Wednesday, November 30, 2005

more on forgiveness

After last week's post asking what you thought about forgiveness, Ally and then Cheryl have written some amazing things, so please go and have a read.

I am especially captivated by Cheryl's point that 'Forgiveness is giving up the concept of revenge'.

What do you fancy watching?

A documentary-maker who makes wonderful programmes contacted me, he is interested in ''the ongoing story of KCU as an insight into what keeps/could keep multicultural UK together''. So I talked to him, for a while

He has made programmes in Rwanda, he has made programmes in the Balkans. He has seen the very worst, I think, of what humans can do to each other.

I too, have seen a little of the worst that humans can do to each other.
And I have also seen the very best.
I stood on a train, remembering a wire round my throat, and a fist in my face. Then a stranger's hand detonated a bomb, seconds later, a stranger's hand reached out and squeezed mine.
These events changed my life. But in many ways, for the better.

And I staggered out of the murder scene, and later I wrote about my day, and many people read it, and some of them were on my train, and they got in touch with me, and we decided to go to the pub and set up a website. And we tried to help each other get through this. Kings Cross United started. And here I am , and here we are, almost 5 months later.

Now if any of us are having a bad day, or if we get on a tube and feel scared, we send a group email around and we say '' I feel like this...'' and people reply and they say ''Oh, mate...''
And things are better.

We go to the pub once a month and we buy each other drinks and we try to cheer each other up and to put the pieces of the puzzle together. We are an ordinary, random group of people who got on a train and something extraordinary happened to all of us.
I don't think that we would make a very exciting film. We look, and we behave like any group of...what? Friends? Colleagues?Members of a club? down a pub.

We could be anyone, we could be you. And that is the whole point.

You can look at us and see ''the ongoing story of KCU as an insight into what keeps/could keep multicultural UK together''

But I see

common humanity

Is that ''investigative/forensic/political/topical enough'' for an investigative/forensic/political/topical documentary team?

Well. I don't know. I don't know that you could capture it on camera. I can try and write about it, but anyone who has experienced human kindness already knows what I am talking about.


Is hope topical?
Is love political?

Can you investigate random outbreaks of kindness as well as of senseless outbreaks of violence?

Is the story behind a riot - what tears people apart - more interesting than the story behind what brings people together?

It's worth thinking about....

isn't it?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Stay Your Hand...

Sod it... if Boris J. will...we all will (the Sun's already informed me I'm a traitor) BJ says: 'The Attorney General's ban is ridiculous, untenable, and redolent of guilt. I do not like people to break the Official Secrets Act ... we now have allegations of such severity, against the US President and his motives, that we need to clear them up.
If someone passes me the document within the next few days I will be very happy to publish it in The Spectator, and risk a jail sentence. .. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. If we suppress the truth, we forget what we are fighting for'

Anyway, there are two memos - go and look at Blairwatch

UPDATE:Nearly 200 of us are getting snippy enough to risk jail, reports the Times. Well done Blairwatch!

( For non politically-obsessed/non UK readers - The Mirror and other papers reported a story that Blair asked Bush not to bomb Al Jazeera. The story has since been denied. )

Now Al Jazeera's staff have started a blog to beg Bush not to bomb them

5 things the Al-Jazeera staff would like you to know about Al Jazeera
1. Al Jazeera was the first Arab station to ever broadcast interviews with Israeli officials.
2. Al Jazeera has never broadcast a beheading.
3. George W. Bush has recieved approximately 500 hours of airtime, while Bin Laden has received about 5 hours of airtime.
4. Over 50 million people across the world watch Al Jazeera.
5. The Al Jazeera websites are (Arabic) and (English)., and all other variations have nothing to do with us.

Meanwhile, a silent march in Paris

The family and friends of an 18-year-old girl, doused with petrol and set alight in broad daylight by the man she refused to marry, led a silent march through a Parisian suburb yesterday.
Chahrazad Belayni is currently fighting for her life in intensive care after suffering severe burns on 60 per cent of her body. She is being kept in an artificial coma.

I wrote last week about evil, and fear, and anger, and hate. And how many times you have the choice: give into your fear, feed upon it, become drunk with the power anger and hate gives you and lash out, or stay your hand.

We all have the choice. We all make it, day after day. Lash out, or reach out.
I know which I think takes more courage.

(Although I still have days when I would really like to lamp someone...I punch seven shades out of my pillow instead. It can be quite extraordinarily restorative.)

The girl who held my hand...

Yesterday was an emotional day. I have met many people from my train, and it has been wonderful to hear so many stories of bravery and friendship. To see passengers find each other again who stood next to each other in the dark, greet each other again as old friends is truly moving.

But I had never found anyone who stood right next to me, until yesterday, when I finally hugged the girl who travelled next to me, who walked behind me to Russell Square, who I talked to in the terrible darkness and whose hand I held. I wrote about her in the Sunday Times piece, and she had read my diary on the BBC and then tracked me down to urban 75 where I first wrote about what happened to me on July 7th, and found so much support and kindness from strangers. Telling my story on the u75 messageboard late at night on July 7th was the start of my making sense of the day, then the BBC picked it up and asked me to write my survivor diary for them, and that became the fortunate catalyst for so many survivors finding each other.

The girl whose hand I held and I spent yesterday afternoon in a pub talking and my story is her story, her story is my story. My story is not only personal to me but common to many people from the train, and that is why I wrote it anonymously. It was wonderful for me to finally find someone who was right there with me, it has helped a lot. She said: what you wrote is absolutely true, it is what happened to me. And seeing her bravery, her strength, her hopefulness and her sweetness and grace is fantastic. She is only 21 years old. She is coping magnificently.

On the Sunday Times piece yesterday coming out and now everyone knowing my past: previous media activity was agreed by the group and done with one objective - to let fellow passengers know about Kings Cross United. Media was done by various group members, (with me taking a 'fronting' role as my day job as a media director gave me some understanding of what to expect and how to handle it. And I wrote stuff, because most people said they wanted to be interviewed by someone who was on the train with them, not a reporter). But behind the scenes, other Kings Cross United survivors did lots of other stuff, including managing email enquiries ( many from the media, most of which we turned down, unless we thought they had a chance of reaching people from our train. Thus we said yes to BBC Hertfordshire and North London local radio, but no to international television. There was a careful strategy behind what we did.)

But yesterday, in the paper, I spoke with my own voice, not on behalf of all victims. I cannot possibly speak for all victims, as I have said on this blog again and again. But I was able to tell my personal story in my own words, why I am here, writing this diary, why I set up Kings Cross United with other survivors, for other survivors, why I wanted to speak out. I do not want to be a 'celebrity victim'. I cannot think of anything more stupid than being a celebrity, and I am not a victim.

Trauma is too hard a thing to carry alone, though, however strong you are. Other voices in the dark can help you carry on, at the time and on your journey after, like Ally at 'ducking for apples' blog in her moving post 'Droit de Seigneur'.

