Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Burma Protest

Hello. I am still taking a break from personal blogging (because of recent family bereavement, and other commitments that take up time.) I am however keeping the blog going relating to campaigning causes that I feel strongly about. Unfortunately there's quite a few at the moment.

These are: Usamanov and his Schillings-crackdown on bloggers, the ongoing battle for an independent 7/7 Inquiry which has been going on for 2 years and is now a legal challenge, Iraqi employees at risk from deathsquads and now, Burma.

Last time this ended in a bloody massacre. By mediatising it this time around, making a fuss, doing things like getting 100,000 signatures in a few days, global pressure can be applied to try to stop it happening again. It's a signature. It's easy. It doesn't require you standing in the street and taking a beating, or getting stamped to death, or shot. It simply requires three minutes of your time.

(This next is cut and pasted. Please pass it around. Thank you. )

After decades of brutal dictatorship, the people of Burma are rising--and they need our help.
Clicking below will add your name to this petition to Chinese Premier Hu Jintao and the UN Security Council:

"We stand alongside the citizens of Burma in their peaceful protests. We urge you to oppose a violent crackdown on the demonstrators, and to support genuine reconciliation and democracy in Burma. We pledge to hold you accountable for any further bloodshed."
Click Here to Sign Now Today over 100,000 people are on the streets of Rangoon, more around the country. When protesters last marched in 1988, the military massacred thousands.But this time it can be different--if only the world stands with the marchers. The United Nations summit starts today in New York. Let's raise an emergency global campaign, demanding they press the Burmese generals to negotiate rather than crush the demonstrators. We'll deliver it to Security Council members--particularly China's Hu Jintao, until now the military junta's protector--and to media at the UN this week. Sign our emergency petition supporting the peaceful protests in Burma--click here, then spread the word:

For decades the Burmese dictatorship fought off pressure--imprisoning elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and democracy activists, wiping out thousands of villages in the provinces, bringing miseries from forced labour to refugee camps. One-third of children under 5 now suffer malnutrition; millions are down to one meal a day.

But last Tuesday Buddhist monks and nuns, overwhelmingly respected in Burma, began marching and chanting prayers. The protests spread--now they're growing by tens of thousands every day, as ordinary people, even celebrities and comedians join in. They've broken the chains of fear and given hope to 52 million Burmese.However, this hope is hanging by a thread. While hesitating to attack the respected monks, the regime is reported to be organising violence. Demonstrators have already been beaten, shots have been fired.This is one of those moments where the world can make the difference: standing shoulder to shoulder with the Burmese people, helping to shine a dissolving light on tyranny.

Let's call on powers at the UN--in particular, China (next year's Olympics host)--to warn the generals that violence will have the gravest consequences, and the time has come for change.People power is rising through the streets of Burma today. Let the demonstrators know the world is with them. Click here to sign the petition, then tell everyone you know:

In hope, Paul, Pascal, Graziela, Ricken and the whole Avaaz team
UPDATE: The government has just threatened the monks--here's an Associated Press article:
UPDATE:We've just heard this from the international Burma Campaign: the military has reportedly ordered a battalion of soldiers to shave their heads, pose as monks and operate as agents provocateurs. This might be the first first step towards a bloody crackdown.

See http://www.uscampaignforburma.org/ for more background.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Anguish over 7/7 Inquest delays

Jacqui Smith is by miles the nicest Home Secretary, I'll tell you that much.
More to report on this soon, meanwhile, to keep things ticking over....

