quite a wide range of opinions.

We will also teach viewers how to perform a pole trick as a bonus.

Pole tricks all have names: Egyptian, American Fireman, Spiral, Black Widow, Sunwheel, and so on. We will endeavour to demonstrate a move that ties in with the topical issue of the week

So. Political reaction from the people. Or even, 'Opinion poles' ( hat tip Graham in the comments) . And why not? Democracy, quite literally, in action.

Well, it seemed like a good wheeze at the time...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bin Laden the Scarlet Pimpernel

I forgot to put a bet on Bin Laden being captured dead or alive before the US mid term elections. They didn't have it on Ladbokes website. And now we hear he may have expired. What will Bush do without his glamorous assistant, if this is true? Every Jungian archetype needs a shadow side. Every Western needs a baddie. Every James Bond film needs a Mr. Evil. This will never do. He can't just cough his last and shuffle off his mortal coil in a cave somewhere, he needs to be Totally Precision Killed, in a way that allows his identifiable corpse to be paraded about on Fox News.

Still, blog reader Hugh points out that Rove has been promising GOP insiders an October surprise and a recent tete a tete with Pakistan's president ( who made it clear that US friendship was the preferable option to being 'bombed back to the stone age') plus shenanigans on the Pakistani border may yet allow a rabbit to be pulled out of the hat...

'There is no 9/11 conspiracy you morons'

Ace. And comment moderator is on.
Double ace.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Politics Show 12pm Sunday

...tomorrow, Sunday, 12pm, has a 7/7 report with me and Crispin Black, and the interview with Gordon Brown that we have all been waiting for.

18 Doughty Street

see video

Iain tells me...

''18 Doughty Street will be a channel that challenges the stale, status quo thinking that dominates so much of British political life.
It doesn’t set out to be left, right or centre, but to be anti-establishment. We want to involve people of all political parties and none.
In the next few weeks we’ll start streaming a few hours of programmes every weekday – all via the internet.
We’ll be employing about a dozen people to produce the programmes and to oversee the station’s editorial direction but at the heart of the channel’s output will be a network of more than fifty reporters and commentators – genuine citizen journalists.
I would love you to agree to be one of those fifty.''
So I said yes. Apparently the camcorder is handbag sized and easy to use so even a techno-muppet like me can use it. Why not have a go? Got to try new things, and as nothing like this has been done before (as far as I know), I'm all up for it. Who knows where this will lead as an idea? I like the idea of voters talking about politics, making their own programmes, interactive user-generated content, ''citizen journalism'' - what I described once as ''stories of the people, by the people, for the people'' and rattling a few cages. I like the idea of interviewing people about what they think about politics, and getting as many people's voices out as possible. I like the idea of 'visual' blogging, since you can communicate much more when you speak it rather than just write it. Like all content, it will stand or fall on whether people find it interesting. So let's see what happens next...and thanks for the invite to get involved with something so interesting-sounding.

Today's trawl...

This morning I read...

''They’ve actually blocked off a fair chunk of the city centre, with no access at all except to the apparat. Great. Treated like a terrorist suspect in my own city. This isn’t a public event. It’s the sales conference of the governing party...'' ( from Blood and Treasure, via Tim)

''They're coming back for more than 28 days, put your pocket-money on it. First, there was this HASC report, buried in 7/7 and summer breaks... The conversation's "already happening". People are "moving". The case is made. The sub-judice Heathrow bomb plot is the ammo. He pulls "42 days, 72 days" out of the air, just supposin' you know...'' ( Jarndyce)

''Across our media landscape the tone of analysis has become increasingly frenzied as commentators are encouraged not to inform their readers or sit on the fence but instead play to their prejudices. You are supposed to either hate them or love them; there is no middle ground...'' ( Picked Politics - also on Comment is Free)

''Do you think your average Pakistani Islamist is going to be impressed or assuaged by the fact that their President succumbed to bullying from the US government? It's hardly likely. This admission will surely weaken his position at home if anything, not strengthen it.That still leaves the question as to why he actually made this claim at this time. It is possible that he simply wants the American people to know how their government has behaved. If so, I'm not sure it'll have the effect he intends...'' ( Curious Hamster, additional comment by Not Saussure)

And Manic's made an ace video thing

Mirror 7/7 Inquiry Campaign

The Mirror continues to campaign for a 7/7 inquiry and I have contributed a piece.
Lessons of 7/7 - police blunders caused torment for survivors and families
Study finds 8 crucial errors
'It doesn't tell us the vital facts' ( RN)

Previous campaigning from Voice of the Mirror
'7/7 Truth Must Out'
'7/7 Answers'
'Probe Terror'
For more about the campaign in the media, see blog sidebar.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The latest 7/7 report in the news

The report is out at 9.30am and should be available from either the Home Office or the DCMS website. (The promised letter from Tessa Jowell telling victims when to expect it and how to find it has not arrived, as predicted.)

UPDATE: A copy of the report has arrived in the post, hurray.
The lead story on Sky is '7/7 Victims let down' and on BBC news it is also a top story 'London Bombing Victims 'let down'. The Government is trying to bury this bad news on one of the quietest political weekends of the year, but we're doing what we can to get it talked about. See links at end of post.

For me, the point is two-fold: one, yes, they need to improve the planning so the response can be improved next time. Members of the emergency services, hospital staff, member of LU staff and many members of the public were heroic on the day: nobody could criticise the bravery and compassion that was shown by so many ordinary people on July 7th and after. But poor planning, and a response hampered by inadequate equipment, let them down.

Secondly, we know all this already: all this, and more was said by the London Assembly report published in the spring. They had the single remit to investigate how London coped on the day, and they did so by interviewing responders ( emergency services, police, telephone operators) and survivors. It was the first public, independent investigation of SOME of the facts.

