Wednesday, May 30, 2007

*Earworms and guilty pleasures and country roads

For the last three days I have driven J mad, by being obsessed with John Denver's Take Me Home Country Roads. I walk about the house singing it. I belt out it when I am in the shower in a semi-blue grass yowl, I sing it under my breath a third above or below, harmonising in my head. I play all sorts of different versions when I am working, and sing along to it. I have no idea what has come over me; it is slightly bizarre. But I am loving it at the moment.

In my dreams now, I keep returning to the landscapes, the country roads and the secret tracks of my childhood; riding again on the cycling adventures when I would set off with a Mars bar and an apple, then dump the bike in a ditch, crashing through cow parsley with muddy knees on 'Indian' hunts with my friends, or crouch to make witches' potions and ladies' perfumes, out of crushed flower petals that stained my fingers, and blackberries that darkened my mouth.

Night after night, I find myself dreaming that I am wide-eyed and wandering on Swardeston Common, looking for the tracks of foxes and badgers, feet crushing vetch, and eyebright and red clover. I stroke the soft noses of Bramble and Bracken, the cobby, good-natured riding school ponies, as they graze in their paddock, on whose back I would vault bareback and steal a bridle-less ride, twenty seven years ago. I run again beneath the big Norfolk skies that I never noticed back in those days, because my eyes were always looking at the detail at my feet; the flowers, the toadstools, the bugs, the bees; looking for places to hide with a book, near enough to hear people, quiet and hidden enough to not be found.

I only noticed the skies at night, when the stars were so bright, so obvious, that every child in my class could show you Orion, Pegasus, Perseus, Andromeda, and the Milky Way which splashed a broad ribbon of brilliants too close together to pick apart after moon rise; on some nights you could almost read road signs by starlight. That was when we would look out for asteroids. If you saw one, you had to hold your breath and make a wish. If you wished without holding your breath, your enemy would use your wish against you.

The John Denver song is about West Virginia, not Norfolk. But country music is huge in Norfolk. I hated it when I was a teenager, sulking under the restrictions of life in a small village, pining to run away to London, to wear lace leggings, kohl my eyes, and backcomb my hair like the girls in Just Seventeen. But now I wake up singing Take me Home, Country Roads.

What songs are your guilty pleasures?

*an earworm is a song that burrows into your head and won't leave you be.


St. Custards returns online!

I am overjoyed to have found this, one of my favourite childhood books - and now a website. Gaze upon it in wonder, poxy fules!


The cat's (satin) pyjamas

Congratulations and celebrations and jubilations across the nations to the winners of
Best Writing: Le Blagueur à Paris

Best Weblog from the UK: Johnny Billericay

Best Weblog about Southeastern Europe: Balkan Baby

Best Weblog about the CIS: New Eurasia

Best Expatriate Weblog: Isoglossia

Best Personal Weblog: Petite Anglaise

Best Political Weblog: Slugger O’ Toole

Best Weblog from Germany: Ahoi Polloi

Best Weblog from France: Eolas

Best Culture Weblog: DA…NCE

Best Non-European Weblog: Pharyngula

Best Expert or Scholar Weblog: Real Climate

Best Economics Weblog: New Economist

Best Food Weblog: Chocolate and Zucchini

Most Underappreciated Weblog: Kosmopolit

Best New Weblog: Not Saussure

The 2007 Satin Pajama for Lifetime Achievement: Mick Fealty, founder of Slugger O’Toole

And finally…

Best European Weblog of 2007: Petite Anglaise

Cake all round.
I am particularly chuffed that blogmates Petite, Jonny and NotSaussure have triumphed so triumphantly. Some nice news on another vile rainy day. (The heating is on, and it's bloody well almost June. Tsk.)


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Books and links

A book-orientated day today. In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes is a book I am fascinated by and really looking forward to reading, especially after reading this review.

I still have a giant pile of books to read and review, even after a marathon read-a-thon on honeymoon, so if I have promised to review your book and not done so yet, huge apologies. I still have a lot of thank you letters to write to wedding guests as well, and links to add for the Find FJL! bloggers' campaign, so am very sorry about that too, and will sort it as as soon as I can.