And the results of the Amnesty International survey on the attitudes of many towards rape are so dreadful, the recent court case about the girl who was drunk and could not recall giving consent to the sober man who walked her home because she was ill and staggering and then took her in the hallway, and then left her there. There is still much to say and to protest about, even in 2005.

So this is why I speak out, to encourage other people who have been raped or hurt to come forward, and to tell other people a little of what it is like, so that they can understand. Because I believe, passionately, that we need to talk to each other more, that we should speak out and listen more, rather than hate or hurt or hide away. And every voice that speaks out helps.

Here is a voice that many should read.

The story of Sophie, who was one of Garri Holness' and his gang victims of the multiple rape, twenty years ago.

There can be hope, there can be healing, there is life after the most terrible trauma and tragedy. As long as you are alive, there is always still hope. Sophie says:

I'm no longer a rape victim because I worked through a very painful
issue and came out the other side. Other rape victims need to know that you
should and can move on. Shoving painful stuff in a box doesn't work

She has nothing to say to Garri, and reading her interview, there are similarities with how I feel about my rapist - I have moved away from him, I am free of him, he is not my damn problem any more. Having said that, I think if I saw my rapist with a sign round his neck saying 'What About The Victims?' I would have the angry reaction Sophie had: some things are just too much to take.

I have said that if I met him, I would treat Garri as any other passenger on my train and talk to him about what happened to us both on carriage one if he wanted to, but his past is not mine to forgive, I can only talk to him in our shared present as people who took the same train.

Sophie's story is a story of hope, and dignity, and her 'brilliant' life now is a testament to her spirit and courage. I raise a glass to her tonight, and to all victims of violence. Never be ashamed.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Rachel's story

Here is my story as written by me in today's Sunday Times.

It has been a long time coming: I have carried this stuff about for 3 years.

I told my story to Marie Claire in 2004, but they laughed off suggestions that I wrote it. So I let them write it, it was important that the story of a successful rape prosecution was told, especially as fewer that 6% of rapes get convictions.

Now, finally, I have been able to tell the story in my own words. It is barely edited.
They have even put me on the front page - not just of the News Review, but the main paper.

To everyone who has ever been a victim of violence, of hate, this is dedicated to you. To all the people who have heard me, held me, comforted and supported me, this is for you. To the men and women of Kings Cross United, to D.I Dave Hanley, D.I Paul Davidson, DC Ann Brebner of the Harringey Operation Sapphire Sexual Offences Unit, this is for you. Thank you for giving me the strength to tell Rachel's Story at last

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What can you not forgive?

I've just submitted a big think-piece on good and evil and fear and recovery - plus some other stuff - for the Sunday Times, it will be out this weekend. So I have been doing a lot of thinking.

And now I am interested to know what visitors to this blog think is not forgivable.

Rape? Murder? Torture? Imprisonment without trial? Terrorism?
Lying about why we went to war?
Preaching hatred and perverting a faith?
Planning mass murder?

Please, would you let me know? All suggestions welcome. Please link, if you can, the more answers, the better.

Over to you.
Thank you.

R x

Monday, November 21, 2005

Is suicide bombing rational? Well...

Excellent piece by Jarndyce in The Sharpener blog. Hat tip, Tim Worstall in
Brit Blog Round Up ~40

Blair speech reconsidered

Hello. My PC died at the weekend, but I have just managed to coax it back to life - it's now firing on all cylinders instead of emiting a sad groaning whirr and then dying after 30 seconds. Not being able to write or get online was making me bite my cheeks to pieces. As was the thought of having just lost a 4000 word piece commissioned by the Sunday Times.

Now I'm back again, and I wanted to revist the Sir Ian Blair thing after my somewhat overawed excitement at being invited by the BBC to go and see him perform live.

He was extemely adept at speaking, so much so that I was caught up by the whole experience, and found myself carried along on a wave on his self-belief and rhetorical flourishes ( plus I am slightly hamstrung by being genuinely grateful and thankful to the police due to a previous nightmare experience necessitating a lot of personal contact with them. They were fantastic with me, going well over and above the call of duty and several officers remain permanent fixtures on my Christmas card list. This is with ref. to a different serious investigation that I was, erm, a key witness in. In 2002, not 2005. So, I went along wanting to clap them as personal experience has made me sympathetic to them, and I wanted to be impressed)

Anyway. As a police chief, Sir Ian Blair is an excellent politician. And a damn good speaker. And he delivered a tour de force, in terms of delivery, presentation, passion, etc.

But was it any cop in terms of content?

And - this is the main thing- should a chief of police be quite so obviously such a consummate political operator and influencer? No, not really, I'd say. And the fact that he clearly fits so easily into the world of lobbying and - gasp - policy - advising is not right. Not. Right. At.All.

(UPDATE: Justin at Chicken Yoghurt says all this much better than me, so if you can't be bothered to read my woffly post and notes, read him instead.)

I watched the speech again on TV when I got back from the BBC gig but of course I'd had half a bottle of red by then and no dinner on so I'm afraid I was distracted ( 'Oooh, J, I can see the back of your head on telly!' in star-struck school-girl manner) and little considered sense could be got out of me. I would be a rubbish political reporter. So I have just read the whole script of the speech again.

Noted these points:

1. IB- 'the giant of personal insecurity, based on fear of anti-social behaviour, of crime and of terrorism, so that policing becomes central to our understanding of citizenship.'

Hum. Does it? I think my understanding of 'citizenship' is a lot more active than simply being about the managing of your personal insecurities.

2. IB- 'For a long time, the police service was consequently the preserve of the striving lower-middle class, predominantly white, predominantly male.There are now many more women - a third of our current intake - but class remains an issue'.

Race and class. Fair play for bringing it up. An impassioned plea that ' I need ...every race and creed, to be in the police.' Slightly defensive tone from IB, but he was doing a PR job and as a recruitment advertising platform that slot must have been worth a fortune.

3. And this brings me onto a major part of the speech - his point about 'citizens in uniform: who, as Peel said, 'are only members of the public that are paid to give full-time attention to the duties which are incumbent on every citizen'.

'Citizens in uniform' = how the police were set up. WELL THEN SIR IAN SURELY YOU SEE THE PROBLEM HERE? If the police are citizens in uniform, what the bloody hell are they doing - are you doing, Sir Ian - lobbying the government and even phoning up recalcitrant MPs to support the Whips trying to bash through the Terrorism legislation ( apparently) ? You can't have it both ways. Parliament is elected and reasonably transparent.
Well, the decision making process is reported at least. Not so with the police. We didn't even know they had a shoot to kill policy until they shot Jean Charles de Menezes. Nobody voted on it. Police are people paid to do a job. They cannot be voted out of office. They are not politicians and they should not be acting like them in terms of making policy. (Robert Peel must be spinning in his grave). The police service has clearly tried to modernise, but it done so silently, behind closed doors.
Ian Blair is right to say that this must change. But it is not a trade off - we'll make decisions in public but we'll take more power behind the scenes - become more like politicians, influencing legislation to a quite extraordinary degree. No.