This week's Observer


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Public Service Announcement

Curious Hamster, Pickled Politics, Harry’s Place, Tim Worstall, Dizzy, Iain Dale, Ten Percent, Blairwatch, Davide Simonetti, Earthquake Cove, Turbulent Cleric (who suggests dropping a line to the FA about Mr Usmanov), Mike Power, Jailhouse Lawyer, Suesam, Devil’s Kitchen, The Cartoonist, Falco, Casualty Monitor, Forever Expat, Arseblog, Drink-soaked Trots (and another), Pitch Invasion, Wonko’s World, Roll A Monkey, Caroline Hunt, Westminster Wisdom, Chris K, Anorak, Mediawatchwatch, Norfolk Blogger, Chris Paul, Indymedia (with a list of Craig Murray’s articles that are currently unavailable), Obsolete, Tom Watson, Cynical Chatter, Reactionary Snob, Mr Eugenides, Matthew Sinclair, The Select Society, Liberal England, Davblog, Peter Gasston Pitch Perfect, Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe, Lunartalks, Tygerland, The Crossed Pond, Our Kingdom, Big Daddy Merk, Daily Mail Watch, Graeme’s, Random Thoughts, Nosemonkey, Matt Wardman, Politics in the Zeros, Love and Garbage, The Huntsman, Conservative Party Reptile, Ellee Seymour, Sabretache, Not A Sheep, Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, The People’s Republic Of Newport, Life, the Universe & Everything, Arsenal Transfer Rumour Mill, The Green Ribbon, Blood & Treasure, The Last Ditch, Areopagitica, Football in Finland, An Englishman’s Castle, Freeborn John, Eursoc, The Back Four, Rebellion Suck!, Ministry of Truth, ModernityBlog, Beau Bo D’Or, Scots and Independent, The Splund, Bill Cameron, Podnosh, Dodgeblogium, Moving Target, Serious Golmal, Goonerholic, The Spine, Zero Point Nine, Lenin’s Tomb, The Durruti Column, The Bristol Blogger, ArseNews, David Lindsay, Quaequam Blog!, On A Quiet Day…, Kathz’s Blog, England Expects, Theo Spark, Duncan Borrowman, Senn’s Blog, Katykins, Jewcy, Kevin Maguire, Stumbling and Mumbling, Famous for 15 megapixels, Ordovicius, Tom Morris, AOL Fanhouse, Doctor Vee, The Curmudgeonly, The Poor Mouth, 1820, Hangbitch, Crooked Timber, ArseNole, Identity Unknown, Liberty Alone, Amused Cynicism, Clairwil, The Lone Voice, Tampon Teabag, Unoriginalname38, Special/Blown It, The Remittance Man, 18 Doughty Street, Laban Tall, Martin Bright, Spy Blog The Exile, poons, Jangliss, Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From?, Imagined Community, A Pint of Unionist Lite, Poldraw, Disillusioned And Bored, Error Gorilla, Indigo Jo, Swiss Metablog, Kate Garnwen Truemors, Asn14, D-Notice, The Judge, Political Penguin, Miserable Old Fart, Jottings, fridgemagnet, Blah Blah Flowers, J. Arthur MacNumpty, Tony Hatfield, Grendel, Charlie Whitaker, Matt Buck, The Waendel Journal, Marginalized Action Dinosaur, SoccerLens, Toblog, John Brissenden East Lower, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Peter Black AM, Boing Boing, BLTP, Gunnerblog, LFB UK, Liberal Revolution, Wombles, Focus on Sodbury…, Follow The Money, Freedom and Whisky, Melting Man, PoliticalHackUK, Simon Says…, Daily EM, From The Barrel of a Gun, The Fourth Place, The Armchair News Blog, Journalist und Optimist, Bristol Indymedia, Dave Weeden, Up North John, Gizmonaut, Spin and Spinners, Marginalia, Arnique, Heather Yaxley, The Whiskey Priest, On The Beat, Paul Canning, Martin Stabe, Mat Bowles, Pigdogfucker, Rachel North, B3TA board, Naqniq, Yorkshire Ranter, The Home Of Football, UFO Breakfast Recipients, Moninski , Kerching, e-clectig, Mediocracy, Sicily Scene, Samizdata, I blog, they blog, weblog, Colcam, Some Random Thoughts, Bel is thinking, Vino S, Simply Jews, Atlantic Free Press, Registan, Filasteen, Britblog Roundup #136, Scientific Misconduct Blog, Adam Bowie, Duncan at Abcol, Camera Anguish, A Very British Dude, Whatever, Central News, Green Gathering, Leighton Cooke (224), , Skuds’ Sister’s Brother, Contrast News, Poliblog Perspective, Parish Pump, El Gales, Noodle, Curly’s Corner Shop, Freunde der offenen Gesellschaft, otromundoesposible, Richard Stacy, Looking For A Voice, News Dissector, Kateshomeblog, Writes Like She Talks, Extra! Extra!, Committee To Protect Bloggers, Liberty’s Requiem, American Samizdat, The Thunder Dragon, Cybersoc, Achievable Life, Paperholic, Creative-i, Raedwald, Nobody’s Friend, Lobster Blogster, Panchromatica (251).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I'm having a short break from blogging. There has been an awful lot to deal with over the last year, and I find I need to take some time out from the onslaught. I'm still ploughing through a lot of emails and I'm sorry that it is taking me some time to respond personally to everyone so thank you for your patience. Thank you for all the kind thoughts and thoughtful communications, thank you for the donations to charity in Mum's memory. Thank you for the support and care so many people have shown - both friends and strangers. It has really helped. I'll be back when I have had a bit of a rest and recharged my batteries.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The 7/7 Inquiry battle continues