And it caused an uproar: for the first time, the public heard the real story of the chaos after the carnage. They heard all that back in June.

This latest report, from what I can gather, ( and I'll read it as soon as it is out) simply reiterates what has already been said by the London Assembly: it talks about victims, the effects of 7/7 on them, how London coped, but it misses the opportunity to talk about causes. It misses the chance to look at what led up to July 7th, and to look at why it happened and how it happened.

So what is the point of this report? I am grateful that John Reid and Tessa Jowell listened to us, but it's not about making me feel better. I simply want to do what I can to stop this happening again. I'm sure everyone does. So why can't we have a proper independent inquiry? All these reports, internal reports, official accounts, some of which even partially contradict each other, many of which are notable for what they don't cover as much as what they do, are no substitute for an independent inquiry, and having all the information in one place for the public, who are told daily they are a target, to look at and understand and discuss.

Yet again the Government misses a golden chance to bring understanding, healing, to lance the widespread anger about the refusal to discuss foreign policy's part in the roots of radicalisation. If we did that, maybe we could look to a safer, calmer future together. It misses the chance to have a sane, grown-up debate about the issues that affect all of us, every man and woman and child in the UK. For me, it's not about being a victim, it's about trying to save future lives. It's already happened to me: now how can we stop it happening to YOU?

It looks to me as if the Government will have any number of difficult private meetings, even say sorry to our anxious faces, admit that victims anger is 'justified', rather than have an independent, public investigation about the causes of July 7th. It misses the point, yet again.

It will pass dozens of authoritarian laws, sanction raiding houses, disrupting holidays, arresting people and holding them without charge, even the occasional shooting of innocent people in the name of the war on terror, but it won't talk about how we got to this point, how safe we are, and whether there is anything we can learn about the causes of homegrown terrorism in the UK.

It is a great shame and a sad scandal, and a missed opportunity, because if we did look at the causes, rather than just the effects of July 7th, we might all have more of a chance.

I am completely fed up with this; fed up of being asked to stand up and make these obvious points over and over again. I want to plan my wedding, get on with my life; I am sick of 7/7 still being in my life, but at least I still have a life. I am just a random person who got on a train, and got blown up, and who ended up trying to help herself and others deal with it by sharing information and helping each other in the absence of official support and help, and asking questions that I am not alone in wanting answers to. How safe are we? Why did this happen? What are we doing to stop it happening again?

These are obvious questions. I can't believe I have to push and push like this to get sensible answers. And that we're all still waiting, fourteen months on and here I still am, exhausted, still going on about it.

But this is important. So I've taken the day off work as a holiday and in between going to the dentist, I'll be talking to journalists, with other survivors and bereaved families. Sky Sunrise, BBC News 24, C4 12pm news, BBC Radio 4 World At One, BBC 1.30pm London News, ITN 1pm News, BBC Asian Network, ITN London Tonight, BBC 6.30pm London news, and the papers. I'll try and report back during the day, once I've read the report, due out in an hour.

UPDATE: Blimey, I am knackered. All news channels done, with further testimony and support from Kirsty, Michael and Jacqui who are doing the rounds too, well done them. Okay, coverage round up, now I'm back from the dentist...

Channel 4 report ( video)
BBC News ( includes link to report)
Sky News
Watch Sky news report
Listen to BBC Radio 4 World at One
ITN website ( & report, which I can't watch on this PC, curses)
BBC London news ( will show tonight's prgramme later this evening)
Telegraph ( has video)
The Mirror
The Sun
Guardian( includes link to report)

Look out for a special report on the BBC's The Politics Show this Sunday 12pm

UPDATE 2: Bloggers on the subject. Please let me know if I've missd you out.

Not Saussure

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fellow-passenger Gill on UN International Day of Peace

Today, September 21st is the UN International Day of Peace.
Two of the most inspiring, courageous, compassionate people whom I have got to know over the past year are Gill, who was the last person to be pulled alive from the Piccadilly line train, and Joe her husband.
Today, Gill, who has become a Peace Direct Ambassador has a message.
Please watch it, and please, pass it on.
You can also watch it on YouTube.
Thank you, and peace be with you all.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


We won't talk of causes, we'll talk of effects.
We'll whip up a horror of radical sects.
(We don't want to talk about why they are vexed)
The Rules of the Game Have Changed.

We'll tell you we're listening, but we don't want to hear.
We'll trash civil liberties, ramp up the fear,
(And, if after the PM's job, go up a gear)
The Rules of the Game Have Changed

You can march in your millions, protest if you dare -
As long as you don't go near Parliament Square
(The cries of your anger might be heard by us there).
And the Rules of the Game Have Changed

If we think you're a bomber, Osama's recruit
There's no time for questions, Jean Charles, we'll just shoot,
And the ''misinformed'' officers won't get the boot.
The Rules of the Game Have Changed.

We don't condone torture - 'least, not on our lands
For ''unlawful combatants'' / ''terrorist bands''
Though some say rendition leaves blood on our hands,
But the Rules of the Game Have Changed.

Your sons and your daughters must be under your gaze
Lest their young minds be fuddled by martyrdom's haze.
(Extremism's causes? Debate's been erased.)
The Rules of the Game Have Changed.

We're watching and logging you all, can't you see?
It's for your own good, it will keep you all free.
The cameras, wiretaps, biometric ID...
The Rules of the Game Have Changed

You think this sounds scary? You're starting to cry?
Armageddon is coming! The End Times are nigh!
We're ready for Rapture, to heaven-ward fly...
The Rules of the Game Have Changed.