The principle of habeas corpus has held firm through far more dangerous times than these - two World Wars, arial bombing bombardment of London on a daily basis, IRA bombings killing 3000 people - and no police officer - no police chief - no politician either - SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO MESS WITH IT - BECAUSE ULTIMATELY HIS CAREER PROSPECTS ARE TOO TIED UP WITH HIM NEEDING TO BE SEEN TO BE 'TOUGH ON TERROR'.

And this basic freedom not to be interned without trial is far more important than people's careers. It might make both Blairs' jobs easier, but that is no reason to play fast and loose in the short term with freedoms we have cherished and held onto for centuries.

4. It's not the police's fault. This Government has given them a ridiculously over-arching, frankly stupid brief. Listen to this: 'to build a safe, just and tolerant society, in which the rights and responsibilities of individuals, families and communities are properly balanced, and the protection and security of the public are maintained'.

That was from the the incoming Labour government in 1997. That is just daft. The police are not the 'builders of society'. How ridiculous. Nor can they 'balance the rights and responsibilities of individuals, families and communities'.How can anybody not be confused with that as a job description?

5. Ian Blair says 'Policing is becoming not only central to our understanding of citizenship, it is becoming a contestable political issue as never before.'

No shit Sherlock. He is right to ask for debate and feedback. But I don't see the signs of any debate being listened to - to me, it's 'tell us stuff so we can be seen to have listened and then we'll go ahead and do what we were going to do anyway'. Blair by name and Blair by nature.

6. He is right that we need better community relations - more neighbourhood policing, local intelligence, and that is true not only of the police but of neighbourhoods themselves. Godammit, we all need to be less selfish and individualistic and more focused on what is going on around us - more engaged.

7. The 'national debate' about policing as a whole - how is that going to happen? If it all happens at local authority level, well, show me one person who has an interest in or a clue about what happens in local authority meetings. That is not the same as a 'national debate'

8. IB: 'It is a time for politicians and commentators of every stripe and opinion actively to consider how citizens can be involved in a debate about what kind of police service we want.'

Hum. Politicians and commentators eh? But that is hardly 'public debate' either. I don't see how this public debate is going to be facilitated and no-one has told me either Blairs' plans to get it off the ground. Perhaps a focus group or two? Or a TV Q&A, like T. Blair does before the election, when he grits his teeth and uncomfortably suffers public questioning. Still. Nice man. ( Ian, not Tony) . Bit worried about who he thinks he is and who he works for/with, though. With whose voice does he speak? And to whom does he speak most regularly, and on whose behalf?

Friday, November 18, 2005

On being a Victim

The Sun wrote again about Garri Holness a bomb survivor yesterday. This man was on my train, and he lost his leg below the knee. His courage and fortitude, the interviews he gave where he said that he did not hate the bombers made him a media star. He was held up as a shining example, a saint, a hero; few adjectives were too hyperbolic to describe the symbol of triumph of the human spirit that he had become. He became a well-known 'face of the victims', the personification of gentleness when suffering.

Then he must have fallen out of favour somehow. For having built him up so very high, the Sun did what they do with so many other 'celebrities'. They published a story in which they decried him as a gang rapist who had spent time in prison. Who had lied to the Mail about his conviction being quashed.

It is hard to know why the Sun decided to do this, unless it simply wanted a 'scoop' and to sneer at other media for their support of this man, (but then they had supported him too). Was it anger that he was to recieve £55,0000 for the loss of his leg? But they themselves had camapigned for the victims to recieve more compensation. The Sun pointed out that many people had raised money for this victim, and that gang-rape victims recieve £13,500. So they made a direct comparison between the money this man was getting as a direct result of his suffering, and the smaller amount his victims could have received (through the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority.) The implication they were making seemed to me to be he does not deserve this money, he's a bad 'un. Those poor girls he raped with his gang! They even said that at the time there had been an outcry, because the sentences were seen as too short.

Perhaps they just decided that this man had been built up too high and deserved to be cut down to size. No human being can be so heroic, perhaps they thought that. The victims, they aren't all saints and heroes. Let's teach them a lesson. That will teach them to go off-message, perhaps they thought that. too. A demonstration of our power. Fear us.

But this event - this rape - was 20 years ago, Garri Holness/Linton was 18 when he did it, and he went to prison for it, and now he is out, it was a long, long time ago. He has a good job, has an interesting life, he is a singer in his spare time, he likes working out in the gym, he has friends and family who love him. He has paid for what he had done; why must he be made to pay all over again? What bloody good can it possibly do to write about this sort of thing?

This is the problem when all you see is 'Victims', not real people. There was a cross section of London life on that train/. The man who had raped, the woman who had been raped. The cleaner and the company director. The happy and the unhappy. The lonely and the loved. Men, women, young, old, white, black, gay, straight, with complex lives and strengths and weaknesses. Individuals.

I notice that I became a cypher, a symbol, a blank screen onto which others project what they want to see, when I wrote about being a victim of the bombs. Especially as I preserved my anonymity. A prism through which you see whatever colour you want. I've had fan mail from libertarians, and liberals, from left-wingers, right-wingers, from the religious and the atheist. I've been co-opted as a Jew and a Christian. I've had hate mail, been told I deserved to die for my alleged support of Zionist imperialism, told to apologise to the Jews as apparently I and 'my sort' rejoice in suicide bombings in Jerusalem, villified and lauded for my percieved support/lack of support for freedom. Called a traitor and an appeaser, called a heroine and an inspiration.

In the end, of course, I am none of these things. I am a woman, aged 34, who got on a train one day, and found herself at the centre of a tragic and terrible event that still fascinates the media and many Londoners. I am symbolic because I could have been you, I could have been anyone.

In the end, I am myself. Different to you, but the same. Like the man the Sun calls a hero and a villain, I'm neither. He and I are just two of 7 million Londoners.
Part of the same city, travelling on the same train.
Seven Million Londoners. One London.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Well, I watched the documentary

It was extraordinarily vivid. It made me realise a little of what it is like for other people to hear my story - our story. It took me back there, properly, for the first time since.

People have asked me what it was like, they have said that they can't imagine what it was like. I couldn't say before, but now I have seen the documentary, I remember it all.

The programme I watched brought back all the memories of the way the roof collapsed down, the way the bombed Piccadilly carriage looked, but it was so dark at first, the memories are like a dream you can't remember, a puzzle you can't solve.

Night diving, without a regulator. Breathing in liquid, drowning. The texture in your mouth of grit, and the taste of blood. Everything changed in a heartbeat.

Have you ever changed a hoover bag? Imagine pushing your face into the open dust bag, and taking deep breaths. That is all you have to breathe. It is no longer air that you breathe.

Then imagine as well as the dry-mouthed choking lung-filling dust, the not-air, the grit, sharp grit. It makes your tongue swell and crack and dry out like leather. It is tiny shards of glass that you are breathing in.

I never covered my mouth. I had nothing to cover it with, and there didn't seem any point.

Then imagine a metallic wet taste on your mouth, like vapourising copper particles. It tastes as if you are sucking a coin. That is the blood. It sprays you, your clothes, your face, your hair, your lips are wet with it. The walls drip with it. But it is black blood, it drips, viscose, like oil, because you are breathing in the smoke and the blood mixed up together. Your skin and hair are wet with the sticky blackness. The temperature rises.