Well I was right about the Government response, except it was even more disappointing than I predicted.

Despite Mr Brown admitting in June this year that the ISC ( Intelligence & Security Committee) needs to be reformed, it is still apparently ''more than sufficient'' to deal with investigating the matter of the failure to stop the bombers, which it is apparently already tasked with doing.

This despite the fact that it apparently missed key pieces of evidence . See this Panorama report

''In their investigation into the background to the 7 July London bombings, Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) gave MI5 a clean bill of health.
It confirmed that Khan and Tanweer had appeared on the radar of an earlier investigation - meaning Operation Crevice. But it concluded: "the decisions not to give greater investigative priority to these two individuals were understandable".

But the ISC was either never given the full details of the 2 February surveillance operation or was informed but chose to omit key facts - details which might have fuelled demands for the public or independent inquiry the government has resisted.

The ISC doesn't even have an independent investigator any more since John Morrison was sacked by Blair for speaking out about misuse of intelligence for political purposes!

Here you can listen to Paul Lever, former Chair of the Joint Intelligence Commitee describe the ISC on Newsnight, April 3oth.

Paul Lever: 'Well I think what does seem to be the case is that the one body that does exist to provide oversight, the Intelligence and Security Committee, it has many virtues but it hasn't managed to generate the confidence and the repuation that perhaps it needs. It can't carry the weight of this huge problem. Now, how its role, its function, its composition might be changed, whether it needs more staff, I think is something that is worth thinking about...''

Paxman: More staff? It's just got rid of its investigator!

Paul Lever: Well, exactly.

Today's Times has an important interview with Des Thomas, an ex-senior police officer. He says that an independent examination of the apparent intelligence failures that allowed the 7/7 bombers to strike was essential to prevent a repetition of those mistakes.

''A senior detective who worked on the September 11 investigation has joined calls for a public inquiry into the July 2005 suicide bombings in London.
Detective Superintendent Des Thomas told The Times that an independent examination of the apparent intelligence failures that allowed the 7/7 bombers to strike was essential to prevent a repetition of those mistakes.
Mr Thomas, whose 35-year police career also included IRA and Animal Liberation Front cases, is prepared to appear as a witness on behalf of a 7/7 survivors’ group that is taking the Government to court in an attempt to force an inquiry.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, rejected the group’s calls for an inquiry last week and Government lawyers told the group that its court challenge was “premature and misconceived”. Ministers, police and MI5 officials oppose an inquiry, claiming that it would divert resources. ( Times)

[However, the Conservatives say there should be an independent inquiry, and the Liberal Democrats back a full public inquiry. Also backing an independent inquiry is the London Assembly, whose 7 July Review Committee chaired by Richard Barnes, was the first public investigation of some of the facts relating to London's response to the bombings, generating a heap of useful recommendations many of which have already been acted upon]

''But Mr Thomas, now retired from the police, said that the authorities were creating a smokescreen” and an inquiry could be conducted quickly and efficiently.
The core issue for any inquiry into the 7/7 attacks, in which 52 people died and more than 700 were injured, is why surveillance on the bombers’ leader Mohammad Sidique Khan was apparently dropped in 2004.