So bring on the horror, the fear and alarm.
We won't rest til infidels all buy the farm,
God willing. Bush said so
. 'Twil work like a charm!...
The Rules of the Game Have Changed.

And you think I'm joking? And well so you might.
You won't give up liberty without a fight?
Check our track record - we'll soon see who's right.
The Rules of the Game Have Changed.

RN 2006

UPDATE: Readers are joining in! Check the comments for more verses contributed by Pete in Dunbar! And please feel free to add your own, suggest links, set it to music... ( possibly stirringly martial?).
Maybe they can all sing it at the Labour Conference.

UPDATE! Listen to scarily stirringly martial 'THE RULES OF THE GAME HAVE CHANGED' on MP3! Big thanks to
Ecletech, Doghorse and Bo Bo D'Or.

Holly on not another bloody 7/7 report

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Waiting for the next 7/7 report

Following an early mea culpa from Tessa Jowell, (Minister in charge of disaster victims) in last weekend's Telegraph, (''We failed the 7/7 victims''), and follow up in the Guardian, ( '' New calls for 7/7 inquiry after minister's admission'') the media are starting to champ about the publication of the government's 7/7 'Lessons Learned' report. So I'm getting calls again. Which is fine, I'll talk, I'll pass on enquiries to speak to survivors. I'm been sledging away for months and months, ( scroll down blog sidebar, or hit google: Rachel North + July inquiry). And I'm going to keep on saying it; though the members of the emergency services and police and the ambulance dispatchers and the hospital workers, and many other ordinary people were heroic, angelic, it was still a mess, especially afterwards -and we still need an independent inquiry.

I keep banging on and on and on and on. Because people I care about have asked me to. Because I believe it is the right thing to do. Because it is too damn important to shut up about.

The latest 7/7 report is supposed to be out this week. Survivors and bereaved are supposed to get *prior warning of its publication. *(In my experience, and in fellow-passenger Holly's experience, that usually means getting a letter a day or so after the report has come out, and has been thoroughly covered in all the newspapers and on the news. We always know when a major 7/7 report is coming out in any case, because we spend the week before taking phone calls and getting emails from reporters and researchers keen to find out interview availability, and eager to share what they know already from leaks. It is grimly funny, in its way.)

Anyway, this latest report follows the independent London Assembly report (which asked for a full response by 30 September from the government and all organisations that were involved). After the publication of the London Assembly report - which was very critical of the aftercare of survivors, after my one-off meeting with Charles Clarke, the then-Home Secretary, in which I invited him to meet other bomb survivors, ( he accepted) and challenged him about why there was no public inquiry into 7/7 - a series of meetings with survivors and bereaved families was set up with Tessa Jowell and the new Home Secretary, John Reid.

At these meetings, they talked, we listened, we talked, they listened ( mostly). And to give them credit, the Secretaries of State sat there with their officials and they took it all; the anger, the grief, the despair. And they said they would learn, and that they would come back to us.

From those angry, painful, moving testimonies, and from the careful, compassionate, detailed work of the London Assembly Scrutiny Committee, there will be another set of pages produced on Friday, to join the pile of individual reports, and minutes, and suggestions, and learnings, and recommendations, and challenges, and arse-covering produced so far, and that famous slim pamphlet, the Official Narrative, which told us almost nothing that we hadn't already found out via the papers.

And if anyone today, a survivor, a bereaved family member, a member of the public, a fire or police officer, an ambulance driver or dispatcher, a hospital manager or doctor or nurse or emergency planner or MP wants to find out exactly what happened on 7/7 , how and why it happened, and what we have learned and how we can work together to stop it happening again, they will have a long search, and a big task ahead of them.

They will have to look all over the place, they will have to write in and ask for publications to be forwarded to them, search the internet, ( goggling meanwhile at the conspiracy theories that infest the net, having sprung up, toadstool-like in the absence of detailed and credible official information), print off pages of reports, collate and cross reference them, and at the end of it all, they will have a disparate set of answers and suggestions and guesses from all sorts of people who were involved on July 7th and afterwards.

Some of them will have talked to each other, some of them won't. Some of the reports will contradict each other, and some of them won't. Some of them will try to be independent but most of them won't, being internal inquiries and naturally keen to avoid blame. And nowhere will there be a single accessible, independent, forensic report of what the bloody hell went on and what the bloody hell we're trying to do to stop it happening again.

It's not good enough. Which is what I will say when asked, when the reporters ring again and the camera focuses on my tired face, again. But hey. Maybe this time it'll be different. Maybe this latest report will have all the answers. Maybe it will do justice to the dead, and the damaged, and the haunted, and the frightened, and the angry and the anxious. Maybe it will tell the public what they need to know, maybe it will quieten the conspiracies, lessen the sense of victimhood, give hope to the still-suffering, show how the lessons have been learned, even save lives, should it happen again.


I'm not very hopeful though.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Gordon Brown A-Z of Fun and Games

What the terrorists want

Good article from Bruce Schneier, hat-tip, Hugh G.

(sample) : ''Much of our counterterrorist efforts are nothing more than security theater: ineffectual measures that look good. Forget the war on terror; the difficulty isn't killing or arresting the terrorists, it's finding them. Terrorism is a law enforcement problem, and needs to be treated as such...''

KCU Down Under

Said a riotous goodbye to Kings Cross United blogger Bumblebee last night, as she sets off for Australia, with her husband, soon to be followed by KCU blogger, Hamish, and her partner. Hamish and Bumblebee didn't know each other before 7/7, now they are best friends and have inspired each other to go and live in Sydney, where they won't have to travel on tubes anymore. So now we have KCU members in Spain, Turkey, Singapore and Sydney, as well as all over the UK. Many of the KCU people will be coming to my wedding in April next year. We all got quite emotional ( *and drunk) last night, thinking of how we have all become part of each other's lives, and we were just fellow passengers before last summer. Holly and I were struggling a bit last night, we had got trashed the night before and ended up discussing politics, and declaiming *poetry until 3.30am. She hit the dancefloor, I crawled home to die.

