Saturday, December 31, 2005

M.O.T your soul

Even if YOU don't know what faith you are, Belief-O-Matic™ knows. Answer 20 questions about your concept of God, the afterlife, human nature, and more, and Belief-O-Matic™ will tell you what religion (if any) you practice...or ought to consider practicing. Warning: Belief-O-Matic™ assumes no legal liability for the ultimate fate of your soul.

Find your soul's path here
Or confirm your belief that you don't have one.

World Weary Detective

...has an excellent blog, which I have just discovered through tracking back this site's visitors. I urge you to go and have a read. And he is now on the blogroll. Sorry it took so long.

Hero of the Year now an M.B.E

Steve, the British Transport Police Inspector who you may remember me writing about before phoned me up to tell me he is getting an M.B.E from the Queen in the New year's honours list!

Here is Steve looking very serious.

I had read on BBC news online about Steve - and later I found out more, which is quite hard because Steve is an extremely modest man. On July 7th, Steve was on duty at Kings Cross as part of his G8 duties. He heard the explosion beneath his feet, he hurried straight to the platform when he saw smoke billowing out of the south-bound Piccadilly line tunnel. He told his younger colleague Gerard, to stand guard and wait in case he didn't come back, in which case to report him as a casualty and seal the station. Steve then began running into the smoke-filled tunnel to help the people of the Kings Cross train, not knowing whether he was running into a fire or a second set of bombs or a biological attack - just running to help. Heading straight into danger.

I badly wanted to meet Steve, and so did many of my fellow-passengers, and we were delighted when we finally met him. The first time I met Steve was on November 1st, the day of the Memorial Service. Earlier that day, I had grabbed an official-looking copper chap with lots of silver bits on his uniform (who turned out to be the Chief Constable) before the Memorial Service, asking if he knew Steve and if so, he must let Steve know that Kings Cross United wanted to buy him a drink. I am pleased to say that the Chief Constable did indeed pass this message on faithfully, and Steve came to the pub and met lots of grateful passengers from the train. I showed Steve the KCU book we have where we marked where we stood on a plan of the train. Over 80 people's names are there, across five pages.

'Look at all those names,' I said, 'you helped them all get off - they're all here - because of you'. It was all very emotional and Jane and I ended up leaping on Steve and giving him a hug.

Since then Steve has been a member of Kings Cross United and we are extremely proud to have him amongst us. It is his calm voice saying 'Ladies and gentlemen, I am a police officer' that so many of the passengers remember as the first thing that gave them hope as they stood trapped in the smoke and darkness deep underground, not knowing if anyone official knew about them, waiting to be rescued because they could not get off the train trapped in the narrow tunnel.

Steve got all the passengers who could walk safely off the train, and Gerard who had been told to stay behind and had to wait anxiously on the platform could then take over and help them, which he did brilliantly, and the July 7th rescue operation began to swing into operation. Steve then made his way to the last carriage of the train - carriage one - forced open the damaged interconnecting door, and saw 'what no amount of training will prepare you for' and what he 'will never talk about, out of respect for those people and for their families'.

There were still some people alive on carriage one though, who were not able to evacuate through the driver's cab or through the back of the train. Steve had to tell them that he had to leave them but would be coming back with medical help. It was he said, 'the hardest thing I have ever had to do' and 'went against my moral fibre'. But Steve on his own couldn't help the injured, and the decision he made to leave them to bring help for them was absolutely the right thing to do.

Still extraordinarily hard though. Steve and Gerard were later given the highest possible honour award from the British Transport Police (and after that, some of Kings Cross United had lunch with them and the Chief Constable and the Deputy Chief Constable and had a chance to thank the officers and the police force formally.)

So this entry at the end of an extraordinary year is dedicated to Steve, Gerard, Tom the train driver, ( who are all in KCU) David the Russell Square station supervisor who also ran into the tunnel to help, Carrie and Anna the passing nurses from Great Ormond Street hospital who ran to help the injured at Russell Square platform, Aaron and the rest of the crew of Blue Watch Euston and Soho fire service, and all the people I don't know the names of or haven't met who helped us on that day.

Thank you so very much. There aren't really words.

The other July 7th helpers who have been honoured can be seen here

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Observer this Sunday

The Observer is doing a news piece about Kings Cross United and six months after the bombs this weekend, so look out for it this weekend!
EDIT: here it is

P.S: Corrections and clarifications: Ooops. We mostly exited via Kings Cross , not Russell Square - so the writer got it wrong and I am sorry about that. This was a 6-month-on-from-7th July piece, the Observer got in touch having read this blog and said they wanted to write about survivor blogs, so I passed on some details of other post-bomb bloggers ( linked in my blog roll) . Then they wanted to do a phone interview with me about the growth of the Kings Cross United group via the internet. I said I didn't really want to have yet another piece about me, but about the group was ok, as hopefully people from the train would find out about it and it would be a last bit of media as we approach the 6 month anniversary, and the review of the year 2005 stuff means lots of 7/7 stuff out there and this is probably a last chance to let other victims know KCU exists, if they want to find us. Then the Observer wanted a photo. I said no, so they used the photo from the Evening Standard, cropped. I haven't seen the paper yet, but I was told that was what they were doing and that it would be a small pic. I'm not very recognisable in the ES pic, which is a good thing.

This was all a bit of a rush, really, and I'm a bit ambivalent about having done it. It looks like I am publicity mad, which isn't true. I'm semi-anonymous. 'North' is my writing name not my real surname. I am legally entitled to anonymity because of being a rape survivor, so I use it - it gives me some protection and hence the group some protection. Most media requests - and I/KCU have had about 300 plus - are turned down. The media I've/we've done has been to let people know KCU exists, and it has been fronted mainly by me with the support of the group, since my day job in advertising and commercial media means I have some experience in knowing how media stuff works . It has been a team effort and others have done stuff too, told their stories, managed the email responses, lots of things.

The thing that I am proud of is the Sunday Times Rachel's Story, which I think I needed to write because it makes sense of everything I've done and what I am and why I do stuff. It explains me, and having told the story, that is everything I need to say right there in one place.

Re. Observer piece. This time, I was approached about a piece about survivor blogging that turned into yet another story about me getting on the train, a story I am getting a bit fed up of telling. It's not about my bloody train journey, it's about the group of people on the train and what happened afterwards. Life after July 7th. I agreed to the phone interview because - well, the usual really, we wanted survivors to find us. If you were on our train, welcome, it was worth all of this to find you. Piccadilly line travellers from 7/7, we're here. And everyone else reading this, and to the Observer team, thanks - and happy new year.
Phew. Right. I'll keep writing, but the KCU message is now out there, Rachel's Story is out there, and I've done enough. New year, new things to write about. Happy 2006.
RN 01.55 01/01/2006

Update 12.41pm: It was worth it - another survivor has already got in touch. Going to email him back in a sec, when I've finished cooking lunch. Hurray!

Update Jan 6th: Four more survivors have joined - plus the other train driver - found through the blog and the Observer, hurray again!

Kings Cross United

Quick note: This is my personal blog, not the Kings Cross United survivor group website. You have to be invited to access the Kings Cross United website - which is run by survivors for fellow survivors of the Piccadilly line tube, bombed on 7th July. If you were on our train and want to meet fellow survivors you can contact us here. If you weren't on the Piccadilly line train but want to talk about July 7th, please go here instead. Thanks!

P.S: I'm political and so is this blog, sometimes, but Kings Cross United isn't. If you were on the Piccadilly line train that blew up, you're welcome to join us, whoever you are, whatever your politics. Some things are more important than all that stuff.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

On torture...

...and writing about it.
Please have a look.

6 months on

We're approaching the sixth month anniversary of the 7th of July.
The media interest is beginning to pick up again. I wonder when this story will ever go away?
Unlike a private tragedy, it is hard to get away from the constant reminders of that summer day. In some ways this makes things easier: everyone knows what happened, everyone is sorry for you. You don't have to explain all the time. I wonder how hard it must be for other people who have suffered more, but less visible bereavements, traumas, horrors, to see how we get so much attention, so much sympathy. There is no hierarchy of pain, media interest does not make the event or our experience more or less valid, but brings with it its own set of problems.