Finally, try to imagine the smell. It is an acrid smell of peroxide, and burning rubber, and burning hair. It fills your nose. It takes over the memory of every smell you have ever remembered and wipes it out. It burns into your mucus membranes.

At first your ears are deaf. The explosion has punched your eardrums so violently that your cheekbones and sinuses ring with it and ache with it.

Then you hear the screams. They do not sound like human voices screaming.

You suck in air. You realise that you are on the floor, and that there are bodies lying on top of you. The bodies are squirming. You are alive. They are alive. Your hand locks into another woman's hand. You hiss air out, pat your legs, arms, you are still here.

You hear a voice, far away. A hubbub of murmurs, and an endless scream that does not seem to draw breath, ever. There is a tinkle of glass falling. Your face is wet. You do not know if it is with sweat or blood. Your blood, or other people's blood. You do not know if you still have a recognisable face.

You grasp the hand and the voice says 'Are you all right? Stand up. Stay calm'.

It is your voice.

And other voices say the same thing. And you try to stay hopeful, you make yourself stay calm.

And times passes, the driver is not dead after all, ssssssh, listen to his voice. See, here are hands lifting you down the ladder of the driver's cab, a soft Scottish voice warning you not to step on the live tracks.

The screams are fading as we walk away down t amhe narrow tracks. My ears ring, my eyes swim. I start to pant, because this is so hard.

And now you are walking through the greenish light of the misted tunnel, and you hear yourself and other voices saying that there is hope, there is help, just walk, they are waiting for us all. With water. With blankets. With ambulances and oxygen. Nurses, doctors, helpers, all waiting, they will be there, and all we have to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other. You say it again and again, to drown out the groans of the dying man who is being carried on the man's shoulders, stumbling behind you. The women walking near you listen, they walk, we all walk. We speak to each other. We try to make jokes. We encourage each other. We babble, to drown out the faint groans of the man who is dying. We walk softly, carefully, looking at our bloodied and blackened feet on the uneven flags of the tunnel floor. It takes 15 minutes to walk down the tunnel to Russell Square. Lights will guide us home.

The lights are brighter and I see the small bone poking out of my wrist and I stagger, but here is a woman holding my arm. Here is a man in a flourescent jacket, pointing the way. Here are hands lifting me out of Russell Square; they are pulling on my split wrist; this is the only time I scream.

In the lift. People are falling sideways, eyes staring with shock. In the ticket hall, a white-faced man hands me water. People start to lie on the floor and slump, they stagger. I don't know what to do to help them. I reach down to a woman and ask if she is ok. She stares blankly, I can't reach her. I need a cigarette. I can't smoke in the ticket hall. I stagger out onto the pavement, opposite Tescos, by the zebra crossing. I manage to call my boyfriend and leave a message. I am terrified that he is on the train behind me, and that he is dead. I say that the train has derailed.

I can't light the cigarette, my hand is wet with blood. I am covered in black film and blood. I don't think the blood is mine, I need to call work, but I can't remember my number.

A Japanese tourist is filming me. The LU officials are grey with shock. People are milling about outside, looking irritated. A commuter shouts ' I need to get to work!' . She sees me, comes up to me.

'What the hell is going on? I need to get the tube to work!'

I am black-faced, shuddering, Einstein-haired. I tell her that she won't get to work on the tube today. She mouths a curse at me.

Someone lights my cigarette for me, and I take an emormous drag, anything to take the taste of peroxide and blood from my mouth. I find a number. It is Jenna, a girl on my team. She passed her first aid course last week, she works in Covent Garden. I tell her to please come in a taxi, I need A&E.

I say that I don't need an ambulance. The people I left behind need the ambulance.

I don't want to think about who I left behind.

I start to faint. The taxi comes. I tell my colleague Jenna to ask if anyone wants a lift to A&E. My mouth is numb, my ears are humming, I can't see properly any more. I am panting again.

Jenna wraps a bandage around my wrist. The taxi drives through Tavistock Square, it is nearly 9.45am, as we leave the Square there is a dull 'crump' noise. Later I find out that it was the bus exploding. We get to University College Hospital. The taxi driver demands a tenner. I pass it over. I switch off.

I had forgotten all of this until I saw the documentary. I remembered it all again. I can taste the smoke again. Still.

I saw Gill, the police, the LU staff, and their bravery and sweetness and humanity staggered me, but I need to watch it again, to see and feel how brave they were, because when I watched it, I was not a viewer. I was there.

*Breathe in and out*

I have not come so close to it before. I was there, but I did not know how close I was. I did know, but I did not remember. And others I know were closer still.

Pour wine, deep breath, and lie in J's arms, for a while. That's enough, for now.

Good night.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What Kind of Police Service Do we Want?

We shall see. I am off tonight to watch the 30th Richard Dimbleby lecture when Sir Ian Blair talks on this subject in front of a live audience, (which includes me, and J, guests of the BBC, woo hoo).

This is a taster of what we can expect to hear, I will let you know. It is on BBC later at 10.40pm, after the BBC1 9.00-10.00pm programme on 7/7 - The day the bombs came (which I advised on in a very limited capacity). I am sure that it will be an interesting night.

I wonder if I will get to ask any questions?

I met Sir Ian Johnston, the Chief Constable of the British Transport Police at the Memorial Service. I didn't know who he was, I though he was just a random copper, albeit one wearing a lot of silver. I was a bit pissed. Here is our conversation.

I said ' Hi. Do you know Steve [name]? He was the police officer who rescued us all off our train at Kings Cross. We want to buy him a pint. Can you find him for us?'

Ian said ' Yes, I know Steve... I'll definitely tell him you are looking for him. Who shall I say is looking?'

Me: ' Rachel, from Kings Cross United. Cool. Don't forget. We really, really want to buy him a pint. He was a f*cking legend. Here's my number, could you get him to bell me if you see him? Or we'll be in [name of pub]'

Ian: 'Great, will do. I heard great things about Steve. I heard he's had a tough time since '.

Me: 'He was a bloody hero, you HAVE to get him to come to the pub'.

Ian: 'Were you on the train too?'

Me: 'Yeah, carriage one, the one with the bomb'

Sir Ian: ' Ah - I'm sorry...god..'

Me: ' Oh, I'm fine, cheers, but guess what? There's loads of us from the train - we're all mates - we go to the pub - we all want to thank Steve, we're all sitting together at the service. We'll be in the pub later. If you find Steve, that would be great. Come along yourself if you fancy it

Sir Ian: 'Cheers. That's very nice of you. I'll definitely tell Steve, and if I can get away, I will.'

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

News: Blair announces abolition of elections

Link ( Quick! Click before it's taken down!)

