Musings On A November Sunday

Is it just me, or has this year gone faster than 2021? Julie booked our Christmas Day meal with the restaurant yesterday, and not long after that it will be 2023. Each year I get older seems to pass by more quickly. Perhaps that is one of the curses of old age?


I was contaced by the NHS this week to let me know I am eligible for a Shingles vaccination because I am over 70. I will certainly have that, as I contracted Shingles twice in my 30s, and it is horrible. I was able to book an appointment on the 28th, so not long to wait.


Ollie has had a good week. He has been enjoying his walks, and relishing his dinners. He is still sleeping most of the rest of the time, but considering his age, that’s to be expected.


Today is Remembrance Sunday in Britain. I have posted separately about that.


The weather continues to be warmer than expected. We reached 17C (63F) on Saturday, with bright sunshine all day. The recent mud dried hard, and the dog-walking was remarkably pleasant for November. I know this is actually bad news for the planet though. It has been widely forecast that in 100 years, the entire East of England (where I live) will be under water as far as the edge of London. That will be someone else’s problem to deal with, unless I defy science and nature by living until I am 170.


Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I wish you a happy Sunday.


Happy Birthday, Mum

My Mother was born on the 9th of July, 1924. If she was still alive, she would have been 91 today. But she sadly died in 2012, and didn’t see her 88th birthday. I think of her often of course, but it is always a little more poignant on this date.

She was a Londoner, an ordinary woman from a working-class background, who sought to better her circumstances, and to improve her lot in life. Her teenage years were scarred by the Second World War, and her marriage to my father was not completely happy. But she found her joy from having me, being with her family and friends, and loving her pets. She worked hard all her life,  long past a normal retirement age. Until her mobility was reduced by illness, she could be seen out with her beloved dogs two or three times a day, in the area where she lived.

She managed old age well. She did not complain about loneliness, and found her pleasures in simple things; a dog at her feet, a cat on her lap, a good book to read, or favourite TV show to watch. She was devoted to her extended family, and remained a great friend to me until the day she died, as well as a mother who trusted me to do the right thing, and to live my life well. She worried about the state of the world, supported charities helping African children, and also animal charities here in the UK. She would do anything to help an older neighbour, whether preparing them food and cakes, or getting their shopping for them.

Her own needs were few. She eschewed luxuries, and was happy to eat the same food she had enjoyed for all of her life. As long as her pets were well-cared for, and her family content, then she was happy. She never asked to be taken out, or for gifts, yet was free with her own generosity to anyone in need. She could teach many of us what it means to live a life that involves caring for others, never putting yourself first. She was a good woman, in every sense of that description.

She will not be remembered as others are, by their so-called achievements, or successes. But she did achieve, often against trying circumstances, and she was successful; as a mother, a sister, an aunt, a friend, and a neighbour. She was of her time, and that was a good time.

Happy Birthday, Mum.

Violet Johnson 1924-2012.

7/7:The London Bombings remembered

Today is the tenth anniversary of the terrorist bombings that hit London during the morning rush hour on Thursday the 7th of July, 2005. Three Underground stations were targeted, with attacks by suicide bombers sitting in packed trains. Later, a bus was also blown up, by the last bomber. He had been unable to get on a train, so decided to explode his device on the top deck of a crowded bus instead. This was not an attack by foreigners, as those responsible were all British. It was not an attack on the military, or any specific group, as the victims were of all races and creeds, and from every walk of life.

Fifty-two people were killed, including the bombers of course. More than seven hundred were injured, many of them seriously, including traumatic amputations, burns, and various other life-changing injuries. Those who survived, and those who went to help them on that morning, will bear the emotional scars too, for the rest of their lives. It remains the second largest loss of life on UK soil from a terrorist incident, after the Lockerbie Air Disaster. The attack was planned to coincide with the announcement that London had won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics, and was carried out by Islamic Fundamentalists, British men radicalised by teaching received in certain mosques.