I spent the whole morning with Peter Zimonjic, who is writing a book about 7/7, Into the Darkness, (out in October). I was helping him with the Kings' Cross chapters. And then I read the weekend's Sunday Times, whilst I travelled back on the tube, and seethed about the new terror laws, ( about which more later because I have to go out now and I am still too fed up to write calmly about it). I was so sad when I read this story about all the warning signs of extremism in MSK, lead 7/7 bomber, as described by his brother.

Godammit, though, it is so heartbreaking. So many chances. Such a life, so many lives, that could have been saved if something had been different. An angry, passionate, arrogant young man. A family row. A fork in the road. And a decision made, time passing, then 52 dead, 800 injured. But nobody wanted to hear what was going on: the fizzing anger, the egotistical despair, the extremist gang of new 'brothers'. Until it was too late.

I rushed about all afternoon today, took a lot of calls, said no, I can't talk to you, not yet, I am so sorry, please hang fire, please wait 'til I can tell you it all. Then I spoke to the police again. And now I am rushing off again to teach beginner's dance class and I can't find any of my kit and argh, why is my life never quiet?

Monday, May 28, 2007

BritBlog round up...

This week's best of the British blogs can be found at Liberal England. I liked the Sunday Telegraph's front page yesterday, about Blair and HM the Queen. I liked Chicken Yoghurt's post on the subject even more...

''So how do you think the New Labour high command will do it, as they are wont to do? Will we shortly be reading in a sympathetic newspaper about a ’semi-detached’ queen with ‘psychological flaws‘, perhaps? How about destroying her career with trumped up charges?
One’s republican fervour wavers momentarily.''

Another thoughtful post by the excellent Not Saussure here, on Blair and civil liberties. You can vote for NotSaussure at the Satin Pyjams Awards, where he is excitingly in the lead for Best New Weblog.

Grim weather, bah. Barbecue rained off, deadline looms, hangover pounds. Have a nice Bank Holiday Monday. I bet the weather immediately becomes fab again as soon as we are all back in the office.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

London Assembly calls for independent 7/7 inquiry.

The London Assembly today supported a motion calling for an urgent independent inquiry into what information security services had available to them in the lead up to the terrorist atrocities on London’s transport network on 7 July 2005.
The full text of the motion reads as follows:
This Assembly recognises that the conviction and subsequent sentencing of Omar Khyam, Waheed Mahmood, Jawad Akbar, Salahuddin Amin and Anthony Garcia on 30th April 2007 has led to intense media coverage of links between this group of terrorists intent on causing massive loss of life and those who carried out the suicide bombings of 7th July 2005.

Given the conflicting accounts of what happened in the months leading up to 7th July 2005, this Assembly fully endorses calls for an independent inquiry to be conducted as a matter of urgency to ensure that public confidence is retained within the security services who continue to protect the interests of London and Londoners.’

Richard Barnes AM, who proposed the motion said: “As well as those who lost family, and those who survived, all the communities of London deserve answers about how an atrocity as terrible as the 7 July bombings was able to occur right on our doorstep.''
“We have a right to know that our security services have the resources they need, that those resources are being deployed properly, and that the various agencies involved in keeping London safe are talking to each other effectively.“This is not a call to make sensitive operational details public, it is a call for a structured independent inquiry in order to reassure Londoners that security services are acting wholly and totally to our benefit.”

Notes to Editors:
1. The motion calling for an independent inquiry was carried by a majority of 15 votes.
2. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.

The London Assembly held the 7 July Review chaired by Richard Barnes. It remains, to date, the only public examination of some of the facts pertaining to the events of 7/7, interviewing survivors, members of the emergency services and others involved in responding to the attacks such as mobile telephone operators. The Committee's findings praised the work of the emergency services, but painted a worrying picture of the chaos after the carnage, and advised a series of recommendations to improve London's response to terror or disaster.


We made brownies and I think we're dead...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Satin Pyjamas 2007

The slinky silky soft satin pyjamas 2007 best bloggery hustings nominations are a Fistful of Euros. Vote here for your favourite blogs; categories include Best European Weblog overall, Best UK Blog, Best Personal, Best Political, Lifetime Achievement and Best New Weblog. And many more.

