19 July 2024

Vengeance

And then after the horror of 9/11 had been wrought upon the world, what next? There had to be revenge, right? Somebody had to pay for what had happened. It couldn't be the Islamist madmen who had been aboard the four aeroplanes that morning. They were dead.  So who could it be?

George W. Bush and his agencies picked Iraq and Afghanistan. They would receive the fury. They would listen to the song of vengeance and listen good!

Going back to the kamikaze actors who boarded the four planes, there were nineteen in all. Fifteen were from Saudi Arabia, two were from The United Arab Emirates. One was from Egypt and one was from Lebanon. None of the hi-jackers were from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Thousands of British citizens remain ashamed and angry that our then prime minister, Tony Blair hung on to George W. Bush's shirt tails, helping to legitimise the so-called "War on Terror" in Iraq. To this day, Blair refuses to apologise for what he did even though there never were any "weapons of mass destruction" to be found in Baghdad or elsewhere in Saddam Hussein's homeland.

What good was achieved in either Iraq or Afghanistan during the War on Terror? Many died including innocent citizens and it is calculated that 7000 members of the US military were killed along with some 8000 "contractors". Since those "wars", hundreds of US military personnel have committed suicide and many others came back  without limbs or were disabled in several other ways.

I would be interested to know how ordinary American citizens reflect upon The War on Terror. Was it worth it and was terrorism defeated? Perhaps the aggressive military response was counterproductive - stoking up terrorism instead of squashing it out of existence. Was this really the right way to respond to 9/11 which wasn't really  about nation states anyway - but crazy extremists who could have come from just about anywhere?

Maybe there was more to all of this than I could possibly comprehend but standing here on the sidelines, it always seemed to me that the quest for vengeance was an impossible task. This "enemy" was elusive and as 9/11 proved, it did not play by the usual rules of engagement.

18 July 2024

9/11

Memorial bench above The Rivelin Valley in Sheffield
Dedicated to local man Nigel Bruce Thompson who 
died in New York City, September 11th 2001.

My last post referenced 9/11. It will soon be twenty three years since that terrible episode. I can totally understand why blogmate Steve Reed still feels uncomfortable about referencing that day for he was living in New York City at the time. Even now the very thought of it must be laced with concrete dust.

It is often said that we all remember where we were when momentous events took place. I was forty seven years old and The Head of English in a tough secondary school in North Sheffield. September 11th, 2001 was a Tuesday and after the schoolchildren had gone home I had to attend a senior leaders' meeting in the conference room on the first floor of the main block.

Of course in those days nobody had smartphones and to catch up with the latest news you would have had to turn a television or a radio on. But such actions did not happen in senior leaders' meetings. We proceeded through the heavy agenda and the meeting probably ended around 4.45pm.

It was time to head home. I descended the stairs and I remember a colleague who had not been in the meeting telling me that something terrible had happened in New York - a plane had flown into a skyscraper. It was of course all very confused at first.

It took me less than half an hour to drive home - past the Sheffield Wednesday football ground then along Penistone Road before heading up to Walkley and then further up the hill to Crookes via Greenhalgh Street. Over to Manchester Road and then down Shore Lane to Fulwood Road. Past Endcliffe Park and then up Peveril Road to Banner Cross where we still live.

When I arrived home, my family were glued to the television in the corner, watching events live from New York unfolding. A lot of confusion remained but what we were looking at seemed horrific - like a disaster blockbuster film transferred to real life. And then The South Tower collapsed, followed half an hour later by The North Tower.  Breathtaking horror in front of our eyes.

It was clearly not an accident because not one but two planes had been steered into the twin towers of The World Trade Center. It had to involve hi-jackers - probably Islamist terrorists. And I remember feeling astounded that anyone could deliberately throw their own life away like that to achieve such a terrible goal. After all - life is precious isn't it? Don't we all want to live long lives that contain as much joy and happiness as possible? Why end it that way and for what? For what? It just didn't make sense.

America had seemed impregnable while other countries repeatedly endured the pains of conflict and terrorism. But  9/11 revealed that America was also vulnerable to bitterness and revenge. It was not immune. And wasn't that also part of the shock of it all?

In the days that followed I watched a lot footage as the truth of what had really happened began to emerge from the dust. Wickedness had indeed been wrought upon New York by deranged Islamic terrorists. Were they really human? Ironically, The World Trade Center accommodated people from all over the world - the clue was in the name. So this was not just an attack on America, it was an attack on the western world as a whole.

Never such innocence again.

If you feel like responding, where were you when 9/11 happened? How did you feel?

17 July 2024

Musical

I suspect there will be a few bloggers and blog visitors out there who have already seen the musical "Come From Away". Shirley and I saw it last evening at "The Lyceum" theatre in the centre of Sheffield. It was conceived ten years after the dreadful day that we remember as 9/11 and it was first performed in 2013.

You cannot really say that the show is about 9/11 but what happened that day provides a sinister backdrop to the story.  It is set - not in New York City but in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada.

At that time, back in September 2001, all flights in and out of New York were shut down. Around thirty eight flights were ordered to land at the remote airport in Gander and there they stayed for almost a week.

Gander is a small town with a population of around 9,000 and suddenly they had  6,500 visitors. How would they cope? In the event, the town pulled together, opening their public facilities and homes to the newcomers whose travel plans had been disrupted.
In spite of some initial puzzlement about the quality of sound and my distinct impression that the residents of Gander spoke with Irish accents, I began to warm to the show.