*if you have never settled down, and read this poem out loud, you have missed out big time. Go pour a whisky, close the curtains and light a candle, for Bess the landlord's daughter, ('the land lord's black-eyed daughter, plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair'.) Goosebumps.

Postman Al odds slashed.

Postman Al at 3/1. Getting the Murdoch blessing in the Sunday Times today, I see.

I bet earlier: got 11/4, ha on Nice Alan, (just missed 6/1, boo.) Got £50 on him each way, hat tip, genius columnist and perma-foe of the Home Office, Matthew Norman, whose lunch with my parents is in this Saturday's Guardian. ( MN & RN at Clarkes, earlier, here. We bonded in the summer following this life-enhancing Clarke-orientated feast which the then Home Sec found rather hard to digest)

Couching Devil, Hidden trauma

Devil's Kitchen stops swearing to wonder whether he's a sociopath. If you're wondering that, DK, then you probably aren't. But I like the introspection. It suits you.

Steven Lovegrove '...eerie calm'

Top bloggery!

Iain Dale has unleashed his booklet 'Iain Dale's Guide to Political Blogging in the U.K' ( pdf) and it is very exciting to see some of my favourite blogs and bloggers not only listed, but making the top 30 of the UK's Top 100 political Blogs!

1. Guido Fawkes ('Subversive gossip. Consistently provacative- the press chase his stories')
3.Iain Dale ('Commentary & gossip from a Conservative A'lister - often makes the news')
9. NHS Blog Doctor ( 'Dr Crippen's day-to-day experience as a GP in the NHS - horrifying stuff')
14. Bloggerheads ( 'Tim Ireland's explosive site which delights in attacking just about everyone')
17. Bob Piper ('Old Labour and proud of it - the Tyrannosaurus Rex of Labour blogs')
19. Chicken Yoghurt. ( 'Political critique from Brighton. Leftish, but not party political')
22. Tim Worstall (The grandaddy of prolific political blogging - independent-minded)
25. Rachel from North London ( '7-7 bombing victim has broadened her blog from her 7-7 experience')

(Wah-hey! And I am the only gurl in the Top 25! C'mon ladies, hit the keyboards. The personal is the political, remember, sistas?)

26.Blairwatch ('Only one aim - to get rid of Tony Blair - soon to become obsolete?')

(But where is Recess Monkey? Tsk, tsk, boo, hiss.)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
In yet more excitement, I am number 11 in the Top UK Non-Aligned Political Blogs. Bloggerheads is 6, Chicken Yogurt is 8, Tim Worstall is 10 and Blairwatch is 12. is 23, Curious Hamster is 46, Not Little England is 50, Europhobia is 77 and Netherworld is 97.

(Dead-tree-ers - Peter 'Ghastly' Hitchens is 66, Melanie 'Barking' Phillips is 69 and Trevor 'Whatever'' Kavenaugh is 85. Ha, ha, ha.)

UPDATE: Made the Daily Kos

Jowell:'We failed 7/7 victims'

Tessa Jowell today in the Sunday Telegraph
I've had several meetings with fellow-survivors of the Piccadilly line suicide-bomb attack, with Tessa Jowell, and John Reid about the aftermath of 7 July. I also gave evidence with other survivors to the London Assembly, after which the London Assembly 7 July Review Committee produced an excellent independent report, making recommendations and charting failings. And the bereaved families, and survivors of the other bombs have also had a series of meetings with the Secretaries of State. I have campaigned for ages, and I still campaign, with other survivors and bereaved families for an independent inquiry into the July 7th bombings ( also see sidebar of the blog). We have been promised a ''Lessons Learned'' report by Tessa Jowell, which I understand is likely to be published this week. I am sure that it will make interesting, but depressing reading.

One of the reasons that I keep asking for an independent inquiry, (maybe something a bit like a 9/11 Commission Report?) is that currently all the reports, recommendations, learnings, accounts, and narratives of what happened on and after July 7th are all completely separate. Some of the reports even contradict each other. It is obvious that much of what the individual reports by different departments say would be greatly improved by cross-referencing with other published and unpublished reports and minutes - since the government, hospitals and emergency services respond in tandem to a serious crisis such as near-simultaneous multiple bombings, it makes no sense to have them all publish separate reports without sharing information with each other.

And anyone who wishes to understand more about what happened on July 7th, and about what is being done to prevent such horrors being repeated, and to see if improve the response to major disasters or acts of terrorism cn be improved , has to hunt about all over the place. It's not good enough; there should be one single extensive, accessible report, compiled by someone properly independent of the government, and the security services, and emergency services, who has the power to ask questions and demand answers and who can create something that is a fitting response to and record of the worst act of mass murder on British soil.

It's the public who were attacked, the public who were let down by the response and planning ( which is not to denigrate the heroism of the individuals of the emergency services on the day). It's the public who continue to run the risks of bombs and terror attacks, to have their civil liberties and long-cherished freedoms compromised or taken away, their holidays inconvenienced by threats, alerts and long delays, their houses invaded by armed police. The public who are told again and again that ''the rules of the game have changed'', so why is there STILL no single public document to answer their questions, to reassure and inform them about what happened on July 7th, why it happened, how it happened, what is being done to prevent it happening again, and what we will do if there is another 7/7 -type attack?