Vote away, ladies and gents! Voting is what makes the internet great, and a beacon of democracy in these trying times.

Thanks to the satiny sleek Rachel-Catherine for alerting me to the hustings.
I had some satin pyjamas once. They were v. glam, but somewhat slithery. Worn when a guest in houses with nylon sheets they produced interesting static-electrical effects. Worn at home in a damp rented flat they were, sadly, unwearably clammy. I had to retire them. But I am sure that a Fistful of Euros award 2007 will produce nothing but red hot sparks in the lucky winners. And I am very excited that I have been nominated, and so is my Mum.


Taking Liberties

A while back I was asked to be in a film about the erosion of civil liberties in the UK that has happened since 1997. Civil liberties in the aftermath of terrorism is a subject close to my heart, and one I regularly bang on and on about in this blog, so I said, yes, of course I'd be honoured to help.

Last night I saw the film Taking Liberties on the big screen for the first time, ( it was the cast and crew screening) and it was excellent. Funny, moving, infuritating, and best of all, it gives people things to do at the end of it. The film , which is released on June 8th, tells the stories of dozens of ordinary people. Grandmothers, teenagers, war veterans, writers, chefs, comedians, protesters, ordinary people from across the political spectrum - all caught up in the storm. There are contributions from Tony Benn, Henry Porter, Boris Johnson, Shami Chakrabarti, Walter Wolfgang, and many more.
Many of the featured stories leave you shaking your head in disbelief. But it's all frighteningly true, and the point is that these people's stories could be anyone's stories. Taking Liberties makes it clear how desperately important this issue of balancing our freedom with managing our fear is, for all of us. The right not to be detained without trial, the right to peaceful protest, the right to privacy, to trial by jury, the right not to be tortured, and many other crucial rights that we have all taken for granted for years are being whittled away, and if we don't protest, and stop it, it will soon be too late. And we will wake up to find we have set the apparatus in place for a very different Britain under a very different type of leader.
And we will have betrayed our country, ourselves, and our grandchildren.
The film is an indictment of the outgoing great showman Blair, and his disastrous adventures with the neo-con US administration. It shows the damage done to the fabric of what we still idly boast of as our free and fair society, by the juggernaut of the stupidly-conceived War on Terror.
But it is also a terrible indictment of us, the people who let all this happen under their noses, that we have been content to live so selfishly, so heedlessly, letting our own elected Government take away the rights which our grandparents' generation died for, without a whisper, without a word.
Film's out June 8th. Please, put the date in your diaries now, because if enough people go and see it on the opening weekend, then it will get further bookings all over the country, and it is important that people know about this film and have a chance to see it. If you liked Bowling for Columbine, or Farenheit 9/11, or An Inconvenient Truth, then you should see this movie.
Look, please, go see it, and bring a mate. I'll be going again on the opening weekend (and will let you know where/when if anyone fancies it, and the pub afterwards, if you email me.)
Cinema listings are here with more listings being added all the time.
You can also buy the book, Taking Liberties, which is out now, and which is very good indeed.
UPDATE: Telegraph, and bloggers
More soon. Have to go and write a speech for the POLIS public media forum at the LSE tonight, sign off book cover and as it is now past 3pm, eat some lunch.

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( sorry ladies, wedding pic temporarily removed in the light of recent threats from stalker)
Hello, I am back after getting married, dealing with the media storm in the aftermath of the Crevice trial, campaigning for an independent inquiry into 7/7 and yes, finally, being on honeymoon.