Khan, 30, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, came to police and MI5 attention 16 months before the bombings, when he was photographed and bugged in the company of a group of men planning to carry out a bomb attack.
When the plotters were arrested in March 2004, Khan was classified as a “peripheral target” and inquiries into his activities were, apparently, discontinued. It is not known what discussions took place between MI5, Scot-land Yard and West Yorkshire police about further investigation of his extremist activity.

Mr Thomas, who is regarded as an expert on the conduct of criminal investigations, said: If Khan did drop off the radar then there was a huge flaw in the way these matters were being investigated. If the proper procedures were being followed, all the decisions relating to Khan should have been properly documented. There should be minutes of meetings between MI5 officials and police of chief officer rank. There should be ‘policy books’ recording every decision and the justification for that decision.
“If these matters were documented then the initial work of an inquiry would not take very long at all. It would take me, or someone of my training, just two days to read all the relevant documents and identify the problems.

“If the documents are not available it would take longer, but in such a scenario the argument for public accountability would be even more powerful than it is now. If the documents do not exist, then either those in charge of the investigation did not know what they were doing or they don’t want people to know what they were doing

Mr Thomas, former deputy head of Hampshire CID, said he believed that 7/7 could have been prevented if action had been taken when Khan first came to attention.

He said:
The question which has to be answered is, ‘Was this avoidable?’. Had better management of resources and techniques been in place could it have been stopped? My suspicion is that it was avoidable.” Claims that holding an inquiry could hamper the work of national security were “obfuscation”, Mr Thomas said.
He added:It is wrong to say you cannot examine terrorist issues because of secrecy - it’s all to do with glamorising the work and people being self-important. Really, terrorism is nothing more than organised crime. Investigations must be managed properly and that all comes down to mind-grinding attention to detail.”

In 2001 Mr Thomas was a senior investigating officer on the 9/11 investigation dealing with the repatriation of the remains of British victims of the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.
He has lectured at the Police Staff College and at the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Portsmouth and Cardiff Law School.

This BBC report written after the Crevice trial asks similar questions

''It is of course possible though that investigating him further - or asking the police in West Yorkshire to do so - might have led to warnings signs of the 7/7 plot.
But one of the critical issues at the time was MI5's workload, say officials.'' ( BBC)

Media coverage from last week
Guardian, BBC, Daily Mail, Islamic Republic News Agency, Mirror, AFP, Politics.co.uk, again, Press Association, World Socialist WebSite News, Telegraph, The Sun,

More soon.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Still waiting for the Government response on 7/7 inquiry

The Government lawyers are getting back to us re. the Judicial Review application for an independent inquiry tomorrow. So when they do, Oury Clark, the pro-bono lawyers representing the bereaved, injured, and survivors who are asking for an independent inquiry into the 7 July bombings will issue a statement on our behalf.
I will put on my suit and go down to Oury Clark's offices tomorrow to answer questions, and other members of the group are also on standby to answer media inquiries from 11.30am Friday 7 September.

Background on the legal challenge

Request issued for an inquiry after the Crevice trial
London Assembly backs our calls
Legal Challenge issued
7/7 Inquiry Group Vs. The Government

FRIDAY UPDATE: I predict that we will get told something along the lines of this:

''the Government is consulting on how in future the ISC should be appointed and should report to Parliament - with, where possible, hearings in public, a strengthened capacity for investigations, reports subject to more parliamentary debate and greater transparency over appointments to the committee''
as per Brown's security strategy announced in June 2007 (and blogged about here)

Let's have a quick fisking before breakfast, shall we?

As the ISC at the moment has NO independent investigator at all, since John Morrison was sacked by Blair for bravely speaking out about the misuse of intelligence in the run up to the Iraq war making the case about WOMD, you could frankly appoint a spaniel sniffer dog to the panel and thus deliver a ''strengthened capacity for investigation''.

The appointees are presently MPS hand-picked by the PM. They report to the PM and not Parliament. How they are appointed is not transparent. And, anyway, the skill set for being an MP and being a watchdog/investigator are entirely different things.