''A Home Office report to be published this week will list a catalogue of shortcomings and make a series of recommendations to ensure that Britain is better prepared in future.
While praising the emergency services for "huge bravery and professionalism" on the day, it will say that failures in communication, a lack of telephone help lines and the absence of a central reception point for walking wounded all compounded the distress.
After the bombs exploded — killing 56 people, including the four bombers — hundreds of injured victims made their own way home without medical help. Many are only now coming forward to complain of trauma symptoms. The report will recommend that plans are put in place for "reception centres", which would be set up close to the scene of any such future incidents to act as a rallying point.
Another key failing was the Metropolitan Police casualty bureau phone lines which could not cope with the volume of calls from worried families.
Some people spent days trying to find relatives, and were even turned away from intensive care units because they did not have adequate ID. The report will say: "We accept there was more we could have done in our preparations and in our response on the day and in the days and weeks that followed."
The findings are based on dozens of meetings conducted by Miss Jowell and John Reid, the Home Secretary, with relatives of the victims.
Miss Jowell said: "I think the anger that people feel is justified. People feel that after they have been an innocent victim of one of these atrocities they feel outraged by what has happened and I think that sometimes, for some people, insensitivity — unintended insensitivity — has made that worse.
"What is very clear to me is that if people feel they have not been properly helped within the first few hours, nothing is likely to change in their subsequent view. So getting the right help in place very quickly is absolutely critical to people's ability to adjust and adapt later."
She continued: "You have to be prepared to stand and take the anger and frustration of families and take their experience as a resolution to do better next time.
"We will apply the lessons learned from the tragedies these families have had to endure. But I don't think we'll ever get it completely right, and we have to show enough humility to continue to learn."

(c) Sunday Telegraph 17 September 2006

We'll see.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Blog survey - please take 5

Hi Rachel,
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If you participate you will be asked to answer questions anonymously aboutyour blogging practices and your expectations of privacy when publishingonline. All answers will be stored and analysed on a confidential basis. The responses will be used to inform academic and policy discussions on blogging practices and attitudes towards privacy. Finally, could you please encourage other bloggers to participate in thestudy.It takes less than 5 minutes to complete the survey !For further information on my research please visit

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Many thanks,

Another simulataneous lone demonstration

Curses, I am still stuck at work on a deadline. So I will have to hand in my form tomorrow for the next simulataneous demonstration on September 22nd ( deadline is 15th September) . Same drill, as last time, turn up 100% legally, and protest against the Serious Organised Crime Act. Remember, that daft and rather sinister piece of legislation which insists that demonstrations in Parliament Square ( where our elected representatives might see them) must be cleared with the police in writing a week before, making spontaneous outbreaks of democratic, peaceful protest illegal.

Since it is hard to know a full week in advance quite what is round the corner that could require our support or censure, ( the carpet-bombing of Iran, the failure to call for a cease-fire in Lebanon, Gordon Brown taking to the roof of No.10 in a bat-suit ...), it is important to highlight the utter uselessness and stupidity of SOCPA, a pernicious piece of legislation, which is just one of the things that has been used to pick holes in the fabric of our great tradition of freedom of speech.

And since I cannot see why standing outside Parliament, the heart of our democracy and making a peaceful point constitutes the organised behaviour of a serious criminal, I shall try to get down there next week and make my point yet again.

Info, info on how to fill in the form, more info,
what happened last time ( with pics and lots of links)

(Hum. I wonder whether, if I turned up without an application form last week, and protested about the unfortunate Mr. Blair being forced into having to state he'd be gone in a year, whether I'd have been carted off in a police van? Or if I'd stood next to the Cenotaph and started reading out the names of MPs who hadn't signed letters demanding the PM sets a date for his exit, whether I'd have met the same fate as Maya and Milan, who were arrested for reading out the names of British soldiers and Iraqi civilains killed in the Iraq war? )

UPDATE: Brian - whose brave, embarrassing, determined, crazy, noble one-man Parliament Square protest stank in the nostrils of Blair for so long is in court/isn't in court/needs your thoughts and your support as he faces the latest round of this farce. Hat-tip - Justin

Counterpunch sucker-punch

A breath of fresh air.
How They Let the Guilty Parties of 9/11 Slip Off the Hook
The 9/11 Conspiracy Nuts

''What Barrett and Collins brilliantly show are the actual corrupt conspiracies on Giuliani’s watch: the favoritism to Motorola which saddled the firemen with radios that didn’t work; the ability of the Port Authority to skimp on fire protection, the mayor’s catastrophic failure in the years before 9/11/2001 to organize an effective unified emergency command that would have meant that cops and firemen could have communicated; that many firemen wouldn’t have unnecessarily entered the Towers; that people in the Towers wouldn’t have been told by 911 emergency operators to stay in place; and that firemen could have heard the helicopter warnings and the final Mayday messages that prompted most of the NYPD men to flee the Towers.
That’s the real political world, in which Giuliani and others have never been held accountable. The nuts disdain the real world because, like much of the left and liberal sectors, they have promoted Bush, Cheney and the Neo-Cons to an elevated status as the Arch Demons of American history, instead of being just one more team running the American empire, a team of more than usual stupidity and incompetence...''


Hat-tip, Indigo Jo ( with good blog post on the subject here).
Oh, and, here you go, before it all starts off again.

Yo, America, yo, Blair

...if anyone is up late, you can listen to me and the urbane Iain Dale, and Robert Guest, Washington Editor of The Economist, discussing Tony Blair on US open source radio at half past midnight. I was out tonight in Soho with a pal from the BBC news website, and after a whole evening of disgraceful media and political gossip, and four glasses of wine, or was it five, and a very bloody lamb steak, I'm not sure if I made any sense at all...but Iain and Robert sounded very together.