We went to the Turtle Nest Inn in Grand Cayman, discovered by googling to be ranked in the top 3 hidden gems of the world by two independent traveller websites. It comes massively recommended by me and J ( especially now the US dollar is so cheap!) We had a wonderfully spacious, well-equipped condo on the beach, we snorkled several times a day and saw huge parrot fish, trigger fish, eagle rays, Southern sting rays, wrasse, grouper, lobsters and five feet barracudas and bone fish. We bought ourselves food locally and cooked in the apartment, mostly, read lots of books and got disgustingly brown. The highlight of the holiday was a trip to Stingray city, when you can snorkel with dozens of extremely friendly Southern stingrays, an experience voted the best snorkelling trip in the world - well, it certainly ranked as my best swim ever!
Married life agrees with me and J and I are immensely happy. Thank you so much for all the wonderful cards, presents, emails and texts. I am slowly replying and apologies if you have not heard back from us yet. Now that I am back, I am up to my ears in commitments (and on deadlines galore), but I am going to blog for a bit for the next hour as there's quite a lot going on that I want to write about!...


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunday Times column...

Landed in Miami after long flight, waited a few hours for connecting flight to the island and picked up mobile messages. As well as all the radio request stuff, which I eithe rmissed or passed on, Sunday Times News Review, whom I write for now and again asked me to write a piece. So the first day of the honeymoon was spent working.

Here's the piece. They wanted a personal take, and to work the politics in, rather than a political or investigative feature. That means the story has run for a week now, which is amazing.

I am very glad that I got to pay tribute to the bravery of the other survivors and families who have been so dignified and determined throughout all this. Everyone has really worked hard. It's tiring doing interviews, and scary to step forward, sign your name or speak out, and yet so many people have done it, all week. A very big well done to everyone for getting the mesage out and making this such a big story. You are an inspiration.

Right, that's it from me for a few weeks. A break from terrorism is in order. I am not working or checking emails any more. I am going to sip rum and watch the moon rise over the Caribbean sea with my husband. We have a great condo, with a hammock on the verandah, and a view of the turquiose sea. We have been snorkling over spectacular coral reefs and playing with angel fish and the biggest parrot fish I have ever seen. We are sleeping a lot. We have a lot of sleep to catch up on.

All the stress of the last year is worth it, to be here, now, and so happy.

Catch you all later.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

The 7/7 inquiry story continues...

Well, we're now on day 4 of the story, and it ain't going away.
Yesterday, the Telegraph had '7/7 survivors'anger at 'failures' of 'M15 ( which I read on the flight) and the Guardian had 'Ánger grows at bombing surveillance blunders

Today we have '7/7 leader: more evidence reveals what police knew ' ( Guardian). The pressure is growing because it is quite clear that the police had stuff that for some reason or another didn't get shared or shown to M15. Or they did show it, and M15 ignored it. Either way, stuff seems to have been missed - stuff that could have flagged up MSK as a big threat.

As expected...Blair rules out an inquiry (again).

Blair rejects fresh calls for inquiry ( BBC). But he'll be gone soon. And the blocking of the public inquiry was done by him personally, or so I hear from a mole. Before all the dead of 7/7 had been buried, he was assuring Dame Eliza manningham Buller that there would be no public inquiry. If this is true, then it is a disgrace. I wish he would just go. I can't believe I voted for that man. Twice.

Door opens for the next resident of number ten to do the right thing.

I can't believe people are still falling for this ''divert resources'' line. It's B.S. Utter B.S.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Steve Bell on the Fertiliser Bomb Trial

24 hours of media...

The last 24 hours have been a mad frenzy of media interviews, but I and the other families and survivors are really pleased that we got our point across.

I started with News 24, at 3pm yesterday when I got back from Norwich, then did BBC and ITN, Channel 4 news live (with the fab Jon Snow who gave me a big kiss), various pre-records which I have lost track of because my phone was going bonkers at the time, local news programmes, various radio things and the long day finished with me being invited to do a live panel on Newsnight at 10.30pm, with Jeremy Paxman, ( who liked my shoes and nudged me under the table when he wanted me to challenge one of the panelists). I'd already pre-recorded a long report with Richard Watson a few weeks ago, but it was great to be part of the programme and see Paxo in action. Did lots of newspapers, followed by 5 Live at 11.35pm ( who I did again this morning). Went home, did emails, bed at 1.45am, up again at 5am to do Breakfast. Adrenalin can get you quite far.

Newsnight can be seen here. Channel 4 here. Yesterday's C4 news here. Other survivors and bereaved family members covered Sky, C5, the BBC, CNN, and many, many more international, national and local media interviews - I am still gathering what we have covered and have missed a lot but am pushed for time and still have 57 emails to reply to before I shut down the PC...

