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

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D-Day And The Lost Stories Of Two Grandfathers

From 2014, the 70th anniversary.

City Jackdaw

Today, as I am sure you will be aware, is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. I intend to watch the many programmes commemorating the event today, my thoughts no doubt turning to my two Grandfathers who took part in history’s largest ever land invasion. I know next to nothing of their own, personal D-Day stories. I know very little of their time during the war full stop. Like so many, it appears that they didn’t speak too much about it. And by the time my own curiosity had grown, it was too late.

One of them died of cancer before I was born, the other died when I was twenty years old,  at a time when I had yet to fully develop my great interest in history, and in particular my own family history.

I do wish I had asked. Either them, or other older relatives who may…

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Currently Watching This:One Love Manchester

Ariana Grande has returned to Manchester for the first time since the concert in which twenty two people lost their lives. After visiting the injured children in hospital she is now appearing in a hastily arranged concert featuring herself and many guest stars. People who attended that first, ill-fated concert have been allowed to attend this one for free.

The entire concert is being screened live on television. It appears everyone on my FB friends list are either attending in person or watching from their own homes. Very emotional, the message One Love Manchester is also transcending my city’s borders, being sent down south to those who suffered just last night in London. 

Music brings people together. And, as Ariana has just said, the kind of love being displayed here is the medicine that the world needs right now. I hope it is addictive. 

Manchester, Eleven O’Clock

It was announced that today the country would observe a minute’s silence to honour those killed on Monday. Where else could I go to honour this but Manchester? Despite the unprecedented step of the army being deployed to assist the police throughout the country and the government warning that another attack was imminent, avoiding this crowd was never an option.

My fellow Mancunians came good again: what a fitting and emotional morning it was. There were tears amongst the defiance, balloons filling the clear blue skies. And the fantastic moment when the crowd burst into a spontaneous rendition of Don’t Look Back In Anger by Manchester band Oasis, followed by thunderous self-congratulatory applause.

How ironic that an action designed to cause division has created a unity I have never witnessed before.

Here are some photographs of the day.

Here you can see a tribute from the Mayor of Salford, the city divided from Manchester by a river.

In the background you can see St.Ann’s church.

Everywhere there was balloons, for the children who were killed or badly injured.

Teddy Bears too.

Here is an artistic likeness of the Manchester Bee. A symbol of Manchester, the worker bee represents the city’s industrial past. Thousands of people are now having this tattooed onto their skin, proceeds going to the fund set up for the victims.

There are now even more flowers here, people were still queuing to lay bouquets long after I left.

The poster ‘Arianna we love you’ is to the distraught singer whose concert was targeted by the terrorist.

The square beginning to fill behind me.

Flowers being prepared to be laid-a bunch for each of the twenty two dead.

Afterwards I saw this-free coffee for members of the emergency services.

I’m not sure if the heavy presence of armed officers reassured or made me more nervous. Spotted these passing from a pizza place.

Adding to the emotion of the day: while gathered in the square, I received a message from a former student of ours, telling us that his family were standing with us in support, and here in Germany his family were flying at half mast a British flag in solidarity for his former adopted city.

On A Wistful New Year’s Day

Thought I would share this from last year’s New Year’s Day. I started this year much as I did in 2016: having a brew stood on the step, watching the rain and a gliding gull overhead. But last year I went on to make a sad discovery in the local woods.

City Jackdaw

I sat outside in the back garden with a hot cup of tea, coat fastened, watching the milky coming of dawn. I can do this as I don’t drink these days, my New Year’s Day vigil no longer debilitated by the night before.

All of the neighbouring houses were in darkness, the windows dark, sightless eyes. There was no sign of life at all. Human life, that is.

The morning was scored by the constant rattle of a magpie, hidden from view. They nest in a huge tree beyond one of the houses, but the tree appeared bare, empty both of leaves and birds.

The call went on. Perhaps the chatter-rattle was bird-talk for come on-it’s morning!

In the spring and summer I plant flowers for the birds and bees, then switch  my allegiance to the birds in autumn and winter, putting out food at dawn and dusk. I hadn’t…

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