It is a very cheeky and naughty spoof by the way, and really should be reported to the BBC at once

Posted for posterity, however

Blair announces abolition of elections

'We cannot risk changing course now', Tony Blair said today, as the government published proposals to cancel parliamentary elections.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the Prime Minister said that "even the chance of a change of government would be a victory for the terrorists".
"We must not let them change our way of life", said Mr Blair. "Terrorism will not be defeated until our determination is as complete as theirs, our defence of freedom as absolute as their fanaticism, our passion for our way of life as great as their passion for tyranny."
Advice from the police
Mr Blair said that the police had advised him that elections would be dangerous. "They would divert attention from the war on terror", he said. "If the public chose a new government, that would be a victory for terrorism. We must not take that chance. Holding elections would be contrary to the strong advice given to us by our security services and our police, and I am simply not prepared to do it."
"This is not an issue to play around with," he said, accusing critics of trying to generate a propaganda victory for terrorists. "The civil liberties of the majority who need protection should come first," the prime minister said. There had to be a "very good reason" for politicians to say to the police, "no, we know better than you", he argued.
Conservative leader David Davis said that his party would fully support the government's proposals. "We recognise that times have changed", he said. "The most important liberty is the right to life, and we have to accept that some of our other liberties must be curtailed.
Mr Blair has announced that MPs will in future be nominated by the Government. He is under pressure from backbenchers to create a Parliamentary Appointments Panel to advice on nominations. But a Downing Street spokesman ruled out any concessions: "We have to be make sure that only properly vetted people are appointed", he said.
The security services and the police are advising us that we need to take these unusual steps to defeat those who are planning and plotting terrorist activity in our country
Tony Blair
Home Secretary David Blunkett, whose return to front-line politics has caught Westminster by surprise, said that "middle class do gooders are putting our lives at risk". Speaking to the Sheffield Echo, he said "They complained when we abolished trial by jury. They complained when we introduced detention without trial. They complained about the introduction of ID cards. They wanted us to stop using evidence obtained by torture and to end rendition. But the vast majority of hard-working families up and down the land don't want all these procedures: they want speedy and effective justice. They are fed up with the civil liberties lobby crying wolf. "
Stan Miner, MP for Yorkshire North, said he would reluctantly support the idea. "The Prime Minister would not be proposing this unless he had clear advice from the intelligence services", he said. Angus McFaddyn, who represents a constituency in the Scottish highlands, said that he too would be supporting the Government. "This is a necessary evil in England and Wales", he said. "I am pleased that the Government has accepted that, with the lower risk of political instability here in Scotland, we should to continue to hold elections."
Addressing MPs at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons, Mr Blair added: "What I have to do is to try to do my best to protect people in this country and to make sure that their safety and their civil liberty to life come first, and that is what I'm going to try to do."

If you were also on the bombed Piccadilly train...


(REPEAT POST: Read this before? I'm 'bumping' this entry so it stays at the top for visitors looking to contact Kings Cross United group. Anyone else reading, start second post down for new stuff)






f you were also on my train, travelling south-bound on the Picadilly line on 7th July when the bomb went off, and you want to get in contact with other passengers, here's how: email us

We will then get in contact with you. (Give us a few days, we are volunteers, and we do this in the evenings and in our lunchtimes. This is an informal gruop run bu survivors for survivors with no agenda at all )

There are nearly 70 of us so far, men and women, from different carriages, of all ages and backgrounds.The group is for anyone who was on the train, and would like to find others who were there too.

If you were on a different train or bus, we can try and put you in contact with other groups. We are the first and the largest and the longest-established survivor group. We were up and running as a group within a week.The experience of people from all 4 bomb sites is very different. In the case of the Piccadilly line bomb, we were all trapped 100 feet down in a tiny tunnel in the dark, for half an hour or more, breathing smoke, hearing screams, waiting to die, so people formed tight bonds - teams, almost - in every single carriage - to try to manage the panic. There were over 700 on the train. Some of the passengers came together early, within days; we very badly wanted to find each other again, to try to make sense of the darkness, the horror, the lingering, disabling fear that affected us all. From that small group, seventy have come together and people still join us.

We did all of this by ourselves. This is not an official group. No-one helped us. It came about because people found each other, mostly through my writing about it on the internet, and decided it would be a good plan if we all went to the pub.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Big love to all the linkers...

Thank you ALL of you and apologies if I have missed anyone out. In no particular order...

Tim Worstall Britblog roundup #39
Troubled Diva for making me 'Post of the Week'
Nosemonkey at Europhobia 'Message from a London Bomb survivor'
'If you think you had a bad week...'
Chicken Yoghurt: No protestation without misrepresentation ( particularly ace post)
Tim Ireland at Bloggerheads 'Are You Still here?' and especial applause for the v. handy Report Wade to the PCC campaign, the passion and the compelling maths
Tim Sellers The Revenge of Winston Smith 'Traitors!?'
Annie Mole on Going Underground (Thursday 10th 'A London Bombing Victim says Not in my Name')
Jawbox 'Blair Defeated'
Symbolic Forest 'Democracy'
Duncan Stephen on Doctor Vee 'Post of the 90 days'
Tampon Teabag 'Habeas Corpus Bloodied but not Broken'
The Disillusioned Kid 'One Man's Terrorist is another man's freedom fighter'
Councillor Bob Piper 'as it says on TalkPolitics if you read nothing else'
Chris Applegate at 'It's not what I got off the damn train for..'
World of Badger '90 days vs. 300 years of habeas corpus'
Fridge Magnet's Light from an empty fridge 'Not 90'
Blairwatch 'Their day in the Sun'
Geoff Coupe's blog 'The Salami Slice'
Seventy & Rising 'That Debate'
Makki at Makattack '90 days & 90 nights'
Jim Bliss Where There Were No Doors 'Internment'
Talk Politics 9/11/05 - 'if you read nothing else read this'
Jez Blog 'Democracy is a fine thing'
Splodgebucket 'Blair's not listening' & also 'Charles Clarke's disgrace'
John Lilburne 'Polis from another Planet'
Free Speed Nation 'Shame Your MP'
Mat Bowles at Great Britain Not Little England ' 90 days & 90 nights'
Coffee & PC 'It was bound to happen someday'
Thomas Garrard at orangelights
Poon's Howling Spoons '90 days & 90 nights'
Dave Cross on Davblog 'Terrorism Bill'
MikePower 'Not in her name'
Nick Barlow on What You Can Get Away With 'A Pathetic Liberal Speaks'
Longrider '90 days...or not'
Zefrog on Aimless Ramblings
Bob from Brockley
UK Charlie on Into the Unknown 'Empty Promises and..'
Casino Avenue ' I don't know if it's just me...'
Robert Sharp 'Legislate for the whole country'
The Great Orme at London Underground Life 'Memorial'
Rachel Clarke at Licence to Roam 'A tale of hope' ( * thanks Rachel too for the Operation Eden link which I have passed onto everyone)
Maddox at Atlantic Times
Jag on Route 79 'Rachel'
Tube Dude On the District Line '2 more'
Doctor Deborah Serani
Ralf Ziegermann The Cartoonist
Damond Geezer
David at Darwinian Evolution
Les at Tubbygirl Chronicles
Leigh Powers
Colin Gray at Colin's Random Stuff
Kathy at whatdoiknow 'Have the terrorists won yet?'
Stephen Fishburn at the Fishwagon 'Nemo me impune lacesset'
Sarah, but won't link til loony has left you alone and it is safe to do so
Oscar Wildebeest at Gnus of the World - 'not what I got off the train for'
Ally at Ducking for Apples 'thinks'
Bigblue 'War Memorial'
Gary Monro's blog 'The Sun's Bomb Victim refuses to play ball'
Mons Graupius
StuartD's blog
London Exile
Radical Ranter
World of Urko
The Yorkshire Ranter
Hulver's site 'I don't have a lot to say'
Clare's Insane Ramblings
DaveWeeden' 's Backword
Plus...Various despicably stupid conspiracy theorists who I won't link to, because they are idiots

JUST IN! The Guardian's news blog 'One Victim's Voice'. Some spectacularly barking comments as well.

