I’m sorry Mr Darwin, but six and a half weeks summer holidays were never part of the natural order. We mess around with nature and we screw things up.
We go to the polls tomorrow.
When I was a kid politics was boring. It was an unfathomably adult word that your folks hung their hats on. Different people used different pegs, and discussed their choices while you vacated the room and made the most of their distractions.
Once you become an adult you can’t help but be political, knowing more of the society, of the world, that we live in. But, bordering just on the right side of apathy, in a world of Brexits, Trumps and false promises, a certain fatigue sets in.
Ask a member of the Conservative party a question and they talk about Labour. Ask a member of the Labour Party a question and they talk about the Conservatives. Nobody gives a straight answer any more.
The grandfather that I never met apparently used to say that you should never waste a vote. I’ve heard this same sentiment that many times, through that many mouths, that it has now become something of a cliché rather than an insight into a long gone family member.
I will vote tomorrow. I will set aside a moment in my day to enter my local polling station, following in the (metaphorical) footsteps of my grandfather. But probably, even as I’m putting an ‘X’ next to the name of one of those question-ducking candidates, I will be thinking about my next book, or the song that’s just been playing, or perhaps the glazed eyes of my children and dedicate myself to avoiding an evening of unfathomable distractions on their behalf.
It is the school holidays, you know.
(Things have got heavy here on City Jackdaw, understandably so. This will be, I think, my final post on the Manchester bombing. At least for a while. And here are some final photographs: some inspiring, some personal, some heartbreaking. Thank you for acting as witness with me.)
There are still many armed police on the streets. I saw one heading for the Gents toilet in the Arndale shopping centre. “Do you want me to mind that while you go in?” I asked him, indicating his gun. He laughed. I’ve seen other officers reassuring children, placing their helmets onto young heads for photographs.
Meanwhile, outside, still the flowers grow.
Then, somewhere beyond this transformed square, a lone piper began to play.
“I don’t want to grow up,” she replied. I can understand why.
Remembrance of the twenty two.
Victoria train station, through which the Arena (site of the bombing) can be accessed, has now reopened. Samaritan volunteers were present everywhere, handing out cards for anyone who may need help. Above the platform scaffolding shows where the damage is still being repaired, draped by one of the We Love Manchester signs that adorns the city.
Around the time I went to bed the bomb went off.
I was totally unaware of what had happened until around 3.00am, when my wife woke me. Friends from around the country, indeed the world, had messaged us. Then, bleary eyed, we tried to process just what had happened.
There was footage of the panic; people searching for lost children; a distressed woman rang our local radio station with a horrific account of what she had witnessed; friends of ours announced that they were safe.
The friend of my little girl was at the concert with her family. There were other people attending that we know. My daughter herself was at a concert in that same venue just a couple of weeks ago. The arena can be accessed through the train station which I have been commuting from. Not so long ago I attended the Young Voices competition as a staff member with my children’s school choir. 8,000 children were present that day. Suddenly the horror that regularly unfolds throughout the world was on our doorstep.
After the recent attack at Westminster I said to my wife that it was only a matter of time before our city was hit. Whenever you are in a crowded place of course it crosses your mind. Football matches, shopping centres, and like last night-music concerts. But we have to continue.
This threat isn’t going away any time soon. We have to all stand firm against it. Of course by ‘we’ I mean all of us, everywhere. But being rooted in a place gives you a sense of belonging. This is my city. These are my people. I am proud of my fellow Mancunians who went to the aid of the injured and dying, the taxi and bus drivers who were ferrying people from the centre for free, the hotels who were taking in children who had been separated from their parents, people offering beds for the night, and more and more and more.
Manchester is no stranger to such atrocities. There was the IRA bomb of 1996 which utterly devastated the town centre. The Manchester we know today rose from the ashes of that day. But back then everybody had been evacuated, miraculously nobody was killed. Last night it was people targeted. It was children. When we say we will go on, when we say we will stand firm, it is more than rhetoric. More than posting a hashtag. But when the people who commit such acts are targeting events that are packed with thousands of children, just what are we to do?
That is for another day.
My prayers go out to those who lost their lives last night in my beautiful city.
Oh how those Victorian children must have loved playtime.