UPDATE: I also did very-late-night BBC Radio 5 live 'Pods& Blogs' on Monday ( pre-recorded at the weekend when I was 100% sober and en route to the gym, and you can listen to that here by choosing ''listen to the show'' on the top right hand of the pods & blogs page. The show kicked off with Bush's speech live, then had some very interesting voices from all over the world, including Iraq and New Orleans.

UPDATE 2: Lovely Robin from US open-source radio wonders if the civlised banter across party lines here between right-wing Iain and lefty-liberal me is something that can be replicated in the US, where things are much more snippy. I've had a few negative posts left about me on Harry's Place and perma-chuntering David Duff, but I no longer think that there is much point descending into sniping and hostile blog wars; after all, I've got Tory friends and colleagues and I don't spend my time in shouting matches with them. I've even snogged Tories in the ( long-distant) past. And I had a lovely lunch in the House of Commons with a Tory MP who's now a mate, a few months ago. Gossip is gossip, after all...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


From Emily, one of this blog's readers...

''It was this carefree existence of student life, before the realities of responsibilities, finding a job and paying tax, that I wanted my sister to experience. It was the main reason why I didn’t want her to join the army at 16. I wanted her to experience the selfishness of student life. What it feels like to study purely want you want to for a number of years while soaking your brain in liberal amounts of vodka. I feared that army life would take away her freedom.
When she joined the army I thought how wrong I was. As she passed each stage with merit and gained the respect of hardened macho men who had formerly believed women had no place in the armed forces until they met her, I began to change my mind. But this was pre-Iraq. Any service that can send a newbie into the toughest line of work within two weeks of qualifying, is the hardest of task masters.

Nineteen was the average age of soldiers fighting Vietnam. My sister is now at that age. At 19 my sister is handling medical conditions that her peers suffered in WW1. Working for the RMP, she scraps Iraqis off lampposts after jaw-dropping road traffic accidents and she goes into the middle of the desert in shit snatch landrovers and patrols with a thermal imaging camera but totally vulnerable to a mortar attack. She pays tax on her wages despite facing enormous risks everyday and living for 7 months and two weeks out of the UK. She deals with the fear that is deployment to the hell of hells…Afghanistan. She learns to deal with people from her barracks dying and her boyfriend blown up. Will she be the same 19 year old that got on the plane to Iraq? Will she have the same rose-tinted outlook about army life? I doubt it. She said to me once that when things were bad they used to play the game “I’d rather be here than…” until, when the shit truly hit the fan, they realised that there couldn’t think of many worse places to be anymore. She said this made them laugh because if you didn’t laugh you’d cry your bloody eyes out...''


Thanks to Emily,who emailed tonight, for sharing her story and this powerful post. I look forward to reading more of your blog which you have introduced me to.

And thanks too to Joty, who is thinking of trying blogging, and to Alan, for telling me that he heard me on the radio on late on Monday night, and who told me about the children he teaches in the Scottish Highlands, and Nora, who wanted to share her thoughts on 9/11, and to Frederic, who has peace demonstration information to share, to Stephen, who also loves Latin poetry, and to Robin, who makes US public radio programmes, Natalie, and Phillip, who offered support and wise advice, Morten from Norway, Amy, currently in Uganda, Maria from Oregon, Ralph, who thought he'd lost a passport, but found it, phew, Yuwei Zhang from Shanghai TV, Maria, Graham, Edd, Maureen, Hugh, The Birdman33, health-psych, Sitara from North London, who has just found out about and joined KCU via this blog, and all of the new readers and visitors who have been in contact via comments and email this week or so, telling me you like this blog, telling me a little of yourselves and your lives - Thank you, all of you, very much.

Light shine on you all and keep you safe.

Holly update

Holly, fellow-passenger, near-neighbour, top mate, expressive writer, Guardian-comment contributor has been having a rough old time. Do go and say hello if you are feeling sociable.

Checked in with Kings Cross United, looks like the wierd dolphin-telepathy-empathy thing that we often have going on still works; when many of us will log on simultaneously to say we're wobbly, and find loads of fellow passengers are feeling exactly the damn same. Strange, but comforting. Same day, same feelings, and you only find out when you log on and find everyone posting practically the same message at once. Anniversary blowback hit lots of us, it seems, and without the internet, and our private group messaging/website systemwe'd never know and we'd all probably think we were mad, and alone, and how much worse would that be?

And considering all we had in common a year ago was that we were all stuffed onto the same rush hour train...

Hello Norway

Hello to anyone from Norway visiting the blog via this interview.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Britblog round-up latest (#82)

....and thanks Tim :-)

Bloggers unmask Blairite Johnson plot

( Pic nicked off Guido)
ok, today's Government fighting like a sack of ferrets update....Remember the widespread hilarity about Keeping the Faith, that cheesey Dear Leader Please Stay website set up by an apparently distraught Blair voter on hearing of the PM's imminent exit, and unfortunately over-run by silly names within hours ( well done urban 75) ? Remember how that not-so-net-savvy Tony fan - called David Taylor - was quickly tracked right back to Blair HQ by blogger Tim Ireland? And was discovered to be up to his ears in less than clean tricks? Such as chucking out pensioner Walter Wolfgang for dissent at last year's conference? Smearing Clare Short? And much else besides? Remember this week's ructions as Blair accused Brown of plotting coups? Well, Bloggerheads's Tim Ireland has been hot on the trail of David Taylor, the man behind the ludicrous Blair fan site, all week, and today blogger Dizzy discovered more- that BEFORE Brown was accused of plotting his coup, there was a plan to get Alan Johnson up as the Anti Brown candidate from the Blairites all along!
Nice Alan Johnson has duly gone from 6/1 odds last week to 11/4 this week, for Permanent Leader of the Labour party, and is also at 4/1 for Deputy leader. I just put a monkey on each way, bit slow, drat, meant to do it at the weekend. Go, go, the odds'll slash tomorrow when the dead tree media get hold of this...