The survivors and bereaved families of the Tsunami have been in the news, and the cameras have turned up to photograph their grief. I know a little of how they must feel, to be filmed and interviewed during your grieving, surely one of the most intimate, private, painful moments of your life is savage. And as a backdrop to their grief, the devastation of thousands of villages, hundreds of thousands of lives. Quarter of a million unknown, unphotographed families, businesses, lives changed irrevocably by a catastrophe that no human agency can be blamed for.

Last night I watched a programme about faith after 7th July. A tragedy caused by human actions, a mass murder, a multiple maiming, and act of hatred carried out in the name of 'God'. Or of 'holy war'. Or 'revenge'. The alleged lead bomber Mohamed Sidique Khan even called us all complicit in our own destruction,

'Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world.

And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters.

Until we feel security, you will be our targets. And until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight.
We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation'

How do you reconcile a belief in God with what was done in God's name? How can anyone bomb or kill anyone in the name of God? Here, or anywhere else?

Does it help to blame someone for what happened? Underground, on July 7th, or on the beaches and fishing villages of Asia a year ago? Probably, but there is no use blaming God for waves. And warfare, bombing, maiming is not carried out by God, but by humans. If there is a God, then I don't believe he orchestrates bombings, nor does he intervene to miraculously pull people out of the wreckage. If he is anywhere, then he is there in the carriage, in the smoke and screaming. He is there on the bloodied platform with the dying and injured. He is there on the beaches, in the rubble. He is in the hands of the rescuers, digging for bodies after the earthquake, in the arms of the ambulance workers tending to the injured, in the tears of the bereaved, in the shocked witness of thousands, in the mass of struggling humanity. In the kindness of strangers, the compassion of humans for each other. If God exists at all, that is where he is.

He is not in the hearts of men with bombs, whatever they think, however they seek to justify it to themselves.

I turn Mr Khan's words back against him and I make them my own:

'Our support of each other makes us directly responsible for each other, just as I am directly responsible for protecting my brothers and sisters, so I am responsible for protecting and supporting my fellow passengers - and they are responsible for protecting and supporting me. We travel together, we are all of humanity on a journey together. We are all targets, we are all each others' security; I am my brother's keeper, not a soldier, nor an avenger. This is not a war you can win, for together we are a multitude. There is no government, no war, no religion stronger than this: this is compassion in action, this is the highest security of all; this is life-long freedom. For wherever I walk, however I travel, however many bombs you throw at me, I walk safely, because I am protected by my fellow passengers. I am loved, and we are not divided. '

There has been so much media interest in us who were bombed - but we are just ordinary people. The attack on us was an attack on all ordinary people. On common humanity. And what we do afterwards, how we behave is not extraordinary, even though the media think it is sometimes. We were bombed, and we tried to keep each other calm in the smokey darkness and the screaming; we tried to help each other, we did what we could to behave like civilised people. After that shattering experience we still help each other. That help we gave each other on the train still continues, as we men and women who call ourselves Kings Cross United - motley band of survivors, all ages, all backgrounds, from all carriages of the train - email each other, offer support, help to get each other back to normal. We do what humans do.

Life goes on, and we go on with it. He meant to cause fear and devastatation, that young man, when he got on the train with the bomb. And here we all are, fellow passengers, who now recognise each other as friends on our continuing journey. We are complicit in our own recovery, not our own destruction. We are Kings Cross United. And so are you, and so is everybody else.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit


by Margery Williams
Illustrations by William Nicholson

A bedtime story for Christms Night.

Happy Christmas

It is another dazzling day and J and I are having Christmas in North London just the two of us. Quietly, concentrating on getting the most happiness out of each moment.

I am taking a 10 minute break in the middle of cooking Christmas lunch. J is playing with his new toy, an X box with Halo 2.

I am about to go into the heavy artillery phase of the Christmas lunch, having got stuck into the sherry, and put the chicken stuffed with sage , pork and lemon into the oven an hour ago.

Pigs in blankets, chestnut stuffing balls, then in go roast new poatoes, roast rosemary potatoes, roast parsnips and red pepper, with onion and creme fraiche sauce, cranberry sauce. Veg stock made for the gravy, boiled sweet potatoes ready to mash. Onion and broccoli and leeks in the steamer.

Then Christmas pudding with brandy cream, and the Queen's speech, and then watching a movie.

Happy Christmas. I'm thinking of all the people I met this summer who didn't think they'd see Christmas this year. And of those who are missed around the table today. Those who will never forget this year, 2005.

I wish you what Kings Cross United have wished me, and each other, a happy Christmas, and a peaceful New Year, and an ordinary 2006.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

9 Lessons and Carols

At 3.00pm I will be listening to A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, from King's College Cambridge.

You can listen to it by clicking here and selecting 'listen live' on BBC Radio 4.

My mother always listens and I always listen if I can. One year I listened in Poland on a small radio, as it goes out on BBC World Service too. When the choirmaster taps the chosen chorister on the shoulder, and that is his cue to sing the first verse of Once in Royal David's city, solo, unaccompanied, it always makes my skin tingle. This year it will probably make my eyes well up too.

I will be wrapping presents in the study this year whilst I listen. Afterwards J and I are going to eat a dozen oysters and a dozen prawns. He is going to have to open them for me as I sliced my left pointing finger open yesterday whilst chopping a leek with the insanely sharp knives J's dad gave us for Christmas. Not having all the use of all my fingers is making typing difficult. I have also lost my voice. So it will be a quiet Christmas both on and offline.

It is a beautiful crisp day, the sun is dazzling and people are wearing Santa hats outside and being unusually smiley and friendly. In Upper Street part of the street is cordoned off because of a shooting last night, but the good news is, nobody died. I did a bit of last minute Christmas shopping and gave my friend Kat her card. Now all I have to is relax. Kapra's Wonderful Life is planned for later.

Hooray for Christmas, and the gentle ending of the year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Amazing Grace

Listen to us on BBC Radio 4 News thanks Blairwatch for archiving it
We did it! We protested, a loud speaker was used, a political speech was made.We sang carols, and we demonstrated our contempt for the stupid law which criminalises peaceful protest outside Parliament.

We sang carols, and festive songs, ( and we sang them well, apart from a rubbish rendition of Little Drummer Boy with too many rum-pum-pums) and we said the Lord's Prayer, and held a minute's silence, and we sang 'Amazing Grace', which had me crying, as usual.

And my friends were there, and I made some new friends, and I was proud to be part of it. Well done Tim! ( And thanks to Guido and Talkpolitics , Devils Kitchen , Current Outlook Curious hamster and Craig Murray as well for the coverage)

And so the law was broken, but no arrests were made. This is important, in a small but significant way.


'Since the law came into force in August, several people have been arrested and other protesters have been warned off.
Human rights lawyer Michael Schwartz, who was among the singers, said the new law was vague - as demonstrated by the lack of police officers on Wednesday.
"Is it compatible with with human rights law which is supposed to protect freedom of expression and assembly, particularly around Parliament, which is supposed to be the mother of democracy?," he added.

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said: "We treated the event as a carol service and not as a demonstration so the legislation did not come into play."

But of course it was a demonstration. We came there to make a point, we knew we risked arrest.

1) Any person who-

(a) organises a demonstration in a public place in the designated area, or

(b) takes part in a demonstration in a public place in the designated area, or

(c) carries on a demonstration by himself in a public place in the designated area,

is guilty of an offence if, when the demonstration starts, authorisation for the demonstration has not been given under section 134(2).

A formal warning usually precedes any action, but the Police may arrest any person committing an offence under Section 132 of the Act and if found guilty that individual may be liable to a fine of up to £2500 and/or a term of imprisonment of up to 51 weeks

We were protesting against an unjust law; that was why we turned up. We pushed it, and 100 - 130 people assembled and demonstrated, and sang and nothing was done. Hooray. About time. A stupid law was defied, and well done to the police for treating it with soft hands. The law is an ass, so let's give it a sugar lump, and pat its flanks, and let it walk away. It's an embarrassment to enforce. What does that tell you, Mr Clarke? Mr Blair?