Reports subject to more Parliamentary debate is something, but again, debating something is not the same thing as an independent person fully investigating what M15 and the police knew about the 7/7 bombers , cross examining witnesses and compelling evidence, making recommendations and having them acted upon, is it?

And having delivered an unsatisfactory first stab at it, then seeing how the aftermath of the Crevice trial exposed the ISC report as flawed, how can we trust them to have another go?
The original ISC 7/7 report completely exonerated the security services of failing to stop the 7/7 bombers - despite the fact that the 7/7 men were bugged and followed hanging about with murderous terrorists weeks away from unleashing a UK atrocity? The 7/7 ringleaders were taped and listened to chatting about jihad and how to commit crimes ( planning to kill British subjects in the armed forces abroad, defrauding UK companies of £20,000 - which is certainly enough to arrest anyone. And all this came out in the Crevice/Fertiliser bomb plot trial. ( which was a great result for the security services but bittersweet in that it also exposed their great failure).

And if they had been arrested, rather than let go to carry on with their criminal activity and their jihad plans, (for whatever reason, following a decision made by somebody who is as yet nameless and unaccountable) - then perhaps 52 innocent people might be alive today. And 700 people not injured.

How defensive would you be if you were asked to investigate yourself? Hmmm.

A Parliamentary Committee or something that has been reformed to look like one, is not the same as an independent inquiry or a public inquiry, is it?

And so if we get the above, and the same tired old tripe about ''diversion of resources'', we shall be very disappointed. And we shall challenge it in the Courts.

Anyway, I'm off to Oury Clark's offices in John St, to see if my predictions are right.
Press conference outside in 10 John St at 11.30am.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Book launch cancelled again

The book launch party planned for July which was cancelled because Mum got ill the week the book came out, was then reinstated for tomorrow, but it has been cancelled again, sorry. It feels too soon to have a party; Mum only died a fortnight ago, and the funeral was on Friday. It seems like a long time ago, and also no time at all.

I have been frantically cleaning out the flat, which has got into a mess because J and I have been so frantically busy ever since - well - before the wedding in April. Piles of stuff has accumulated everywhere. Paper, clothes, junk, ornaments, post-it notes... it got so bad that I couldn't have anyone round because it was all such a mess. Every where was clean ( ish) but it was just clutter, clutter everywhere. I threw away/recycled 6 binbags of junk and old clothes.

The study is now somewhere I can work in again without feeling overwhelmed with stress. The bedroom drawers are still broken but at least you can shut most of them without them exploding. We need new furniture but it is ridiculously expensive. Even crap stuff which falls apart is expensive. I will reglue the drawers together, now they are no longer bulging with ratty T shirts and heavy jeans they might stay in one piece.

When I had cleared everything up and out, I looked about and it looked lovely. For a heartbeat I thought ' Ooh, I'll ring Mum, she'll be really pleased. She can come and visit and I won't be ashamed'. And then I remembered. Crash. Reality.

This is what it is like. Wierd, and sad, and awful. I hate it. I hate waking up and remembering she's gone.

BWBD ( a group of authors who have blogs) sent a most beautiful bunch of flowers to Norwich - roses and lillies and fresias - all my favourites, all Mum's favourites - and I took them back to London and they are still lovely, still scenting the whole flat with perfume. Then I found out that they had planted a tree for her as well, and that they still have some extra donated money too, which is to go to one of her favourite charities. I cried because people were so kind.

I am overwhelmed by people's extraordinary kindness. So many messages, so many cards, it is humbling and it is honouring and Mum would have been so proud and touched, as am I.

Another act of kindness: Mike Rouse, ( who made the Find FJL buttons) has made some more blog buttons for Out of the Tunnel, and he is kindly hosting them, so anyone can put them on their blogs, if they want to.
They look like this,
out of the tunnel book advert
or there is a big one as well.

When we do eventually have this book launch party, there will be a lot of people whom I want to give a big hug too.

But for now I will just say thank you again.