Lacrimae rerum

Today is a weird day. New York on 9/11/01 was not my city, not my tragedy, but it is affecting me far more today than it did at the time. There is a strange pull of empathy that I can physically feel, in my chest, in my stomach, a disturbing connection. Maybe it is the endless media images of the blazing towers, which is making me smell again my own smoke, my own fear of death by burning, or suffocation by dust and ash and smoke, or crushing under collapsing rubble. The aftershock of other people's bombs, the horrors of strangers. I am pulled once again to any news, any documentary about September 11th, as I was, as I still am, about 7/7. I am re-experiencing the sense of barely suppressed fear, and something else, something new and different, something which feels close to despair. I don't want to feel like this, it is making me afraid of myself. It also makes me feel guilty and ashamed; this is not my tragedy, so why am I feeling like this?

Right now, I have a headache; my stomach feels nauseous and my gut is upset, and I keep wanting to cry. Not cry for myself, or maybe a bit for myself, but because I am reading and thinking of all the poor people, all over the world, who have died in bombs since this day five years ago. For innocent ones in benighted Afghanistan, bloodied and maddened Iraq, suffering Palestine, Lebanon, the Philipines, Egypt, Bali, Turkey, Israel, India, Pakistan, Kashmir, Madrid, London…

For all the ordinary people caught up in world events, who went to work or who went out to spend time with friends and family, and who never came home. For all those that mourn them. It is overwhelmingly sad, and I don't know what to do.

This is not my tragedy, but I am feeling pulled into its slipsteam, haunted by its ghosts. Can someone else's anniversary make you re-experience your own devastating event? Can media coverage of terrorism reawaken the echoes of PTSD? Is this selfish, is this just temporary? I don’t know, but I wasn't expecting this. These held-back prickling, inappropriate, useless, hopeless tears as I sit at my desk , feeling exposed and uncomfortable in an open-plan office, blogging in my lunchbreak; this heart-sickness, soul-ache, for the sadness of things.

sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangun

Remembering, in silence and in words.

9/11 5 years on

The Widower's Story

BBC Have your Say: A Changed World?

Sometimes I wonder if wall-to-wall coverage is doing the terrorists' job for them, and I am aware of the irony of me saying that. But then, I think it is also important to remember, and to consider where 5 years of 'a war on terror' has got us, to look to our shared future.

And I was going to write a long piece on that, but it will have to wait. I don't think my thoughts have come together enough to do the subject justice, and I'm feeling unsettled, angry, emotional. Last night I got into an argument with someone who is still making out that the 7/7 bombers were innocent, the whole thing was an act of State terrorism, as was 9/11. Conspiracy theorists. Looking for patterns and meaning in a random world. Filling a God-shaped hole.

I have no doubt at all that politicians in the UK and the US and elsewhere have exploited 9/11 and 7/7 to the max, as that is the nature of politicians - and I am against much of what is done in the name of the war on terror, and I keep trying to say so, as often as I can, without becoming a single-issue bore. But I do not think that 9/11, or Madrid, or Bali, or 7/7 were acts of State terrorism, and I think anyone who is insisting that they are, is missing the point entirely.

Thinking of Seth, one of this blog's readers, in New York, today, and all the people in New York, and Washington, and all the families and friends of the passengers and crew of the four flights, the airport workers, those working in the Pentagon and the WTC, and the fire officers and police officers and rescue workers, and all those all over the world who have been casualties of the War on Terror. Too many to name, too many to number.
The Independent does some of the maths.

One thing in my life that changed after 9/11. I always kiss J before I go to work and I tell him that I love him. And I always carry a mobile phone.

What changed for you? Did anything change?

UPDATE: CNN is playing all the harrowing footage of the day as it happened, which I can't face, personally, but if you didn't see it, is an extraordinary moment in history preserved in all its horror.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

'Gordon is a moron' sez Charles

The Safety Elephant is trumpeting abroad and running wild! Readers of today's Telegraph will doubtless be chuntering into their prunes and branflakes as they read of ex Home Secretary Charles Clarke's interview in which he talks of ''Deluded'' Gordon's "psychological" issues that he must confront and accuses him of being a "control freak" and "totally uncollegiate"."Can a leopard change its spots?" asks Mr Clarke, portentously.

He insists that the ''Stupid, stupid '' Chancellor should not assume he will be the next leader. "He doesn't have rights in this, he has to earn them — he has to win the support of the party.

"He, not anyone else, has to win the active support of people like me and his Cabinet colleagues.

An aide of the Chancellor said: "We all say things which, in the cold light of day, we wish we hadn't said."

Meanwhile Tory blogger Dizzy sleuths back the links between the resigning 'plotters' ( sorry 'Dizzy', for thinking you were a lady) , and the Conservatives show they are not much better at this PR lark with David Camerons's entourage running over and seriously injuring a passer-by whilst on a photo-op in India, and Boris Johnson having to apologise to Papua New Guineans for calling them 'cannibals'. Davide provides a cogent round-up of the latest state of play as New Labour implodes.

My money is on Nice Alan Johnson as the Anti-Brown. So that's two bets to put on at Ladbrokes this afternoon, catching Bin Laden before November 7th, and Alan J for PM.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Another Elephant in the room!