That this is the way that it ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper?

Independent newspaper report

BBC Report

Urban 75 report

Indymedia report ( and how to listen to us on Radio 4 for the next 24 hours)

Sing songs of joy in Parliament Square

Will we be arrested for singing carols in a demonstration of hope, joy and religious tolerance? I hope not. I love singing carols, and we have sung them in this country for a thousand years. Even when an Act Of Parliament banned Christmas celebrations in 1644, still we sang. I like to think that we are a pragmatic and freedom-loving people in this country, with no time for frankly silly laws. Such laws, and those who press for them don't tend to last long.

Hummmmm.... see the BBC and cross your fingers for us (difficult in mittens).

Human Rights Act 1998
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others... No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Over to Bloggerheads

''The 'decision on the day' would appear to hinge on the carol service being a danger to public safety or morality (and, no doubt, how many members of the media are present).
It's hard to see how this could be the case
if all we are doing is singing Christmas carols

And that is all we will be doing. There will be no placards, there will be no flyers.
There will only be carol sheets and candles.
We plan to arrive, pass out these carol sheets and candles (accepting any donations people care to give in exchange), sing our selection of Christian and secular verse, and then quietly depart after a short prayer.
The only thing that can turn this into something other than a peaceful affair will be heavy-handed actions by the police.
PS - Admittedly, we are open to a legal challenge over public safety if the turn-out is massive (i.e. if there are more people than Parliament Square can safely accommodate) but there is a contingency plan that covers this unlikely event. ''

So at 6pm I will be there, with my friends and with people I have not met yet, and I will sing my heart out. Sing about peace on earth, sing about grace and goodwill to all men and hope and joy. This has been one hell of a year, what else should I do at the ending of it but sing, standing shoulder to shoulder with other Londoners? As I did on July 14th in Trafalgar Square when thousands stood united against those e who sought to sow fear and division. Summer ended, winter came, and I am still here, I am still singing.

Just try and stop me.

Monday, December 19, 2005

On a more positive note...

My Christmas tree is finally up. It looks fantabulous and scents the room with sweet woody pine resin. For the last eleven years I have had 'Bring A Bottle and a Bauble' parties. I reccommend them as a genius way to get the Christmas season off to a great start. You buy your tree and stick the lights on it, stick music on, get the twiglets out and the mulled wine on, get out your pathetic box of last year's bashed baubles and let your guests express themselves with artistry, alcohol, decorations that they have brought with them. Your tree gets decorated, your guests get creative and bond with each other as they fiddle with each other's balls, the party has a theme and a centrepiece and all you have to do is coo appreciation and pass round mince pies.

I now have a massive box of baubles and happy memories from all my guests of the last decade, and although I didn't have the party this year, getting out all the stuff made me feel choked up but in a good way.

I have been more or less unable to deal with Christmas this year, couldn't get excited about it at all, though normally I adore it. This year it felt like a series of chores and lists to get through and the present buying felt pointless and even schmaltzy Christmas music set me off in a downward spiral. Any proper carols left me in floods. All the sentiments of peace on earth, hope, joy, when it felt like we were reaching the end of a year of horrible bloodshed and hate and death and war, led by men who claim to be godly, but know so little of compassion, of peace. Who seem, in fact, to want a world at permanent war. That both fighting sides say they do it for 'God' and 'freedom' and 'justice' as they murder and main is more than I can stand, most of the time, and right now, it leaves me in shreds.

We bought a tree and it sat outside in a bucket of water in the yard for over a week, because we had not time to dress it and I couldn't face it. I am never like this normally. I don't know what the matter is with me. Well, clearly I do, but it is all very distressing.

Anyway, now the tree is up, and I am weepy but calm. And for the first time ever, J and I are doing Christmas by ourselves, instead of going to Norfolk and Preston and Kent and having three Christmasses with 3 familes, in ten days, all done on public transport, with Miff the cat in a box on my lap *( we don't have a car). It has been a hell of a year, and J and I are desperate for peace, if not peace on earth, at least peace in North London. I will miss seeing my family, but I very badly need to rest and spend time with my honey, I am exhausted.

I am looking forward to finishing work on Wednesday and finally calming down and having some time to myself. I can't wait.

Of course, carol-singing is an important part of Christmas, and even though it will have me in floods like a boiled owl this year, especially when we sing Amazing Grace, I urge you to join us if you can make it, in Parliament Square on Wednesday this week at 6pm. It's important to protect these traditions, beloved of us all in this country for a thousand years. Now more than ever.

Stinky the hamster

I have just come back from a gruelling couselling session where I cried uncontrollably and shook with fear for an hour. I think all this is getting to me as we approach Christmas and the 6 month anniversary

So to cheer myself up, I have adopted a virtual hamster. You can find 'stinky' at the bottom of the page.

If anyone has any more ideas that you think might cheer me up (as well as other readers of the blog) please let me know. I could really do with a laugh at the moment.

Thank you.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Tim Worstall Brit Blog round-up #44

Here you go, enjoy.

First responders, bravery in chaos

Article in the Guardian from July 21st 2005. In the light of what I wrote in today's Sunday Times, it offers another view of the aftermath and the response. There is no doubt in my mind of the heroism of those who helped us on that day. They have little to fear from an independent enquiry. But there are still learnings to be looked at. The system is not flawless. And it is highly likely that this will happen again, perhaps with even more devastating effect.

'Perversely, one of the greatest dangers of a largely successful response
to a major incident may be the internal voice that says: "We did it." The worst happened, and the system coped, and this leads easily to two seductive conclusions: first, that the system is flawless, and second, that the law of averages will somehow spare it being tested again any time soon. Both, of course, are erroneous. "We had this terrible incident, and we did extremely well," says Dent. "I was very proud of the NHS in London. They stepped up to the challenge. But actually, the risk today is no different than it was that Thursday. We've got to keep rehearsing."

Julie Dent, the head of the south-west London strategic health authority in Guardian feature

No Public Inquiry - Some Reasons

By quarsan at Sat, 17/12/2005 - 06:32 - on Blairwatch
The official reason is that holding an inquiry would 'distract' from fighting terrorism, thus making those advocating an examination to be aiding and abetting terrorists.
Or is there another reason? Could it be that it's to save face?
Two of the four suicide bombers who killed 52 people in the July 7 attacks were scrutinised by MI5 last year but were not considered to be a threat - source
Providing a timeline will not answer serious questions about the bombings, the Independent helpfully list some of them:
Why was the terror alert downgraded before the beginning of July?
Was Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, guilty of complacency by insisting before the explosions that the capital's security was "the envy of the policing world"?
Why did the security services lose track of Mohammad Sidique Khan?
Was a vital piece of intelligence about Khan, who is believed to have made contact with terrorists overseas, overlooked?
Was there a fifth bomber? More explosives were found inside a rucksack in the car left by the bombers at Luton station, suggesting a fifth man could have been involved.
Have police resolved this question? And if there is a fifth man, is he still at large?
Were the July 7 bombers linked to the alleged July 21 attackers?
Could a third cell still be at large?
If there was a connection, does it mean there is a wider loose network of terrorists lying low plotting their next outrage?
Who was ultimately behind the attacks?
What do the security services know about him and how firm do they believe were the contacts between the bombers and senior figures in the al-Qa'ida network?
Were mistakes made in the handling of the disaster?
Why were the explosions on the Tube put down to electrical failures minutes after the real explanation should have been apparent?
Given that the final blast took place on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square, was it a mistake to keep buses running after the Tube blasts?
Were the attacks motivated by the Iraq war? This is the question ministers are desperate to avoid. They deny any link can be made, but Muslim leaders insist it cannot be dismissed as a factor. Khan claimed in a video message that the attacks were in response to "atrocities" committed by the West against Muslims.