Monday, September 03, 2007


I am still feeling distinctly odd, and embarassed by my reaction at the wake, my strange inability to talk to people. I can write, I need to write, but talking is hard. Today I replied to a lot of emails, then rebelled at being crunched over the computer on such a lovely day, thought stuff the housework, and went for a long walk in the sunshine. I walked for about 2 hours, realised I was hungry, ate some sushi, walked home. The world around me still feels unreal, like a film set. People move through it, smiling, talking on their mobiles, chiding their children, huffing as they wait for an overcrowded bus. I wonder what all of their stories are. What they are thinking about. What secrets they are hiding behind their public faces.

I am taking melatonin every night before I sleep, it knocks me out for four hours. Then I wake up every night, at 3.00am, crying. I take a sleeping tablet, wait for it to work. I lie awake 'til 6.30am, then fall asleep and have strange, anxious dreams. Sometimes the sheet is soaked with sweat. But in the day, I can't cry at all. There is a stone in my throat and an ache in my chest. Sometimes my head hurts as well. So I take paracetamol tablets for that too.

I tried drinking wine, but that just makes the headaches worse. Maybe walking for miles will work tonight. I hope so.

It's all out of kilter, as Pukeochic says. Worse for Dad. I think I would go under without J, who is still at work, poor thing. But he is there when I sleep and when I wake, and at weekends and he took a week off work to be with me through Mum's final illness. I feel very - mortal. Just because it is a rite of passage we all go through doesn't make it any easier. Writing helps. It's all I know how to do when bad stuff happens; it keeps my head above water. I'm writing for myself, to try to disentangle it all.

More book reviews

I have belatedly checked my incoming blog traffic stats and realised that I owe another debt of gratitude to several more bloggers who have written some very thoughtful reviews of the book. I will link them in the side bar with the other blogger reviews and once again, say how very thankful I am to everyone who has taken the time to read Out of the Tunnel , and even more grateful to those who also opted to review it, on their blogs or on amazon.
First up Solaris, who has just started a new blog. Solaris first trailed the book and then wrote a full review here.
'Unleashed for a few moments from the chronology of her tale, we get a glimpse here of what this writer can do - and it's musical and rhythmic and evocative. She has novels in her.

And when she comes to write those novels, let's hope she retains the characteristic which makes 'Out of the Tunnel' ultimately so powerful - the third 'way in' to this book. This is its humanity, its compassion, its themes of the search for 'connection'. Its understanding of the unity and inseparability of us all and the unspoken longing we have to join with one another - to support and be supported, to understand and to be understood, to love and be loved.'
Next, my thanks to Victoria at Eve's Alexandria, who also trailed the book here and then wrote a full review here
'Her deft journalistic style captures the sheer horror of the moment: the confusion, the darkness, the panic, the unearthly screaming. It makes for devastating reading and, I'm sure, for devastating writing too. '

'...she lays herself bare with honesty and clarity, giving a window onto what it is like to be in the same carriage as tragedy. Certainly it is not the most polished memoir I have read: Rachel has a tendency to repeat herself, both phrases and episodes, and sometimes her chronology is confusing and confused. Occasionally, she inserts information too swiftly or without enough context. But I don't think this detracts from what is an incredibly raw, moving and ultimately hopeful personal account of the aftermath of the bombs. At times she perfectly captures the essentials[...] I whole-heartedly recommend it.'

Thanks to Stratford Girl , who follows Brennig Jones great review with another very thoughtful critique ( both Brenning and Stratford Girl also picks up on the repetition, which is both a fault of the book, and a symptom of PTSD which tends to induce a shocked, repetitive, tunnel-vision outlook)
'I would definitely recommend “Out of the Tunnel” to other people. Rachel’s words flow so easily. She describes the rape in such a powerful way that I actually felt scared. Her description of what happened inside the tube carriage on 7th July provides an insight into what it was really like for the people who were there. '

Secrets and Subterfuge has a very personal take on the book here, which I found very affecting. I won't quote, just invite you to go and read it.

And finally Pukecochic has written a beautiful poem for Mum, and my family.

