Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Back again


Back again after six weeks off. It's nice to have breaks. Sometimes you need to just switch off and do your own thing. Anyway, here's what I've been up to, for those who are interested.

August: went to Turkey for 2 weeks with J, read a lot, chilled a lot, went to the Turkish baths a lot, turned extremely brown. Came back, had another week at home with J. Bliss. He went back to work, and I took the last week of the month off. Did a load more reading and gardening, planting flowers in memory of Mum, who died in late August last year. Being quiet. You know how it is.

September: I was invited to New York to address the UN on terrorism. Yes, really.
I know, crikey, eh? It was a great honour and an incredible experience.

(This is why I took down some posts at the end of July, by the way. I didn't want the Un and Foreign Office bigwigs to check the blog and find a load of personal lightweight stuff about me lazing about in a bikini and reading novels. Or posts containing lots of swearing. )

Here I am at the UN ( red jacket). Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is in the middle of the picture. I sat at a table with him, his wife, Columbian hostage Ingrid Betancourt and some other amazing people.

Interesting random fact about the UN: you can't smoke indoors in NYC, or in any public area, but you CAN smoke in the UN bars and meeting halls. This is because the UN is 'international territory'and not subject to NYC law. So, yes, I availed myself of the facilities repeatedly, as it was all quite nerve-wracking.
Security was very, very tight withthe guests and attendees only announced on the day (which is why I couldn't write about it before I went.) It was an extraordinary occasion, personally convened by the Secretary General to consider the needs of victims of terrorism worldwide - the first time the UN had ever done anything like this. One of the problems had been that the UN was historically unable to agree on a definition of terrorism. We pushed for a UN Declaration of the Rights of Victims of Terrrorism. 18 people directly affected by terrorism, who had a record of working with victims and being an activist/advocate, plus international experts - many of whom had been victims of terrorism themselves - were asked to address the UN. It was harrowing, but inspiring to hear people's testimony. I hope that the UN's new focus in this area makes a difference - the actions of terrorists blight lives all over the world and too many people get no help at all in the aftermath. The webcast is here .

I have written an article about the symposium and will post it up later, when I can find it. (I'm on J's laptop as mine has given up the ghost. Thank God I put the book manuscript on a memory stick before disaster struck)

Unfortunately, there wasn't much time to explore New York as it was pretty much all work - I arrived on Sunday 7th September late afternoon, after an 8 hour flight, met some other delegates for drinks, went to bed at 10pm ( 3am for me) and woke up at 4am NY time - it's five hours ahead over there and I never did manage to get used to it. On Monday 8th I went to Ground Zero to pay my respects, then straight into rehearsal all day, followed by the dinner with Ban Ki-Moon, Tuesday 9th was the Symposium, and on Wednesday 10th I flew home after meeting my friend for a quick burger and beer at lunchtime in an Irish bar opposite the hotel.

I'd have loved to have stayed longer in New York, but it was my best friend's wedding in Shakespeare's church in Stratford upon Avon the next day. Wet - it poured down all day - but wonderful, with wild dancing at the reception. The next day was my sister's birthday party. Which had a red-neck theme, bales of straw, line-dancing and pin-ups of trailer homes.

And after that week I was pretty much shattered - the lack of sleep and the jetlag hit, big-time - and there just didn't seem to be time for blogging. Campaigning for various things went on, behind the scenes, and when I wasn't doing that, I indulged my hopeless addiction to the US Elections coverage.

I think I may turn this blog over to US Election comment for the next few weeks. It has taken over my brain. I even dream about it. I am an Obamanerd. It has got really quite sad. If you've not been following it, here's a round up of some of the most interesting bits.

1. The Republican Convention in one minute

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

2. The first Presidential debate in one minute

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

3. And finally, the wonderful Sara Benincasa, who has been running a Governor Palin vlog. Here, Governor Palin is possessed by Satan during rehearsals for the Vice-Presidential Debate.

P.S: You can see the preceeding video, JESUSCHRIST! here - which is even funnier - and follow the whole Palin vlog story from the beginning on Youtube. New Palin videos can now be found at 23/

It's good to be back. What have you been up to?

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Blogger Brennig said...

Nice to see you. You've had a busy time!

October 01, 2008 9:06 pm  
OpenID oyebilly said...

Welcome back.

October 01, 2008 10:00 pm  
Blogger pierre l said...

Nice to have you back. I was a bit worried about your silence.
It is good to hear that there is a manuscript on a memory stick; I am looking forward to reading it one day (I read quite a few blogs, encourage many bloggers by buying their books, but I have actually read, and been moved to tears, by your book).
As for the UN - wow, how exciting and well done!

October 01, 2008 10:24 pm  
Blogger Gridlock said...

Welcome back, and interesting to hear about the UN from this perspective :)

Elections, you should read some Dennis Perrin, WhoisIOZ, Chris Floyd and/or Arthur Silber if you're serious about really following them. Obama may be the lesser of two evils ('evils of 2 lessers, (c) M Moore) but I find it hard to get excited about evil, and I find it hard to view the US elite ('both' sides) as anything other than evil.

Still, good to find a fellow US politics nerd from the UK. I can try to make you as apathetic about who wins come November as I've become... Have you booked Nov 5th off work or have I out-nerded you? :D

October 01, 2008 11:12 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Blimey, people very quick off the mark! Thank you for the welcome back comments!.

re US elections...

I'm on Mudflats, Kos,HuffPo and Politico daily, plus CNN and the Daily Show.

Reading Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. All horribly prescient.
If everyone in the US read it, B ush would be impeached and the Republicans would be destroyed.

Sara Palin tonight!

Yes, of course I'm taking the 5th off. I'll probably have had a nervous breakdown by then anyway and be confined to bed. Mind you, I doubt the 5th will bring any closure - it'll probably take a fortnight of legal challenges and recounts to get the result sorted. Obama now leading in Florida - home of the dodgy electoral voting system.

October 02, 2008 8:26 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thanks for the ideas about more stuff to read.


by Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi

October 02, 2008 10:24 am  
Blogger Gridlock said...

Taibbi can be quite a good read, if slightly too saccharine - will give it a look.

Curious as to how you can "support" anyone in the race when you read stuff like this; America is an aggressive, pathological empire built on genocide, unprovoked war and killing on a scale not seen since the 1930s; whoever gets to become Imperial Manager come Jan 20th will do nothing to change this.

October 02, 2008 3:11 pm  
Blogger Sage said...

Hey glad to have you back, nice that you enjoyed your 6 weeks off and had a good break and the UN thingy sounded great... congrats..

October 09, 2008 1:53 pm  

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