Sunday Times: July 7th questions that still haunt victims

The case for a public enquiry is overwhelming, says Rachel North ( that's me, that is) in the second page of today's Sunday Times News Review.
Meanwhile we can see why Blair isn't very keen to wash dirty linen in public ( today's Sunday Times front page)

'SPYMASTERS warned Tony Blair before the July 7 suicide bombings that
Al-Qaeda was planning a “high priority” attack specifically aimed at the London
Tube. A leaked four-page report by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), which oversees all spying, is the first definitive evidence that the intelligence services expected terrorists to strike at the Underground. The disclosure will fuel critics’ suspicions that Blair decided to rule out a public inquiry into the bombings last week because it could expose intelligence failings at the highest level'

I said I was not shutting up about this, and your support is very welcome - ( sign the petition) ( write to your M.P)

thank you.

On the page opposite my piece, 'Beware of the Thought Police', an article about freedom of speech and the frightening erosion of it under the Government. If you think that anti-terrorism powers are being used misused, please support us as we sing carols in Parliament Square on Wednesday night, with Maya Evans who was arrested for reading out the names of the dead soldiers of the latest Iraq war outside Downing Street. A demonstration of joy, hope and festive spirit. That we can all be arrested for.

As Bush wriggles to defend the secret spying on US citizens to an angry Congress, as M15 are accused of colluding with the flying out of 'terror suspects' to murky torture jails it feels like it is time to speak up about what is being done and not done in our name, to ask questions and to demand answers. If not now, when?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Reasons why you might want to demand an independent public inquiry...

Petition here

You use public transport, and you want to know if anything could be learned to make your journeys safer in future.
You were involved on July 7th and you have useful feedback about the response to the bombings and the aftermath to share.
You think the Government are hiding something.
You don't think the Government are hiding anything, and it would be good to get that in the open and refute the naysayers .
You are fed up with conspiracy theories.
You have heard conspiracy theories and you'd like to see them answered.
It was the biggest terror attack we've had on our soil, 52 people were killed, and it was young British men who killed themselves to achieve their aims, so you think that should be investigated in public.
You want to know more about how 4 young British men became suicide bombers.
You think that as the public were attacked, and continue to be targets, answering their questions publicly seems fair and is the right thing to do
You are not sure whether answers will come out of it, or anything will change, but you'd like to try and think that is the democratic thing to do.
You were against the war in Iraq and you think the Government are trying to avoid the spectre being raised that Iraq upped the risk of the UK being attacked.
You supported the war in Iraq and you'd like to prove that had nothing to do with July 7th.
You feel that if survivors and bereaved are asking for it, you'd like to support their request
You have questions that remain unanswered.
You have other reasons - or want to state your thoughts in the comments box below...

We've only just begun...

From the BBC
'Far from closing down questions about 7 July by ruling out a public inquiry, the home secretary may find they have only just begun

"There is no question of a cover-up of any kind," Mr Clarke assured Today listeners.
"As far as allegations about Iraq or foreign policy issues or motivations of the individuals concerned, those are being made the whole time, as we speak, by a whole range of different people, for a range of different motives and people are, of course, entitled to make those assertions."

Gee, thanks. Are we entitled to answers as well? Seems not.
Given that I'm not even allowed to sing carols in Parliament Square or read out the names of the dead killed in the latest Iraq war outside number 10, I'm surprised by his generosity in allowing me to make any 'assertions' at all. Assert while you can, people, whilst free speech stocks last!

'Mr Clarke admits ... apparent intelligence failure is an "issue".
But is it an issue that is likely to be addressed by the "narrative" account of the events leading up to 7 July, ordered by Mr Clarke?
The fact that the narrative will be written by a senior civil servant, rather than an independent figure, will lead to accusations that the government has something to hide.'

You don't say. Conspiracy theorists will have yet another tiresome field day for a start.

'There is also the question of the role the war in Iraq played in recruiting and motivating the bombers '

Yes, there is that question, and there is the total lack of answers from the Government. And so the question will be asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked.
And every failure to address it will weaken your position, morally, and in the way you care about most Mr Blair, politically. With each refusal to answer it, you lose power. You shrink, you become shrill, you become despicable and laughable and embarrassing. And this is the way it will end for you, not with a bang, but a whimper.

A leader admits his mistakes. A leader takes responsibilty for his actions. A leader tries to put right what has gone wrong on his watch, putting what is right before what is personally comfortable.

Does failure stink in your nostrils yet, Mr Clarke, Mr Blair? And by the way, I know that before Christmas was meant to be a good time to 'bury' the news of the non-appearance of a Public Enquiry, but it's backfired, sunshine. There's any numbers of survivors being interviewed about 2005 as the year ends, reflective articles and TV programmes. I know. I get asked to appear in quite a few of them, and so do my fellow passengers. July 7th is going to be reflected upon no end between now and January 1st. What do you think we're reflecting about right now, Mr Blair, on TV, in print, in the Sunday Times this weekend? Your media advisers cocked up, and we're not shutting up. No answers? No peace then. See you front-of-voters'-mind. - SIGN UP NOW - OR WRITE A LETTER

Did I mention a public inquiry?

Have just written 1000 words for the Sunday Times News Review on the subject, with my thoughts and those of some of my fellow passengers... so look out for that on Sunday

Have just checked a site ( private) for victims of the other bombings, and surprise, surprise, quite a few people are pretty angry over there too.

Do your bit, sign and pass it on:
Write to your MP:

More survivors speak... : ASK FOR A PUBLIC INQURY

Kirsty, a Piccadilly line survivor

'We all know what happened on that tube and I don't need to describe what it was like. Suffice to say that I have had time off work with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have never once been contacted by anyone to give a statement and no support has been offered to me by anyone, let alone the government. We have set up a support group amongst survivors and have helped each other that way.

To wake up this morning and hear that the Government had decided that the worst terrorist attack in peacetime this country has ever seen does not warrant a public enquiry just sickens me. Sadly it does not surprise me.

If they already know the answers can they please tell me why my tube was blown up on the way to work. They say they are going to publish a 'narrative' to explain to us what happened. The people on that tube already know what happened, that is not what we are trying to understand. What is important is why it happened and how it can be prevented from happening again. We need to understand how intelligence, security, community relations, and all the other factors involved, can be improved. The government absolutely need to learn lessons from this. If they understand why it happened then why didn't they know it was going to happen and why did they let 52 people die?

This was the worst terrorist attack in peacetime, it was the first time that suicide bombers have been 'home grown'. There are so many firsts, the government have no idea why it happened. We all have our opinions, but no-one really knows and we as a democratic country need to.
If the government feel that the threat of terrorism is so great that they need to introduce new laws which severely compromise our civil liberties, why do they not feel that it is not worth a public enquiry. Laws will not stop this from happening again. Understanding why it happened might just begin to.

52 people died, hundreds were injured and thousands are suffering psychological trauma and will do for months, perhaps years to come. Don't we deserve to know why?
We are all filled with terror every day when we use the tubes and the buses. Surely the government owes it to us to try and understand why this happened. It would help us fight our fear if we felt that the people in power were trying to make our journeys and our lives safer. I don't get the feeling they are.

The politicians were not attacked, we were, ordinary people. They were not victims, their families will have them with them around the tree this Christmas. What about the families who don't. Don't they deserve to know why? '

And more survivors speak...

Yorkshire Lass in London was on my train when it blew up. She was raised a few miles away from where Mohammed Sidique Kahn and his fellow bombers lived.

'When I watched the Al-Qaeda video declaring Jihad against the UK I was
haunted by the familiarity of the voice, it was my voice, my accent, my dialect.
This is not a man who was recruited and trained in some far off country that I
have barely heard of, this was a man who was recruited and trained while he
lived 20 minutes from my mother's home where I was born and raised.The words he spoke of are words similar to what I have heard many times from disillusioned
young men that I studied for my A Levels with. They are the words of hatred I
overheard when I worked as a support worker at my local college. They were words of students who were educated...'

Yorkshire lass continues, demanding answers to homegrown horror:

'...when someone follows through with the actions of those opinions to the detriment of others, questions need to be asked why preventions were not put in place and this needs to be done by public inquiry for peace of mind.I have been told that I am looking for justice in the wrong place and in some way that is right. However, I want some sort of justice, some manner of peace of mind, some questions answered and resolutions made. I don't want others to have to go through what myself and hundreds of other commuters did on that Summer's day.'