The centre of London was brought to a standstill. The public transport system was halted, the mobile phone networks overloaded. The sense of shock was palpable, and everyone who could help, in any way, did so. The emergency services were all deployed at full stretch. Paramedics, Fire-Fighters, Transport Police, and Metropolitan Police all rushed to attend the scenes of the incidents, with no regard for their own safety. London Transport staff and Rescue Units also went in, without hesitation. The bus bomb had happened outside the headquarters of the British Medical Association, and doctors based inside went out into the street to help victims. The city came together as one, as it always does, in the face of adversity.

I worked for the emergency services in London for over thirty years, so where was I that day? Amazingly, I slept through it all, not waking until mid-afternoon. I was on night duty with one of the Met Police Special Operations departments at the time, and had not returned home until 06.30 that morning. Despite living close enough to be able to see one of the scenes from my flat, (Tavistock Square) I had been sound asleep all day. As anyone who has lived in London can tell you, sirens are a part of life there, and more sirens just suggest a busier day than usual. Once I was awake, and watching the news, I realised just what a terrible day it had been. I watched former colleagues from the Ambulance Service on the TV, conveying injured people from Underground stations, as well as current colleagues from the police, rushing here and there on their motorcycles.

I was due back at work that night at 10pm, but I thought that I should go in a bit earlier, as I was sure that the others in the control room where we worked would be exhausted, and due an early relief. I left home at 7pm, with no alternative but to walk the thirty minutes or so it would take. It was pleasant weather, still broad daylight, and there was little indication of the horrors of earlier that day, save for the absence of buses, and closed Underground stations. Walking south along Tottenham Court Road, I saw many others walking in the direction I had come from. At the junction with Oxford Street, close to Centre Point, it suddenly dawned on me that I was the only person walking into the central area. Every other pedestrian was heading out.

Not for the first time, I thought about that fact. That is what the emergency services do. Whether it is in London, New York, Baghdad, Damascus, or Kabul, they head into the place that everyone else is walking away from. Fire crews, Police Officers. Paramedics, and anyone charged with assisting the situation, they just go in, no questions asked. That is what they do, and it would not occur to them to do otherwise. There have been some emotional services and meetings today. Some were televised, some attended by dignitaries and royals, as well as victims of the incident. It is right that they should be remembered, and that those whose job it was to help them were remembered too.

Let us hope that it is the last time we ever have to remember anything like it.

A Time To Remember

When I was born, the Korean War was still being fought. The Second World War had only ended seven years earlier, and many more wars were still to come during my lifetime. Today in the UK, and all across Europe, we have been commemorating the anniversary of the second day of World War One, one hundred years ago today. Britain remembers today, as we declared war on Germany on this date. However, the day before, Belgium had been invaded, and Liege attacked.

There have been ceremonies in France, Belgium, the UK, and many other countries. In Britain tonight, many of us turned off our lights at 10pm, using only one candle for illumination, for one hour of remembrance. TV documentaries and live broadcasts have covered everything, from church services in London, to interviews with long-dead veterans; tears in their eyes as they remembered the hardships and loss decades earlier. It has been a day of reflection, respect, and nostalgia. There has been no jingoism, no chest-thumping, and no satisfaction. Just regret and sorrow, for millions lost, and lessons still not learned.

I will not be here for the 200th anniversary of that war. I doubt very much that I will see the centenary of the Second World War either, or for that matter, the Korean War. But I was around for this one, which is more than can be said for those that fought in it. They are no longer here, to be able to tell us their individual stories. Thanks to film, TV, radio, and newspapers, we do have some first-hand tales of their experiences. They are usually harrowing, often touching, and to our modern eyes and ears, they may seem naive and innocent. Whatever we think of them now, we at least owe them one thing. It is an easy thing, and takes little effort. They did things that we probably could not do, or want to do, They did them for reasons that seemed important at the time, and in the context of history, had a relevance in the development of Europe, and opposition to belligerence. In return, we can do one small thing.

We can remember them.