The actors played the parts of both the Newfoundlanders and the air passengers, switching seamlessly. The stage had a simple set in which chairs were vital props for conveying air travel and for example a bar room in Gander.

There was much joy and humour in the production as well as some riotous singing and dancing. One of the stranded passengers was concerned throughout about her son who was a fire fighter in New York City. There was to be no happy ending for her and you may recall that 343 fire fighters died as a result of the 9/11 attacks on The World Trade Center.

In the end, "Come From Away" is a celebration of what it means to be a human being - helping each other, feeling other people's pain, rising to challenges, moving on. What happened in Gander was in direct contrast to the wickedness that happened in New York  and at The Pentagon and Stonycreek PA that sunny September morning.

The show received a standing ovation last night in Sheffield. I would like to think that a portion of the applause was for the 2,996 who lost their lives.

16 July 2024

Figure

Welcome to my world! This is the computer desk where nearly all of my blogposts have been churned out created. The moai figure is actually a plant pot. It was given to me by my lovely daughter on Father's Day,  a month ago. On his head is my old bucket hat that I bought in Malta in 2012. I treasure that faded hat simply because it fits me and I wear it on sunny days when walking out in the countryside.

I don't know if it's the same in the home countries of foreign visitors to this blog, but here in Great Britain moai figures have become common garden ornaments and there's probably no garden centre in this country that doesn't sell them.

What would the original stone masons of Easter Island have made of this  phenomenon? They carved the volcanic stone figures to represent their esteemed dead - probably chiefs and suchlike. On their stone platforms, the moai all looked inland and not out to sea. It was as if they were looking after the islanders, not longing for some far off place beyond the ocean's horizon.

There are  just under a thousand moai figures on the island though a few were purloined by European visitors. One of these is in The British Museum and in my opinion it should go back to Rapa Nui which was Easter Island's native name.

There's something rather irksome about turning the mysterious and iconic figure from a unique Pacific culture into resin plant pots and concrete  figures. It seems rather disrespectful but even so I will cherish the moai plant pot.

It's almost fifteen years since I visited Rapa Nui and walked amongst the moai. It was a dream come true. See one or two blogposts from that adventure:  here and here and here.

15 July 2024

Quiztime

Okay these ten questions are just a random bunch that you might be asked in a pub quiz. Good luck! Answers in the comments section as usual but try not to peep!

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1. Which European country is shown in this outline map?

2. J.D.Vance is to be Donald Trump's running mate in the forthcoming presidential election but what do the initials J and D stand for?
(a) Jeremy Douglas  (b) Jonathan Duncan  (c) James David (d) Jesus Donald

3. This is the flag of a country in the southern hemisphere but which country is it?

4. Who is the current prime minister of Australia?
(a) Rolf Harris (b) Anthony Albanese (b) Paul Hogan (c) Edmund Barton

5. What is this African animal?

6. Which country is the world's top producer of cocoa beans?
(a) Ivory Coast (b) Indonesia (c) Canada (d) Cameroon

7. This man was a successful country and popular singer in the 1950s and early 1960s but who was he?

8. Sweden has a single house parliament but what is called?
(a) The  Marknadsföra (b) The Fältskog (c) The  Östersjön (d) The Riksdag

9. Please name this children's cartoon character:-

10. Which is the least populous American state of these four?
(a) North Dakota (b) New Mexico (c) Wyoming (d) Alaska

14 July 2024

Martyr

On Saturday lunchtime while down in London, we walked from North End Road into an area of Fulham known as the Baron's Court  Estate. At the end of Fairholme Road I noticed a blue plaque on the end house and went over to investigate.

You may not know the significance of a blue plaque. They are placed on certain buildings  by an organisation called English Heritage. They recognise noteworthy people and Amongst other things - where they lived in past times.

This particular plaque recognised a woman who literally died for women's suffrage in the summer of 1913. She went to the racecourse at Epsom to ostensibly watch the English Derby being run. However, when the king's horse Anmer came round the bend where she was standing, she ran onto the track and tried to grab the horse's reins. She suffered a fatal head injury and died two days later. Her name was Emily Wilding Davison and this was the front page of "The Daily Sketch" the day after Emily's death:-

She had been an activist for almost twenty years, recognising in her bones that women had been denied the right to vote for far too long. Maybe she didn't mean to die at Epsom racecourse that day but she was undoubtedly a martyr and indeed a heroine. It was brave women like her who paved the way for women's suffrage in Great Britain and all that followed afterwards in the struggle for women's equality. It is of course a struggle that continues to this day

Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913)

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On an entirely separate note, I wish to congratulate Spain who 
deservedly beat England by 2-1 in tonight's European Nations Cup 
Final in Berlin, Germany. Our lads fought hard but the match statistics 
prove that Spain were the better team. All England supporters will be
 feeling gutted tonight. Such opportunities don't come along very often
 but at least we made it through to another final and that's something 
to be proud about. There's always next time!

12 July 2024

Absence

I am heading down to London this morning with my nurse - Mrs Pudding. We won't be back till Sunday evening. The main purpose of the visit is to spend time with  our grandson Zach... and his parents of course! I will also be burgling Steve Reed's apartment in West Hampstead. He is away in South America at the moment so this should be the perfect opportunity to riffle through his belongings and get what I want.

Keir Starmer invited me over to 10 Downing Street to celebrate Labour's recent election victory but I declined as that meeting would have clashed with our Sunday  lunch booking at "The Brown Cow" in Fulham. 

I should of course be back home in time to watch the European Nations Cup Final  on Sunday night - beamed live from Berlin. 

Come On England!

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