She too calls for understanding, for our leaders to listen.

'I want understanding.I understand it will cost money and take time. I understand that this may not be my answer, that there might not be an answer, but are we not owed that much? The recent history of public inquiries is not a glossy one, can the Government not take this opportunity to do at least one thing properly in this whole messy situation?I have already lost faith in the politicians of this country and voter apathy makes me believe that I am not on my own on this. What sort of leader does not listen to the people he is meant to lead? You cannot put a price on the loss of 52 human lives, you cannot put a price on human suffering. You can listen and try create some understanding. It may not be the right answer, it may not even be an answer but we just want to be heard.'

Ask for a public inquiry into July 7th - click the link above

Friday, December 16, 2005

We want a public inquiry into 7/7

(I said I was not going to shut up about this)

Please pass it on.

( especially to RW who did the techy bit)

Oh Come All Ye Faithful...

Let's go carol-singing!

You are cordially invited to a public carol service in Parliament Square at 6pm on Wednesday the 21st of December 2005.
This inclusive service will contain both Christian and secular verse, and is expected to last no more than an hour.
Candles and song sheets will be made available, with donations going to Medical Aid for Iraqi Children.

Programme:(Introduction and welcome)

Come All Ye Faithful, Away in a Manger, Little Drummer Boy, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Deck the Halls, Good King Wenceslas, The First Noel, Joy to the World,We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Jingle Bells, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town

(Message of thanks followed by a one-minute silence)

Amazing Grace, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night

(The Lord's Prayer; led by Brian Haw)

Legal Implications: Please note that if you attend this carol service, it will classify as a spontaneous demonstration (of faith, hope, joy and/or religious tolerance) and there is a possibility that you will be cautioned or arrested under Section 132 of the Serious and Organised Crimes and Police Act 2005 (more).

Directions:Parliament Square is located directly opposite the Houses of Parliament (map). The nearest tube station is Westminster (on the Jubilee Line).

Accommodations:We humbly request that those who attend do not bring placards, banners or circulars to this event.

Downloads:A downloadable version of the song sheet is now available: Right-click and 'Save As' (303Kb Word document)

Section 132 Serious and Organised Crimes and Police Act 2005:This draconian law was designed to evict Brian Haw and stifle dissent at the heart of our democracy. On that first count, it failed, but on the second.... well, you're probably already aware that Maya Anne Evans was arrested and convicted under this law, merely for reading out names of soldiers killed in Iraq at London's Cenotaph.
Section 132 - Demonstrations in vicinity of Parliament: Demonstrating without authorisation in designated area:(1) Any person who-(a) organises a demonstration in a public place in the designated area, or(b) takes part in a demonstration in a public place in the designated area, or(c) carries on a demonstration by himself in a public place in the designated area,is guilty of an offence if, when the demonstration starts, authorisation for the demonstration has not been given under section 134(2).
A formal warning usually precedes any action, but the Police may arrest any person committing an offence under Section 132 of the Act and if found guilty that individual may be liable to a fine of up to £2500 and/or a term of imprisonment of up to 51 weeks.

In this instance, the police have not been notified. They've been invited, certainly, but they have not been notified. We believe that the public has the right to gather in a public place and sing Christmas carols. The police may see things differently; we shall see. (Technically, under the act, while this may be a spontaneous demonstration of faith, hope, joy and/or religious tolerance, it still classifies as a demonstration.)

Communication:If you require any further details, or wish to help out with music, candles and/or song-sheets, please contact Tim Ireland via the following email address:manic AT bloggerheads DOT com

Organisations:This is an initiative led by, and it has been endorsed by the following individuals, groups and bodies (please get in touch if you wish to add your name/group to this list):
Brian Haw Supporters of Brian Haw

Maya Evans Justice Not

Craig Murray (former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan)

Thanks Bloggerheads! And let's all try and remember the message of the Christmas angels -' Peace on Earth, Good will to All Men'.

Now more than ever, eh?

See you there.

My dad asks for a public inquiry

Dear Charles Clarke

My daughter was 7 feet from the King's Cross bomb. She survived, 26 others didn't. We all deserve a public inquiry so we can understand WHY this happened and what we can learn from it. My daughter has written extensively about this and set up a support group for over 90 survivors. To our knowledge not one member of Parliament has been in touch with a survivor to ask what the Government can do for them or even how they are coping. An inquiry would alleviate the sense of outrage we all feel when politicians presume to speak in the name of survivors and their families.

Yours sincerely

Rev. Phillip, [Rachel North's dad]


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Another reason why I'd like an independent public enquiry...

... is to shut the conspiracy theorists up. Fortunately Channel 4 news and many other reputable journalist sources have discredited one of their pet theories but still much of this nonsense flies around the internet. I have even had my words in my description of when the bomb went off abused by conspiraloons to ''prove'' that there was no bomb, just a power surge.

I have rarely felt so angry as when I read those lies. Why must people peddle such shit?


Still not shutting up about the lack of 7/7 Public Inquiry

Annie Mole on her fabulous London Underground blog Thursday Dec 15th entry with some very useful links.
Kirsty and me have made our thoughts known to the BBC as have other survivors and members of the public.
Ringverse at Blairwatch and Quarsan at Blairwatch are on the case
and MatGB from Great Britain not Little England is on it too.

If you have blogged about it, let me know in the comments and I will link to your post.

The public were bombed. The public are targets. The public have questions. Not just about what happened - but WHY? What can we learn from this? When the next bomb goes off, when more ordinary people passengers, shoppers, workers die and are injured and terrified, what could we have done to prevent it, how can we help to lessen the risks, improve the response, manage the after-care? What was done in our name before the bombs, what is being done in our name after the bombs? How can our present suffering help others in the future?

Do these questions not deserve time and attention? Do we, you, all of us not deserve answers?

Let your MP know what you think, by getting in contact through this easy-to-use service at writetothem


And please link, please pass this on - we can make a difference if we want to. Get vocal. Go postal. Make your voice heard.


Rachel North, and some of the Kings Cross/Russell Square passengers from 7th July

Survivors' anger at post 7/7 'let-down'

I said I wasn’t going to shut up about this, and yesterday I asked some of my fellow 7th July passengers what they thought. As you can see, some of us are pretty angry about the post 7/7 response and the lack of a Public Inquiry … so I am sharing some passengers' views here.


‘It seems to me that there is a huge case of double standards going on.....if the threat of terrorism is so great that they are prepared to try & introduce laws that seriously threaten our civil liberties....then surely it is important enough to have a public enquiry.....laws aren't going to stop this happening again....but understanding why it happened might just begin to on the other my experience... I have been involved in terrible events in the past & have researched other similar events which have had public inquiries.....they all identified the 'lessons that need to be learnt'....then they just go & happen again for just the same reasons....they have another public enquiry.....same lessons are learnt but nothing happens again....and is still happening........and it is a complete waste of time and money..... but I think for the sake of each and every one of us the government needs to do everything they possibly can...and be seen to be doing everything they possibly understand this & show us all that they are going to learn from it.....deep down I think there is a political agenda here, not a public one.....there is too much that would come out that they want to hide....and I'm sad to say that's what I think!’

‘My first reaction was, well I'm not surprised. This was closely followed by ‘What's the point anyway?’ Because, as with any inquiry, the Government will come off completely clean of any wrong doing as it is never their fault. We want answers but we won't get them, that's not to say the government shouldn't try, they at least owe us that.

We are constantly reminded that this is the worst peace time bombing London has ever seen, for something that bad there should be an inquiry. People died, families lost someone they loved and hundreds are still suffering. You can't put a price on that but apparently the government can.
Is it any wonder no one in this country votes any more? Is it any wonder we have lost faith in politicians when they do things like this?'