Yesterday we were on every single news channel, all day long, (which was amazing as well as bloody scary), and today we reiterated our point by handing in a letter to the Home Secretary's Office, formally asking him to respond in writing to our lawyers to our calls for an inquiry. I kicked this off by doing a live interview on BBC Breakfast at 7.10am and breaking the story officially, though we'd leaked it earlier. Then I did a zillion radio things, checked how everyone else was doing with their stuff, took over 50 calls/texts, wrote a press statement with James Oury our lawyer and then went to the Home Office to face a barrage of cameras and do about ten more interviews, and hand the letter in.

(Pressure grows for a 7/7 inquiry ( BBC)

You can read the text of our letter here in the Guardian and on Sky News here. Other names of survivors and bereaved have now been added to the letter (including Danny Biddle whom I caught up with on BBC Breakfast this morning when we both went on the programme to talk about the need for an inquiry.)

John Reid has released a statement saying he will give our letter 'very careful consideration' and get back to us.

Here is some more of today's coverage: it is the main story in most of the newspapers. Yesterday it was the main TV news story for 18 hours.

Mirror front page: '7/7 meets Bluewater'

Voice of the Mirror 'Five ruthless men found guilty after Operation Crevice in the country's longest terrorism trial are behind bars.
But their convictions have raised questions about the London bombings that can only be answered by an independent inquiry.''

Calls grow for an independent inquiry ( Telegraph)
''If MI5 was diverted from pursuing Khan and Tanweer, but remained suspicious of them, then the logical step would have been to alert Special Branch to keep them under watch. It is not fanciful to suggest that had this simple measure been taken, the victims of 7/7 might still be alive'' ( Today's Telegraph leader)

Mail 'Victims in new call for a 7/7 inquiry'', MPs to review evidence
Evening Standard 'MPs who cleared M15 to review evidence'
Daily Express 'M15 let terrorists slip through net'
Guardian '7/7 victims deliver inquiry demand'

Guardian Comment: 'Less spin, more truth'
''...only if we understand past mistakes can we hope to strengthen their capabilities further. Perfection is impossible in counter-terrorism. Learning from past mistakes is not.
That is why the case for a full, independent inquiry is now irrefutable. A review of the evidence by the Intelligence and Security Committee - a review which the chair of the committee has already declared is unlikely to come up with anything new - is simply not good enough''

Independent: How London bombers slipped through M15's grasp
Sky -'Bomb Survivors push for M15 probe
Times - 'Calls grow for 7/7 inquiry'
Comment :'Tell us the truth about the 7/7 blunders' - David Davis, Shadow Home Secretary writing in today's Times

''John Reid has refused to allow a “public inquiry”. We do not want a public inquiry, we want an independent inquiry, which, far from being a distraction, will be an essential tool in improving our security services. At a time when the head of MI5 has publicly cautioned that we face an unprecedented threat from 30 terrorist plots, 200 terrorist groups and 1,600 suspects, the British public – especially the bereaved and the survivors of 7/7 – deserve no less''

Preventable errors,
Victims join calls for a public inquiry

There is a lot more coverage, but I have to pack for my honeymoon. I am flying off tomorrow and our friend Russell is moving in to look after the cat and the fishes.

I would like to massively thank all of you who have signed the petition so far. Everyone in the survivor/bereaved group is really chuffed by all the support. We are tired but hopeful.

Here are the linking bloggers, a big thank you to you all.

Chicken Yoghurt
Comment is Free Best of the Web
Paul Linford
Radio 5 Pods and Blogs
Daniel Finkelstein in Times Comment Central
Mike Power
Stumbling and Mumbling
Pickled Politics

We are looking forward to hearing back from John Reid via our lawyers.

Right. Now I am officially stopping work and on honeymoon, and as I'm off early tomorrow morning with J for somewhere hot and gorgeous, I will be offline from tomorrow, (swimming with wild sea turtles!) so I won't be able to put through comments or reply to emails .

See you all in a few weeks.

And thanks once again.

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