(bloody hell, more people linking all the time, I can't keep up with you all, wowsers :-)
Keep 'em coming, let me know with a comment and I'll link, let's share the love. Unless you are a conspiracy theorist, in which case Just.Don't. Bother.)

*high five*

and big, big thanks again.

I seemed to hit a nerve this week with the 90 days and 90 nights post, and shot up the blog rankings like David Blunkett's hand up Kimberley's stockinged thigh, but I'd also like to say thank you to all the people who regularly drop by and comment and encourage me. I try to say how much it means , but there really have been times when I have almost despaired, and the kind words of strangers has lifted me immeasureably.

A special big clap to Gary who has gone and spoken out on BBC News and BBC News 24 about the events of this week in which Blair tasted defeat for his disgraceful despotic abuse of democratic process.
Gary says 'Well, I've read everyone's replies to your last 2 or 3 postings and got the strength and determination and decided to go for it and let us "disenting, traitorous, pathetic liberals" get some publicity and say what I felt. '

Go Gary!

This was a good week for democracy, and a bad one for an arrogant Prime Minister. Hooray for all of us, and our seditious, traitorous, disloyal, don't-know-what's-good-for-us ways.
Hooray for pathetic liberals!

I'm proud to be one. Especially this week, especially with all of you.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Booze, news, views

I went to the pub last night , to spend an evening on the lash with Kings Cross United, some of the people who were on my train when it blew up. This isn't about the politics of fear. It's about hope. And beer. And wine. And chips. And some excellent dark humour. And differing political views. We don't sit about crying and shaking, we buy each other drinks and talk and laugh and laugh and it is a really good, fun night out.

My views are not representative of KCU, or all victims, and it would be absolutely ridiculous to claim that, and I have always made it very clear that I speak for myself and for myself only.

They are my personal views.This is my ( very) personal web diary.

( Kings Cross United has its own private website and if you want to get in touch with us you can email us at and we'll get back to you. Kings Cross United is not a political group. Though it does have some thoughts to share about improving tube safety).

Some in KCU share my political views, and some do not. And that's the whole point: we're ordinary people, we don't all share the same brain because we were on the same train.

And how I wish The Sun, and Tony Blair and Charles Clarke had remembered that, before they start screetching 'It's for the Victims!' when trying to drive through panicky Terror legislation.

I can't speak for all the victims, Tony, and nor can you. (Hopefully he has worked this out now.)

Anyway, it's not For the Victims, all this fear-mongering.
It never was.

If you still buy that line, please, *wake up*.You don't cobble together any legislation on the back of feeling sorry for people who were hurt or killed by criminals in one particular incident.

That's not democracy, that's a PR and media strategy.

That's a kind of giant press release to get out the key message of the day. That's sentimental emotive claptrap at best and a sinister and cynical abuse of the Parliamentary process at worst.

If Leo Blair was bitten by an Alsatian in the park, and Tony Blair rushed through a proposal to ban Alsations, and parks, and all dogs over 40cm high, then we'd all think he was taking ridiculous liberties and was unfit for office and had gone quite, quite mad. If a weeping Cherie was wheeled out and pictured on the front of the Sun demanding all dog owners should be criminalised unless they passed a responsible dog owner test and were licensed, we might feel sorry for her but you can't have traumautised victims and frightened or grieving people influencing what laws are passed, can you? If the papers reported wild packs of rabid hounds swarming through the Channel Tunnel, rampaging through parks and streets and gardens and devouring innocent toddlers, it would still be an over-reactive law passed for completely the wrong reasons.

I am sure there will be further terrorist attacks. In fact, I thought there would be one today, 11/11. I went through the same thing on 8/8, 9/9, 10/10, 9/11... I will always be waiting for the bang and the screams. But I accept that as the price of walking freely after the bomb. And because I am fearful of terrorists, and still traumatised, that is exactly why you shouldn't listen to any sudden demands I might make to bin habeas corpus and change all the laws of the U.K and shoot all the baddies and put up a huge fence so I start to feel a bit better.

You can't legislate against hate and frightening and threatening people into behaving as you want them to do never works in the long term . But you can radicalise people and you can marginalise and anger them and then they will hate you more.

Banning people from saying things or believing things doesn't work; for an example of this, have a think about the spread of early Christianity, a banned, underground, persecuted movement for hundreds of years. You'd think torturing people, throwing them to lions, roasting them alive, breaking them on wheels, would put people off joining the early Church, wouldn't you? Oddly, it didn't. The people killed by the authorities were called 'martyrs', and later,
' saints.' They were celebrated in art and in music and architecture and worshipped for thousands of years. The more gory their end, the more popular they became.

You'd have thought Blair, a Christian, would have had a think about this stuff, wouldn't you? If you want to radicalise people and make them feel like martyrs then drive them underground.
I wonder if he ever thinks of Herod? Or Nero, Domitian, Trajan?...

No, probably not.

It's better to listen, talk, see the revulsion of most Muslims to the criminal acts of mass murder on July 7th and listen to what they have to say about stuff.

By the way. I am not saying that the extremist young followers of the First Century, so desirous to martyr themselves for Christ were terrorists, nor that terrorists are saints, twenty centuries later. I am making another point entirely. Just in case the Daily Mail finds this and swings into a full-on froth about Victim Says Bombers Are Martyrs and Saints or something equally dim. And I get banged up for a month for Glorifying Terrorism

Hey ho. More thoughts on internment without trial .28 days is still a scary length of time. (Look at how much the police managed to find out between July 7th and July 21st, by the way. Throw resource at a thing and you can be quite amazing).

13 days is terrible enough. 'We were not physically abused but it was mental torture'

Welcome home to the British hostages, Rupert and Linda Wise, captured and imprisoned and detained without trial.

As they say, a terrifying experience. And they are lucky - they had 'intense pressure from the British Foreign Office to plead their case and eventually get them released.

Who pleads for the men of Guantanamo bay to have the trials they still wait for?

If they take me, who will plead for me?

First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak outbecause I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me, and there was no one leftto speak out for me.
Pastor Martin Niemöller

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Over to Thomas Jefferson...

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others: or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression

Well, quite.