‘I think there should be some kind of inquiry. The public perception is that there has been loads of support for victims...sorry, but have I missed out on truck loads of support that was begging to be used? - I don't think so. In July, I was desperate to get access to counselling and was told that I could go to Victoria to the family assistance centre. I actually said to them, if Icould travel to Victoria from where I live, I wouldn't need your counselling in the first place. My GP told me there was a 4 month wait on the NHS. Thank goodness my employer came up trumps, but they should not have had to intervene -rumour had it that the system was supposed to look after us all. Family and friends certainly thought that was the case until I set them straight. We have just been left to fend for ourselves and that makes me angry. If nothing else, an enquiry would make sure some of these lessons were learnt in case, God forbid, anything like this happened again. I thought there were plansin place for emergencies such as this. Whilst the emergency services did a fantastic job on the day, I have been stunningly underwhelmed by the support offered to victims since. Apart from KCU, which us victims had to set up for ourselves, there has been no support that I have been offered. The "system" has given me nothing... Sorry to rant about this, but I feel exceptionally strongly that we have not been looked after and that the "system" has failed us all.’

‘I am sure that even if an official inquiry happened they wouldn’t get to how survivors have been ‘supported’. I am still really pissed off about not being invited to the 7/7 centre survivor meeting [despite helping to set up a survivor group for fellow passengers, despite making herself known to the Red Cross and 7th July Support Centre staff, despite turning up to a previous Red Cross-organised ‘Survivor’s meeting’, and having had several telephone calls and email conversations with the organisers, Jane and other Piccadilly line survivors have yet to be officially invited to anything] I feel that I have to be quite determined to sort things out myself. The Government have put it in the hard of charities like the red cross - but - and I hate myself for thinking this - they are being rubbish and are totally disorganised.’

‘Yes - A public inquiry is essential for more understanding of what actually happened. I certainly had no support from any public office- no one has called or written. Also unfortunately the place I was working (freelance contract) didn't consider my situation at all, I was expected to turn up for work AND pay for my own taxis. It wasn't until some of my work-mates made a fuss on my behalf after seeing me wrecked after a tube journey, that they offered to pay for some taxis- no-one suggested that I actually take some time off work. I don’t think that they understood just what we had all been through. It's only now that I am back in the country and not working that the full horror has hit me. Who can say how I will be feeling in 6 months time?’

‘I personally think there definitely should be a public inquiry.
How dare Tony Blair say there shouldn’t be one. He is the one that got us into this mess by agreeing to go to war.
Also they knew about the bombers a year beforehand. I reckon that is why they are not doing a public enquiry. If they did then a lot of crap would come out that they just don't want anyone to hear. I think we should air our views on this or some of us should. This country always seems to put up and shut up and it is time we did something about it. We are all angry and hurt with the government and what they are doing.’

‘I personally think the whole thing is suss - if you think about it there were apparent "power surges" all morning, I was even told there was a fire at Caledonian Road - (funny how on that same morning 4 bombs went off) - to me that whole morning was as though commuters were being put off travelling into London it was as though someone knew that something was going to happen on the underground - how funny we haven’t heard anything about the power surges since!!!!!!! No wonder they don’t want a public inquiry....’

'Whilst I would welcome a public inquiry, I have to ask myself one question... what is the point?

This government has set up inquiry after inquiry (Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly to name one) with Tony Blair's own people in charge, to tell the gullible country what they want them to hear.

The fact of the matter is this one would be no different and the truth will still never come out and vital bits of information kept secret. It makes me feel sad we live in a world like this but politics is a dirty business run by dirty people.'

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

No 7/7 public Inquiry

Apparently it will 'take too long', 'be too expensive' and 'only tell us things we already know.'

We have spent a thousand days in Iraq and £3.1 billion. Is that too long? Is that too expensive?

Is the link between Iraq and July 7th what we already know?

Of course it is.

Christ, even Blair knows it as the Q&A on 26th July shows. Everybody knows it.

I don't need a public inquiry to work it out, but I still want a public inquiry.

A public inquiry should tell us how this happened and try to explain why, and it is the why I am really interested in, because in the why are the answers to the future.

A public inquiry should look to the future as well as what happened, a public inquiry is there to answer the questions of the public.
Even if the politicians think it will 'take too long', be 'too expensive 'and they think they know the answers already and they don't want to talk about what they know.

It is the public who were the targets, not the politicians, Mr Blair.
We still are the targets. Ordinary people pay the price, ordinary people deserve the answers.

Every time I fight to get on a tube, or a bus, I know I and the people travelling with me are targets. It never gets any better. Each day a nail bomb doesn't explode, but then each day I think the probability counter re-sets, the likelihood increases. Bang, screams, death, maiming. Not today. Tomorrow?

We all have questions about 7th July, let them be answered independently, with dignity and clarity.

Even if you don't like the questions, don't like the answers, think you know the answers already, Mr Blair, it is us, not you, who are paying the cost for this, every single bloody day. If the cost of answering questions makes you squirm, then too bad. We voted you in, we pay for you and your wars and your policies to be implemented and you say you act 'in our name'. We run the risks on the trains, the buses, the streets each day. You answer to us, the public and if I could shame you into answering us now, my God, I would.

How dare you presume you know our questions and how dare you presume that they can be answered by a 'narrative of what happened', as if we are children to be placated with a story. I know what happened, I want to know why. I want a debate, Mr Blair, I want a dialogue.

I will not shut up about it either. And nor will many of my fellow passengers.

Sign the petition for a Public Inquiry

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dance, they said

*Dance, they said
Life is only for a moment
Life is brief - don't waste it
The taste is sweet - so taste it
And I said - I understand
I'm dancing as fast as I can

*from my favourite song, when I was 12. I have been thinking of it a lot recently.

One of my very best friend's mother died 2 weeks ago. We have texted a lot, but we have not been able to meet up. Tonight we met up, at the pub opposite the studio where we have taught a hundred women to dance this last eighteen months.

We had a drink. We talked. Both of us tried not to cry.

Then we did what felt right: we unlocked the empty studio and we danced our asses off. We played

Gimme Shelter.
You Can't Always Get What You Want.

while we warmed up. Then we choreographed a dance to Paint It, Black.

Lean, back spin from spiral, arch back, touch the floor,
Get up, reach up, fireman's spin, sunwheel,
Flip over, get up, plie, turn head,
Get up, walk round, big step, back spin, twist hips,
Egyptian spin, plie...

We danced until we were tired and hot, our breath rising as steam in the cold studio, then we stretched out and went to the pub and drank wine.
My friend's mother loved to dance. The slow wasting illness she suffered from terrified her. She died in her sleep, next to her beloved, on her 60th birthday, after having watched a West End show with her family that night. She watched the singing , and the dancing, then she let go. Her two beautiful daughters, her husband had spent the evening before telling her again how much she was loved.

My heart breaks for my brave, graceful friend.

Afterwards I got a taxi home, and I stopped off at the late night grocers. I am friendly with the Turkish man who is always behind the till.

I bought milk, cat biscuits, bread. There was a linen basket on the shop floor, inside were some beautiful hand-knitted slipper-socks.

'Are these for sale?' I asked.

The man explained that his mother had knitted then, 'ten, maybe fifteen years before. I can't charge them to you, very much, you are a good customer. But I think, maybe we should sell them, they are wasted in the house. So I get them out.'

'But, the work'. I said. And they were beautiful. Black and white patterns, from Anatolia, in Turkey.

His brother walked in. 'Ma's socks!' he said, looking pleased.

'How much?' I said.

'Um. Five pounds' said the brother.

'Nooooooooo...' said the shopkeeper, squirming.

'Look at them', I said, 'they are lovely. And I will always remember your mother when I wear them. And I am happy to pay a fiver, and if you think it is too much then you can put some money in the Earthquake box. I think I would like to buy your mother's socks: mothers are very important.'

'Ok' said the shopkeeper, and his brother smiled at me.

I am wearing the socks now, they are handspun wool, black and white zigzag patterns, tough and soft and very warm. My feet ache and are cold and cramped after dancing. The socks smell of lanolin and wool. They must have taken hours to make.

They are made with love, and my feet can feel it.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Disaster reaction, blog therapy

Dr. Deborah Serani has a very useful list of psychological reactions to disaster, and advice.

