Into The Great Wide Open

R.I.P to the great Tom Petty, 66.

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Remembering Sophie Lancaster

I’ve just spent a short time sat in the garden, reading this book:


I read it, quite coincidentally, a week after the ten year anniversary of Sophie Lancaster’s death.

 Armitage created this drama-documentary for BBC4, trying to give voice to the girl with the help of meetings with Sophie’s mother and access to her diaries. It was performed live at the Royal Exchange.

 Living not too far from Lancaster’s hometown of Bacup, where she was killed, I remember the murder well. Reading this just re-emphasises how senseless and sad her death was. She and her boyfriend were attacked by a group of local teenagers when they took a shortcut through a park. Initially friendly, with Sophie passing cigarettes around, they suddenly turned on her boyfriend Robert Maltby. As she tried to protect him, lying unconscious, by cradling his head in her lap, they then turned on her.

Armitage: Oh God he comes back and turns on me/a plague of fists or a swarm of feet/the boot going in again and again/How he hates my demeanour/hates my braids/how he hates my manner/hates my ways/doesn’t know me from Adam/not even my name/but detests every atom /of what I am.

In the media it was speculated that they were attacked because they looked ‘different’, because they were goths. Though Maltby recently said this was an “oversimplification.” 

Both victims were in a coma, but Sophie never emerged from hers. Her killer’s boot print on her swollen face, her life support was switched off thirteen days after the attack.

Her mother Sylvia Lancaster set up The Sophie Lancaster Foundation. (See link below.) Her campaigning has helped violence against what are termed ‘subcultures’ to be classed as hate crimes. 

For her work she was given an OBE in 2014.
Rest in Peace Sophie Lancaster. I also hope that Robert Maltby has managed to find some measure of peace. 

http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com

Midsummer. Evening.

On the evening of  this longest day, 2014.

City Jackdaw

Everything still looks the same, but a line has been crossed.

Any change, any shift, will for a while be imperceptible. But things, as always happens, will gradually gather momentum until all is transformed.

“Time and tide wait for no man,” my father used to say.

They didn’t wait for him. He never attempted to outrun, or withstand. Once you reach a certain age, there is an air of inevitability about things. But there is no great hurry. We can live riding the rhythms of seasons, of tides.

The sun begins to set, it does not appear any different to the way it set last night, or the night before. But a person knows. That is our curse. But it is also a blessing.

Today has been a good day, shared with family and friends, and the things that count.

In the morning the rising sun will place another bead…

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Today Has Been A Difficult Day

Today has been a difficult day.

-The girls from my daughter’s class crying this morning in the playground in fear for a classmate who attended the concert. (She did not come into school but she was safe.)

-The tales related personally to us by people who were there, as well as someone who treated the injured in hospital.

-The people still on edge in Manchester:the shopping centre evacuated; people fleeing along the high street in panic; rumours spreading, men arrested.

-The distraught woman begging on television for news of her (still) missing daughter.

-The story of the homeless man, normally passed by and ignored on the street, who ran to help the injured, cradling a dying woman in his arms, comforting a young girl who had lost her legs, pulling nails from the faces of children.

-The victims beginning to be named, the ages, the photographs.

-The kids.

-And then:

People gathering together in their thousands in the city centre in a show of defiance and unity. And on the estate where I live, we joined together in a local chapel, finding solace and comfort in community.

We will see what tomorrow brings.

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My Bloodied Manchester

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.