Bless you all for your kindness. (If you have reviewed it and I haven't linked you, please let me know so I can sort that out as Technorati is a bit rubbish at picking up links). And to everyone else who has written to me, left comments, linked and sent good wishes over the last few weeks - thank you. I have been incredibly touched and moved by how people have reached out and I really am grateful. I am still writing back to everyone. It is pretty emotional. It is also a great privilege.
UPDATE: more reviews and reaction - Julie Howell
'I really hope many women will read Rachel North's book and see just how strong women are, and understand that Rachel is all of us. We are all capable of acting and reacting just as she did that day. What sets Rachel apart is the gift of speaking out, and speaking out 'in the right way' to make sure her story maintained its own integrity.'
and Lionheart, who is of a less liberal persusasion than I and makes some forceful points later on in his post
'If you have not read this book already, I can thoroughly recommend it. It just proves that despite the best efforts of the terrorists, even if they do cause deaths and horrific injuries, yet the spirit of courage and humanity will prevail.Us chaps are supposed to maintain a stiff upper lip, but there is absolutely no shame in stating that the tears were flowing whilst I read this book. Read it'.
UPDATE:More links! Thanks also to 'What's the Story in Dalamory'
'Out of the Tunnel is a moving account of survival by Rachel North. Harrowing stuff, but gripping with it.'
And a podcast, no less, by Parky London on This Week in London ( podcast 17)

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Beauty and Sadness

Mum's funeral was the most beautiful funeral sevice I have ever been to. Which made it harder and easier simultaneously. I can't write much about it now. But three Bishops took the service, there was beautiful singing, dancing, reading, poems. She would have been so proud. And she was there; her shining presence was imbued in it all

I am so very grateful for the many messages and flowers, and donations, and so is the family. I must say that I am very sorry that I was not able to cope very well with returning to the wake straight after the cremation, and seeing so many people there at the wake after the service. It was all a bit overwhelming, when I was so raw from it all.

Over 300 people came, and sang, and prayed, and loved her, as she left us. Afterwards, they gathered to drink to her memory, in the Bishop's garden, whilst my Dad, sister, brother and Uncle and I went to the Crematorium for the last things we had to do. There was a horrible delay at the Crematorium: we had to wait for ages, whilst the family before us finished late. We stood outside, and looked at blackberries growing on stone angel tombs. For ages. Then we went in at last: it was done, and we had to go back to join the other mourners at Mum's wake.

I am sorry that I was not able to reach out to you all who came, when I returned to the wake, or to thank people for coming, as Mum would have wanted. I was struggling to stand up and to see clearly, by then. I was losing it, to be honest. I have to say that part of the day was very hard; going straight into a gathering of hundreds was extremely difficult- for me, anyway - after watching the curtain close on the coffin and it go into the fire. Personally, I wanted to go home and cry privately, and not to talk to anyone, after that. I was not strong enough to smile, and thank people, and shake hands. I wanted to scream, and howl and snivel. Alone.
I felt too exposed. I have never been able to bear people seeing me cry. I know that it meant an awful lot to Dad and everyone else in the family, though that so many people came. And whilst I couldn't cope with strangers, it was good to see friends and J's family.

Afterwards, hours later, when darkness fell, it was more calm. We were so tired, there was a wierd kind of peace: only a few of us, and there was takeaway pizza, and wine, in her scented garden. And we sang, and spoke, and laughed, and drank, and felt her close to us. And that was easier.

Today, J and I went to a friend's wedding. The day after Mum's funeral. A day of joy and celebration. Three hours sleep, the damn nightmares again, yet another night of restlessness and weeping, waking with eyes swollen, then the bloody trains being late, engineering works on the line from Norwich to London, having to take a coach through heavy traffic into London, cheek-biting resentment, meandering cab ride from the station, we're going to be late, hell's teeth. Arriving home.

Scrambling frantically for shoes, feeling the sickening rush of vertigo between worlds, throwing off funereal black and pulling wedding colour clothes off the wardrobe rails, in a rush, in the ten minutes before the next cab arrives to take us to the wedding party. Then arriving at the reception, late, walking into a different lot of smiling strangers, pouring new wine. Asking where we have been. Wondering how to tell them why we're late. Deciding, on balance, it's best not to say.

Seeing the joy in my friend's face.

That being enough.