And blogging as 'good therapy': why we blog and what we blog about.

Kings Cross United drinks, explosion in the morning

(Pic from BBC)
Last night was the Christmas drinks for Kings Cross United and a very jolly evening. It's amazing when you think what a mixed bunch we are. We would never have met if we hadn't been on the train, but we all get on so well, there are so many lovely people. You might think that we have only the explosion on the train to talk about, and that conversation would be flagging by now, but 5 months on and everyone was on sofas and chairs laughing and talking nonstop. For 5 hours. We whizzed through £100 behind the bar in about an hour which further aided the bonhomie. By the end of the evening even the people who had arrived looking sad or stressed looked cheerful. Including me, hooray.

When the pub closed J, me and *Jane and Eamon ( *2 people from my train) went on to one of my best mate's house for her birthday party and danced in a silly way 'til about 3am to funk and disco. We ended up doing what we always do at Susie's parties, swinging on the girders in the ceiling of her loft apartment and hanging upsidedown like sloths. Like kids on a climbing frame. So what if we are in our thirties and forties?

It was great to let off steam and have a laugh after the last few weeks, when I've been feeling tired and weepy.

I'm still tired, but that is because I had 4 hours sleep and danced for hours whilst guzzling vodka tonics.

This morning, I went out to buy the papers, and saw a huge black cloud in the North London sky. It was a sunny, freezing day with a strange light, half the sky looked like a thunderous bruise, the other half a pale, sparkling blue. 'I think it might be going to snow', I said to J, 'it's bitterly cold, and there's enormous black clouds. It's definitely cold enough for snow.'

There wasn't the clean smell you get before snow though. It smelt like something dirty. I didn't analyse it too much, it was too damn cold and I hurried back home.

Back inside the flat, I logged on, made a cup of tea, to find one of the KCU members had emailed about being woken at 6am by a tremendous bang that had shaken the house and rattled the windows. It turned out to be an enormous explosion and fire at an oil dept in North London. She was understandably shaken herself.

Hundreds have been evacuated. People living nearby found their doors buckling and windows cracking. People were even blown out of their beds by the force of the explosion.You can read the stories here, on the BBC news website, including the escape-by-a whisker account of Raheel Ashraf, the security guard who leapt 15 feet from a window as the building was devastated by the bomb, then watched 200 feet flames 'like we were in hell'. 36 reported injured, but thankfully nobody killed. It is possibly the biggest non war-time fire in Europe in 50 years. It must have been terrifying for those involved. Though the danger, and the possibility for tragedy, and the reports of casualities didn't stop dozens of people rushing out to film the devastation and raging fire.

J and I looked at the sky again as we travelled to meet friends for lunch. Now we looked properly, we could see it was smoke, not clouds. I wasn't very awake this morning.

(The explosion was only about 20-odd miles away, but we didn't hear it. We were passed out after the drinking and dancing when it happened at 6am. Apparently people heard it in Holland and Norfolk.)

Lunch: roast lamb and then blackberry & apple & oat crumble, followed by sloe gin, cooked by a lovely friend in Plaistow. We popped out to peep at the winter sunset. The grey dark smoke now spread over half the sky.

Back home, J and I and Miff have locked the doors and windows, and flopped, stuffed full of delicious food, and are now curling up on the sofa. We bought our Christmas tree on the way home. After last night, with my fellow passengers and my honey back again from South America ( he had to go over for work), I am finally feeling more positive - at last - and looking forward to Christmas. Roll on Christmas, roll on holiday, and hurry up 2006. I will be glad when this year is over and next year begins and so will a lot of other people.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Without them at Christmas

This was sent round the KCU email group. It is hard to think about Christmas at the moment when so many people are in pain, so many dead.
My best friend's mother died a week last Sunday, her funeral was on Tuesday.

This is a strange Christmas. But for many people, it will be extremely difficult.
This was written by somone who will be missing someone they loved this Christmas.

It is like being the picture called The Scream
standing in the middle of a crowd, but you can’t scream
because everyone will think you are mad,
which you are; mad (and guilty) with anger
at the death, at yourself for what you did or didn’t say or do.
Others will say – don’t feel guilty, you shouldn’t - but you do.
Being in a crowd can be more lonely than on your own,
reminds you of your own isolation and desolation, like a grain of sand on a beach
just being washed up and down with the tide through life,
but you don’t care where you go.
Getting out the decorations;
last time they touched them, last time they were there, what was said last year?
Seeing that picture of them – where has it gone, what happened, why?
Hearing a song you once shared, suddenly feeling that pain again as before – knowing the feelings you had are gone,
that leap in your heart,
hugs and knowing glances you had are gone.
Those jokes you once shared will never be shared again,
no-one will understand what the joy the silly Harry Hill characters could bring,
that stupid Tommy Cooper joke that always made them laugh;
but you don’t want to cry because you know the pain it will bring will hurt so much
and you just don’t want to go there – you want to run away.
Everyone is trying to be jolly, but you wish it would all just go away,
but you have to carry on for your child/children, others
and that everything you do is difficult, more difficult than usual,
because in the pit of your stomach you are missing someone,
no matter what happened, cross words that were said, you miss them.
You just want to know that they are ok and looking down on people,
tying up their shoelaces, doing those ordinary things
– but you don’t know,
just let me know it is ok?
But you don't know.

I keep crying tonight.

The Day The Sky Fell In

Matthew Engel, who writes on sport and politics for the Financial Times. writes in the Guardian of his son, Laurie, and cancer.
It is one of the most moving things I have ever read.

War Crimes

'In three different British courtrooms yesterday, three ordinary people stood accused of three very different crimes, but all based simply on their opposition to the war in Iraq.

In the first case of its kind, a woman received a criminal conviction for standing outside Downing Street and reading aloud the names of the 97 British soldiers who have died in the Iraq conflict.

At the same time as Maya Evans, 25, appeared in court yesterday to become the first person to be found guilty under the legislation designed to create an exclusion zone around Parliament Square, Douglas Barker, 72, a retired businessman from Wiltshire, was told by a magistrate that he faces jail for withholding part of his income tax on his investments, also in protest over Iraq.

In a third courtroom in Aldershot, a military judge heard that Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, 37, an RAF medical officer based in Scotland, faced a court martial for refusing to serve in Iraq on the basis that the war was illegal.'

From The Independent online, and also picked up by The Friday Project.

Watching your drink tonight?

Yorkshire Lass reminds you to watch your drink tonight and every night because drink-spiking happens, and the consequences can be horrendous.

It's the Christmas party season, and there will be a number of rapes and sex attacks, robberies and accidents, where victims are found to have have had their drink tampered with. The victims will be women AND men.

The Met's Operation Sapphire have info here.

Watch the illegal minicabs as well. The police say:

'Always try to pre book a car through a licensed minicab office.
Ensure the car you ordered is the one you get into.
Know the car details and ensure the driver knows what name it was booked under.
Sit in the rear of the vehicle and carry a mobile phone or shriek alarm. '

And I would add, if you live in London, you might want to shove these in your mobile. Zingo Taxi is a way to hail a black cab on your mobile phone. Ace. Call 08700 700700 and they will find a cab in your area by tracking your mobile signal and you can pay them with a credit card.

Addison Lee will come and pick you up safely as well, texting you the car registration number and description of the car. They're on 020 7387 8888.

Handy clicks: Tablets that test for GHB, ketamine and Benzodiaepines. Tablets cost £2.

Drink detective info on the BBC, Drink Detective website. The kit costs £3.95. Appointing a nominated drinks-watcher is of course, free.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Yesterday, the fire service and the pub. Part 2.

After the police left ( and some chaplains who came along for some reason - perhaps they thought we needed praying for) we decided that we needed a drink. So I went with 5 other women from KCU to a pub. On the way there we passed Euston fire service building, where members of Blue Watch work. Blue Watch were the team that went into the train on July 7th to get the dead and injured on carriage one.