Not in his bloody name either

It's not just me who was indescribably hacked off about the opportunistic misappropriation of ''The Poor Victims of 7/7 ( TM) '' to 'sell' the 90 day internment in the new Terror Laws that were rejected last night by the Commons.
Have a look at this copy of the Sun. Look at the picture and the headline.
Look at the picture. Look at the shocking suffering of that man bombed on his way to work. Don't you want to do the right thing by him?
Don't you? Of course you do.

*Deep breath* Earlier this week, the Sun famously used a disturbingly graphic full colour front page to support the Blair agenda and emotionally blackmail MPs with a big shot of a gruesomely bloodied bomb victim and the header 'TELL TONY HE'S RIGHT'.

That picture was of John Tulloch , a passenger who had the misfortune to sit opposite Mohammed Sidique Khan when he detonated his bomb.
He wasn't asked by the Sun what he thought about the Terror laws, when, like the government the Sun purported to be 'doing this for the victims' .The implication from Clarke and Blair and the Sun was always that the Poor Victims of 7/7 (TM) were in unaminous agreement that the Commons and the people needed to vote in support of the Government or they'd be 'letting the victims down'.

Now, it's very hard to argue with such emotional blackmail. But as I said earlier, we were not asked. There is a danger in speaking for the voiceless, in making assumptions and using the The Poor 7/7 Victims as a justification for passing dodgy Terror laws. This is just not how democracy should work - ever. And having used such reprehensible and cheaply melodramatic tactics, don't be bloody surprised when those you purport to be taking under your wing and 'protecting' suddenly turn round and shout Not in My Name and bite you on the bum.

This shocking Sun front page was a key element in attempts to sell in the Terror legislation.
(But lawks! Seems 97% of their readers didn't back the Sun either- look at Bloggerheads doing the maths. )

Now, John Tulloch is a not just a Victim of 7/7. He is a professor, an expert in media and an expert in risk in everyday life and he currently is writing a book about how it feels to be the media specialist who becomes the centre of the story. I'm looking forward to reading it. He is quite rightly furious about being grossly misrepresented in this way.

- 'They have given me somebody else's voice - Blair's voice' he says in todays Guardian. He is angrier with the politicians than with the bombers.

He is quite frankly, appalled, ( though not, unfortunately surprised). And he says the last thing he would have said is 'TELL TONY HE'S RIGHT':

''This is using my image to push through draconian and utterly unnecessary
terrorism legislation. Its incredibly ironic that the Sun's rhetoric is as
the voice of the people yet they don't actually ask the people involved, the
victims, what they think. If you want to use my image, the words coming out
of my mouth would be, 'Not in my name, Tony'. I haven't read anything or
seen anything in the past few months to convince me these laws are

( Thanks to Lottie P for the link before I'd even bought my copy!)

Today the Sun is sulking and calling the MPs 'TRAITORS!' .
MPs betray public! Blair is humiliated!' is today's front page.
I wonder if that makes John Tulloch a traitor? I wonder if that makes me a traitor too?
Oh ho, so bang me up (without trial)why don't you. Damn it. I believe democracy is to be cherished and freedom protected. If thinking that - and being pleased when MPs think so too and vote against the Government - makes me a traitor, then I'll buy the bloody T shirt.

I do hope the vote against the Government was for those conscientious reasons and not just an excellent excuse to kick Blair in the goolies. Hum.

Still, seems I've been thinking what howlingspoon's been thinking .
90 days and 90 nights now sounds an eminently reasonable length of time to me. For Cherie to book the vans, remove the carpets and light fittings and pack up the crates and boxes.
Close the door on your way out, won't you?
UPDATE: Here's what , mrhaf a fellow-'victim' of 7th July ( he was on the Edgware Road train when it exploded) has to say.
And Gary, one of my regular commenting visitors has made his opinions known to the BBC, well done Gary... great interview!*round of applause*
The more of us shout about this the better and bloggerheads suggests you pick it up with the PCC

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

90 days and 90 nights

As everyone reading this knows by now, I was on the bombed train at Kings Cross, in the first carriage. So yes, I am not surprised that terrorists seek to do what they can to attack my democratic society, to threaten my liberties, to spread fear, to seek to divide us.

I do not expect my democratically-elected government to do the same. I cannot, and do not speak for all the victims, and nor can, and nor should Tony Blair and Charles Clarke.

But I know one thing: to defeat terrorism and hate-filled individuals we need to draw strength from each other, to co-operate and talk with each other, whether white or black, Muslim or Christian, Sikh, Hindu, Jew or atheist. Just like we did when the lights went out and the tunnel filled with smoke and we heard the screams of the dying; we drew together, we held hands, we prayed and we did not panic.

I do not see why this ill-thought out macho posturing, which can only destabilise and divide us, by robbing men and women of the ancient and fundemental right of habeas corpus, and making sections of the community afraid, is going to defeat terror.

And I will not meekly accept claims that this is to be done in my name. This is panicking, this is fearful, this is not helpful. I expect better than this, and I deserve better than this. We all do.

And by the way, calling me a 'pathetic liberal', Mr Home Secretary, is despicable bullying. Terrorists seek to destabilise liberal societies, I am proud to live in one and I will do what I can to protect it by working for harmony, not war between countries and between faiths, by behaving with confidence and calm, not aggression and machismo, by reaching out to people.

Doing the opposite of looking at people with the suspicion and fear that breeds hatred and mistrust and worse. Taking a bit of damn time to think about things.

Why the rush if not for political gain? How dare you co-opt 'the victims' to defend this attack on liberties, as if we are all some amorphous bloodied mass that you can wave in front of the Commons as a fig leaf for your naked desire to be seen to be 'tough on terror'?

I am not going to be a human shield for this Government. Not in my name, I say, you do not act for me. If you want to be tough on terror, then why not be tough on the causes of terror? Why not address, for example, Iraq, why you invaded, the bitter fruits of your ill-thought out invasion?

And until you do, when I hear your voices dripping sympathy and concern, saying you do this 'for the victims', Tony, Charles, and the rest of you... I remain disgusted that you should use ordinary people - because that is all we are - bombed people - bloodied people - in this way. Who gave you the right to speak for me, Mr Blair, Mr Clarke? When did I give my blessing to fear-mongering?

You have never asked my opinion. You did not listen when I and a million others took to the streets and you do not listen now.

How I wish I had the strength and the freedom to break ranks and embarrass you properly. But I know I will be eaten alive by the media if I am the 'dissenting victim's voice'. I get enough calls from journos as it is at the moment.

I helped to set up Kings Cross United, ( an email/pub group for the bombed train survivors, run by survivors) and fronted the media awareness push so fellow passengers knew we were here and could find us. KCU is a non-political body so it is not appropriate to talk publicly about my views, as 'Rachel North', because they are just my views and not representative of the group. And I cannot use my real name, because it would have an impact on me professionally.

So I just did an interview, anonymously, as a survivor called 'Sarah'. And I said some of what I wanted to say, and I feel better for it ( mind you, I haven't heard it yet. It went out at 12.10pm, I will use the 'Listen Again 'feature and catch it later on).