Just as poor, put-upon Tony was hoping we'd all, y'know, calm down and shut up and move on, Charles Clarke reignites the leadership row. So now there are two wounded and blundering elephants for Tony to worry about, one being Iraq, of course, and the other dear Charlie. The ex-Home Secretary has popped up with some wise media advice for 'Stupid' Gordon. ''He is talented and brilliant but there are these little incidences, like the grin in the car, that build up a terrible picture."

Yeah, those unfortunate little incidences can be buggers can't they? Especially when the pesky media get hold of them. As Mr Eugenides points out, ''for Safety to criticise a Cabinet Minister for stupidity and unfitness for purpose, may strike some as ironic.''

Dad bumped into Mr Clarke recently, (who remains his MP), in Norwich, at a cashpoint , and he felt terrible, so said 'Oh I'm so sorry Charles, I didn't want for all this to happen like this, your job, I'm very sorry.' And Mr. Clarke said heavily, ' Yes, so am I, Phillip' . He looked a bit thinner, apparently. I hear he has taken to walking the streets of his constituency, which must be better for his blood pressure than writing long angry letters about his mistreatment at the hands of recalcitrant genius columnists, or bemoaning the ''lazy and deceitful'' media and tiresome ''pathetic'' liberals for encouraging terrorism, and endangering the realm, or whatever it is we do.

Anyway, he must have had enough of wandering the pretty medieval streets of Norwich, chatting to his constituents, as he is now back, and on the rampage, so Gordon can look forward to Charles' sage wisdom imparted to him via media briefings about how to get your staff in order, and your department fit for purpose, and how to knuckle down to the job the PM gives you and not whinge about wanting something more in keeping with your ambitions and experience, and not slagging off the PM's judgement...

I'm sure Gordon will appreciate it; their relationship is, we hear ''extremely cordial''. Which is jolly fortunate.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Orderly bloody transition

We're all getting very bored waiting for Tony to say something, Gordon to do something. Live by the media kerfuffle, die by the media kerfuffle. At the moment the implosion of the Government is the only eye-catching initiative, even if it leaves most hard-working families cold. God, I hate New Labour catchphraseitis.
I am going mad hearing the same phrases repeated over and over and over again: the worst offender being 'orderly f***ing transition'.

Everytime I hear it I want to smash my head into my desk.
Here, as a public service are some alternatives to the wretched phrase. Please can you encourage any passing commenters and pundits to give them a whirl?

methodical metamorphosis
controlled conversion
disciplined progression
decorous shift
manageable transmutation
restrained realignment

For heaven's sake, if you can't say anything meaningful, at least use some more interesting language. Hazel Blears, you're the worst offender.


UPDATE: Tony Blair's statement in full. Yawn. Why can't he apologise properly, just for once in his life?

''The first thing I'd like to do is to apologise actually, on behalf of the Labour party for the last week...'' is what he kicked off with.
Why can't he say '' I'm sorry that I've become such an electoral liability and I realise that it's time to go, since very few of you trust me to lead the country anymore, and for that, and all the mistakes I have made, I apologise.''
The much more amusing Newsnight blog competition to write the speech that would get Blair off the hook is here.
Ho Ho. Students leave school visited by Blair today to jeer him. From Blairwatch...'And in the distance was the chant of "Murderer!"
Why? His team had picked a school where a third of the students come from Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq. Doh!'
UPDATE 2: Fantastic. This cheesey 'Keep the Faith' online petition was soon over-run by silliness, then tracked back by blogger Tim Ireland to Labour HQ , whereupon the cupboard door was opened only for some rather smelly skeletons to tumble out....
UPDATE 4: Mr Eugenides spots Gordon's coded transmissions, he's right, quick, get your tin foil hats on, and Daniel Finkelstein at the Times New comment central blog is determined to get down with the pyjama kids and be a real, proper blogger and does a good fisking of Gordon Brown to prove it.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bin Laden captured in US mid-term bonanza?

As we're all having great fun today with wild rumour and speculation... it's time for my guest conspiracy theory of the month. Could it possibly be that Bin Laden will pop up in handcuffs just in time for the US November midterm Congressional elections? Rumsfeld has just made a speech comparing him to Hitler? And Bush has finally admitted to CIA secret prisons as he moves 14 key terror suspects to Guantanamo to 'face trial', including an alleged 9/11 master mind? ( 'No torture', mind, just ''an alternative set of procedures once suspects had stopped talking''. Euch. Yeah, right.) Bin Laden, hmmm. What super luck for Bush THAT would be. ABC today.... Quick back-peddling.... more back-peddling ...

Yes Minister maxim. Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.
I might just put a bet on...

Rumour and Speculation.

Political blogging is ace fun today. Spiteful, childish, it may be, all this feeding frenzy, but there's no point slating bloggers for behaving any worse than those in public office are doing right now...I've just rushed home after doing an interview with some nice people at for Shanghai TV about UK foreign policy and international terrorism, and now am sat here in the dark ( can't be faffed to go and find a lightbulb), clicking away whilst eating roast chicken pieces out of the packet ( can't be arsed to cook) . It's hot weather today, in Westminster, in the streets of North London, the hottest day for a month, the newsman says. I hear of gossip of a blazing row between Blair and Brown, earlier today, Sunny wonders, Dave wonders, are we clutching at Straws? The rumour mill grinds spicily. Is this a coup? Nobody knows yet, clickety click, we all surf like mad, its decision time says the BBC's Nick Robinson, a Tory MP texts me to watch Sky tomorow, BBC News 24 on now, but it is clearly holding back all the juicy stuff for the 10pm news/Newsnight,

meanwhile, here is a fab piccie, arf, and it's too late to bet and get a good price, the odds have been slashed on TB being gone before Christmas.