We decided that we would like to tell Blue Watch that we are meeting for our KCU drinks on Saturday. So we rang their bell, and they very sweetly invited us in and offered us tea. We explained who we were, and they were a bit shy and looked at their feet and said 'it felt funny being thanked' but smiled and said they hoped they could come. And that we should tell Blue Watch Soho as well. (So I just nipped down and left an invite for them too. )

Then I and the 5 KCU ladies went to the pub and had a catch up. Everyone is just about coping but most people still not sleeping, and all of us hate still travelling on trains. Especially on the 7th.

Which is today. I got a cab in. Five month anniversary. It's not really getting any better. I wonder when it will all go away?

Yesterday, the police. Part 1

Yesterday, I had lunch in a hotel in Euston with some of the Kings Cross United passengers, and Steve and Gerard, the British transport police officers who rescued the people trapped in the Kings Cross train that was bombed on July 7th. Chief Constable Ian Johnston and Deputy Chief Constable Andy Trotter also attended the lunch, which was so we could thank each other for what we had done to help each other on that day and afterwards. We thanked the police, the police thanked us.

Last Friday, Steve and Gerard had received a Chief Constable commendation from transport secretary Alistair Darling, the highest possible honour for their bravery on July 7th.

Gerard has only been a policeman for less than a year and was still on probation. Steve is an Inspector who has been in the British Transport police for some years. They had both been on G8 duty – looking for ‘people with rucksacks, climbing irons, that kind of thing’ on the way to Edinburgh to cause disruption at the G8 conference in Gleneagles.

Having heard and felt the explosion as they stood on an escalator, Steve and Gerard went to the Piccadilly line platform where they saw smoke beginning to billow out of the tunnel where the train was trapped further down the line, having just left the station on its way to Russell Square. Steve told Gerard to wait for him as he rushed into the tunnel, telling him if he was not back by 9.30am to ‘seal the station and report me as a casualty.’

Steve did not know if he was running into a secondary set of bombs, or a fire, or a dirty bomb or a biological attack. But he headed into the tunnel anyway. Gerard waited. 'Yes, I felt lonely’ he told me in a soft Irish accent. 'I kept looking at my watch, wondering if Steve was ok’

Steve managed to get all the walking wounded, all the frightened, sooty passengers off the train and then he arrived at carriage one, walking through the train until he found the metal connecting door to the first carriage buckled by the blast inside carriage one.

He wrenched open the door and saw ‘what no amount of training can prepare you for’ and what he will never tell the press or anybody else about ‘out of respect for the families and the memories of those people’.

Meanwhile me and the 25 or so people at the front of carriage one who could walk had already left, and were were straggling down the tunnel to Russell Square, in single file. We could not walk back through the carriage and through the train to Kings Cross, which was the closer station, because the bomb had destroyed the carriage behind us. I was one of the last to leave carriage one, and I before I left I turned around and I looked. And looked again. And then took the hand of the girl next to me and walked away, leading her off the train with me. What I saw haunts me as it haunts Steve. The terrible scene, the terrible guilt at not being able to stay and help the dying. But I only saw a little bit, and I was cushioned by shock. Steve had to come in and see the whole thing, and take control, and make the terrible decision to tell the people still alive that he was going to leave them in order to go and get help

As I was walking down the tracks to Russell Square with the other passengers from carriage one, talking to try to keep them from panicking, hoping no-one else had seen what I saw, Steve was going back to Kings Cross to get help and to report what he had seen. I remember when I left I wanted to tear myself into three parts: I knew I had to get myself and the other passengers off the train, and I knew I wanted to stay and help the injured and dying. And the third part of me just wanted to run away screaming.

I am first aid trained: my training tells me that I did the right thing, evacuating myself and the walking wounded, going to get help. But my God, it is hard, trying to not feel guilty.

Yesterday, Steve and I reassured each other that we had done the right thing. It helped, a bit. It was quite an emotional afternoon.

After that we all discussed July 7th, July 21st and the arming, or otherwise, of the police, with the Chief Constable, and we generally agreed that we were proud to have a police force who were not armed. I can’t say what else we discussed here as it is not for publication, and relates to the investigations of July, but I will say that Andy Trotter told a very funny anecdote about an escaped bull and a field of cows and a police marksman. Which made us all laugh.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

More on the story of Khaled

I read the story of Khaled Berry again, which I wrote about the other day. How he was attracted to the extremists as people, not because of their faith, how he played football with them. How he came to hope and believe that life was very short and that the real life was after death. And how there is only one truth, and you cannot argue with the Koran, because it is the truth and it is what God said.

How little by little, the romance of sacrifice, mixed with the seemingly-glorious chance of a much better Afterlife, and the heady approval of your peers draws you in. Add in the sense of victimisation, the idea that this is a noble cause, that you are in some ways helping the suffering of your brothers, the sheer drama and certainity and excitement of it all and ...I can see how a young man or woman, frustrated, idealistic, could be captivated.

Suddenly you are a soldier, you are a spy, you are an agent of change for Allah. You are a potential hero, a martyr. Take all your adolescent pain and rage and hate and make it into one glorious painless flash that will fly you straight to the Paradise gardens of all joys. Happiness forever. Even, fame.

And if you waver, there are the horror-videos, the disappointment in the voice of the man coaching you. Look at the suffering of your brothers and sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, how can you not want to avenge this, stop this? God has chosen you as His instrument.

And you are caught. Hooked. In.

We don't make it easy for young Muslims either. What do you do when the people you played football and cricket with at school grow up, and their social life consists of drinking and pulling? All our ways of relaxing seem to revolve around the pub, the place where Muslims can't go.

Khaled says the only way he got away from these terrible, toxic beliefs is through talking to other people. Finding out that truth is nuanced, there is room for many ideas, you can think for yourself and find your own truth and so can others. Then you are free. Free to ask questions, instead of swallowing poisonous certainities.

Transparency. Letting go of revenge. Letting others live in peace, he says.

I agree with him. I would like to meet him. I have tried to put myself into the mind of the man who tried to kill me for the last half an hour and Khaled has helped me to understand a little of it.

The next question is, how can we offer Khaleds in our country a different well-spring to drink from than these sickening waters of hate?

It is the small things that strike me - as well as the obvious issues with a US foreign policy apparently based on 9/11 revenge that is seen to fan the flames.

If there were better, more educated immams in the mosques. If there were better leaders, full stop. If it was all right to challenge and debate theological questions, instead of this ignorance. And I mean Christian ignorance as well as Islamic. Most people know almost nothing about what people who believe in God, actually believe in. And they don't want to know.

Fundementalism, whether Christian or Muslim is by its definition closed-minded, and often bullying and hate-filled, often extremely dangerous because it tells its followers not to think and gives them moral justification for not doing so. You are right and everyone else is wrong.

But mostly, it's the human alientation. It struck me that Khaled joined the extremists because they were, in the first instance, kind to him. They played football, they were decent, they took care of people around him, they were high-minded and idealistic. Or so it seemed, and I can see it in my mind, now, how it all began.

For some reason, the image that keeps coming into my mind, is what might save the next Germaine Lindsey, the next Mohammed Sidique Khan is if he had continued to play football and cricket with his friends from school and if more people had been kind and neighbourly to him and he had felt more of a part of things.

Be decent, be neighbourly, take an interest in others, it sounds almost hopelessly naive and old fashioned doesn't it?

But I can see the hurt in the face of the brown-skinned youth with his rucksack on the tube, I can see the unease of the girl in the hijab when I glance away, when I move away, when I look at them with fear. I wonder what days and days of this do to you? Then, years later, the friendly voice promising balm for the wounded angry soul, the terrible videos, the toxic, unquestionable theology...

It makes me shudder. I keep coming back to the things that I noticed and held onto from the very beginning of this diary. The belief I hold that humans are fundementally co-operative and decent, that in death and darkness they talk and they draw together, that dialogue and simple kindness are enough to break through the fear and anger, eventually. That revenge is pointless. That we are the same and hurting each other hurts ourselves. In the end, we can unite and save ourselves. Now, more than ever, I still say this is true. But we have to make it so. It starts with each person's voice and heart.

The questions you allow yourself and others to ask, how much you listen, how much you want to empathise.

It starts, and it ends, with compassion. Or the terrible lack of it.