What Liberty said.

What The Guardian said

What - good grief - the Telegraph said

And I banged this out in my lunch hour, and now it's in The Times. Well, good.
Bollocks to this. I can't just sit there and take this crap.
It's not what I believe in. It's not what I got off the damn train for, frankly.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Awards ceremony

The firework in the backyard incident was a crappy ending to what had previously been a very good night: I managed to recover from the puking/exhausted bug that struck after the Memorial Service in time to take my biggest clients to a music awards ceremony that they had sponsored. My colleague and I had brokered the deal concerning the commercial sponsorship of the awards, and it was an evening I had been looking forward to for months.

We had champagne in a smart bar, then dinner at the Awards venue, (watched by three thousand ticket-buying members of the public, which felt a bit odd) , and then watched an excellent show featuring Ms. Dynamite, Sean Paul ( got a pic of him looking cool and me looking an over-excited nob next to him as my mobile phone screensaver) Ciara, the fantabulous diva Angie Stone and loads of other artists. It was filmed for Channel 4.

Afterwards we went on to a night club where the after-party was held, but here my energy flagged and I left my colleague and some of our guests still in full party mode on a heaving dance floor. It took over an hour to get a taxi home, shivering in the drizzle in a silk top and fake fur stole, no black cabs to be seen, zingo and dial-a-cab cab-call not operational, and I won't get into an unlicensed unknown mini-cab, however desperate I am, however desperate they are, because I am too scared.

Made it home eventually, bit pissed, was just dropping off when the stupid firework exploded a metre away on the other side of the french windows in my back yard causing nerve-jangling adrenalin surge.

It was still a great evening though, and the sponsors were happy, so I 'm happy. I'm going to have a very sloth-like day and watch the football in a pub or at a mate's house, with J.

The poor stinky cat has got over her shock but the smell of her firework-fear-induced pee lingers. Better start burning joss-sticks and opening windows. Lots of them.


Some pest threw a firework over the wall into my back yard very late last night and it exploded outside my bedroom french windows. It sounded like a huge bomb. Bang, flash of blinding light. I don't know who was more scared, me or the cat. Unfortunately the cat peed out of fear under the bed. J. dealt with me and the cat very well, I was all for chasing the person who threw the firework down the road and bashing their head in with a cast iron frying pan.

The whole house now smells of cat pee.

There must be better ways of celebrating Guy Fawkes' failure to blow up the houses of Parliament than selling explosives to teenagers.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Operation Eden

This is just so very worth looking at, especially the pictures. Please, pass it on.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Where from here?

What are we facing? Where do we go now?

I am still very, very tired. I am sick and tired, exhausted. I have had to take a day and a half off work, I can barely think, I have a constant headache and nausea. I think it is a bug, one that is going round the office. These last few weeks, the publicity, the emotions all thundering in, have been hard work. And I am sorry for myself.

The service was important. The familar hymns and prayers, the lighting of candles had a resonance and rhythm that soothed me. For the first time I was able to weep, in the arms of another survivor who is now a friend. Afterwards, the people from the train filled half a big pub. The driver was there, the police officer who saved us. I kept looking around, saying to Jane and Richard and Kirsty: look. Look at us. Look at what has happened. It is awesome. We all said it, again and again. It was an astonishingly emotional day. There were so many new people, I couldn't talk to them all. We are going to have another meeting soon, to rectify that: one where we just go to the pub, no service, no drama. Just talk over a drink and a bowl of chips.

There have been cynical articles, commentators say that the service grants the terrorists publicity and status. But it helped me, I needed it, I wanted to be there. And so did so many of us.

The group of survivors from the bombed train is now over 70 people. And still more come. It has brought comfort and hope and understanding, meeting people who were there. It is a phenomenon, that a group of strangers should comfort and care for each other, on July 7th and that they should do so still.

And whatever the cynics say, here are people who when the bomb went off did not trample each other, screaming; fight for air, push and shove and curse and despair. Even when they believed they were facing imminent death. I have written again and again of how people tried to save each other. It is a story that needs to be told. There was panic in some carriages, for a while, there was screaming, there was despair, for a little while. But then there was also dignity; there were no deaths, no serious injuries caused by panicked stampede even though people were trapped and believing they would burn to death.

Some cut their hands beating the glass to try to get out.

Of course they did; what would you have done?

They were trying to get air in, so people could breathe.
They passed tissues and water and covered each others faces and they held hands.
What would you have done?
Would you have done any different?

I don't believe you would have done any different. And I don't need to have 'faith' in the human race, I have proof of what we are like. I saw what happened. It will burn inside me like a candle until I die. It will always be my light that I live by.

There is nothing special about us. We are a random demographic of people who use the tube to get to work. We are not heroes. We are ordinary people, like you, reading this. It could have been you, millions use the tube. It just happened to be us. And look at what we did.

Would you have done any different?

People talk now of hatred and fear, of victims and bravery, of threats and attacks and multiculturalism and fundementalism, of new laws, of the 'rules changing'. But I saw humanity, ordinary people trapped, breathing in smoke, prepared to die with dignity. I saw civilisation, compassion, care. I see hope. I still see hope. I see beauty. I see a future.

Don't you?

There is nothing political here, no agenda, people have nothing to gain from reaching out apart from the most basic thing of all, to affirm their common humanity and to help themselves and to help each other, to answer their own questions. There are people of all ages in Kings Cross United. All backgrounds. Jewish Christian, Hindu, Muslim. I don't know what everyone's religions are, if they have religions, even. Most probably don't. There are sixty year olds, fifty-somethings, forty-somethings, thirty-somethings, twenty-somethings, teenagers. There are managers, students, health workers, lawyers, a police officer, the train driver, nurses. White, black , asian, gay, straight. Just people from the train.

What can you say about the nature of evil, when you have been confronted with so much good?
Here is something I read when I was was researching the nature of evil

1. Overidentify with a cause.
2. Elevate personal goals over concern for human consequences of decisions.
3. Lack empathy

I have no cause. Kings Cross United has no cause, no goals. But my god, it has empathy, and sympathy and compassion.

And we are just a random cross section of the human race.

What does that tell you?

Where do you want to go from here?

G'day Australia

Blimey, I never heard my radio interview but someone in Australia just sent me a link and there I was on ABC local radio AM, broadcast round Australia.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


I can't write too much. I'm sorry, I'm so, so tired.

I will write, later. When I can do justice to it, then I will.

Here. And here is what I said, before the service. It was a trade off: I'll give you what you want, leave us alone on the day. They still called though.

I will write more, about the service, later but I am so tired.

For the first time, I was able to cry, properly. I am glad about that. It meant so very much.

I met Tom, the brave driver, I met Steve, the police officer who ran down the carriage and who helped hundreds of us off the train. 'Ladies and gentlemen', he said...

... and that was when we knew we were safe.

It was overwhelming, and it was a blessing, and it was so sad. And I am crying now, writing these few sentences.

I am so very lucky to be here. That's enough, for today.