Friday, July 08, 2005

Feeling oddly lucky today. I went up to Great Ormond Street hospital on Wednesday with my son, travelled on the underground, walked and taxied around the Russell Square and Tavistock Square area. Fate's an odd thing.

We waited in the Costa Cafe for Ali's x-ray appointment, and the announcement for the Olympics bid was playing on a flat screen tv on the wall. I am renowned for my disdain about sport being the opium of the masses, having replaced religion, and I find it hard to care about sporting milestones, or sporting success.

We say that Sky said that the announcement was imminent, and watched as the two Singaporean presenters awkwardly complimented one another upon their appearance and introduced the announcement. I had bought a sandwich and a coffee, Ali had a soft drink, and we watched as they announced that they would play the promotional films from the five cities remaining in the race.

Paris had a very upbeat film, all primary colours and smiling people, obviously produced by an ad agency.

New York had, by contrast, a very sombre film, all black and white and no sport as far as one could see - sights of the city, a musician, very downbeat and dark.

Moscow's was different again, small snippets of film, which appeared to include thank yous to all of the other cities bidding for the games.

Madrid's looked oddly amateur, with talking faces suddenly projected from the screen, overlaying the city panoramas. We couldn't hear what was being said by the scary big heads.

Although I am partisan, I would have to say that I thought London's was the best of the films. There was music, there was a story which didn't require you to speak or understand English, and there was the idea that ordinary people could do extraordinary things. I thought it stood head an shoulders against all but the Parisian film, and had more heart and soul than any of them.

We were keeping an anxious eye on the time, as we didn't want to have to leave without knowing what had been decided. Then they appeared to announce that the announcement was coming...and then three opera singers started to sing. There was an audible groan from the considerable crowd which had gathered to hear the announcement.

The singers finished, we were on the edge of our seats...and the camera focussed on a girl who was holding a cushion to enable her to carry the envelope with the result to the President of the IOC.

We waited with baited breath as she crossed the stage, and then the President bad her stand by while he said a few words...another groan escaped the crowd.

At long last, he took the envelope, opened it, and announced that the Olypiad would go to the city of...
...London! there was an involutary cry of YES! by all in the cafe, including me, and including the woman who, moments before, had said that it would be a nightmare were the Olympics to come to the town.

We finished our appointments, walked away from the hospital, to find a cab.

The next day, I listened with growing alarm as the reports of a "power surge" seemed to affect moe and more stations...when a bus exploded at about 9.45, it was clear that there had been a terrorist attack. I thought about the people gathered in that cafe, all jubilant that the Olympic were coming to London. How many of them were caught up in the horror, trying to get to work?

How easily we fall into terrible circumstances, and how easily we escape. A missed bus can save your life...a missed bus can cost you your life. Hitting the snooze button can save your life...hitting the snooze button can cost you your life. And no-one can know which will be which.

I went in to SL to a barrage of IMs asking if I was OK. Made a candle and a poem as a memorial to those who died. I can't bring the candle here, but I can show you the poem.

Spirits rising
They left expecting ordinary days
Instead found they were going on a different sort of journey
They left their cups of coffee and unpaid bills
Stepped out of their homes and away from their lives
And can't return
Instead their souls set free today,
In darkness and confusion,
In smoke and pain,
Soared away from their broken bodies
Into a life beyond
Light a candle for their friends and their families.
Light a candle for their children...
Their wives and mothers...
Husbands and fathers...
Light a candle for the loss
But their souls were set free today
Into a life beyond
The people in real need of light,
Of prayers and illumination
Set those bombs

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Today has been one of the most embarrassing days of my life. I have to make a confession, and I am not sure that even now, a week later, that I am equal to making it, because the cringe-making aspects of it linger. But here goes....

We have been living next to some lovely neighbours. They rent their house, which actually belongs to one of the local churches. In times gone by, the vicar or pastor or reverend for the church has lived in the house, but their most recent vicar already has a house fairly locally. So the church has rented it out.

I have to say that the church makes a pretty unchristian and thoughtless neighbour. Where one would be able to ask a neighbour what their plans are, or talk to them about trimming the hedge or killing their vermin, a church is pretty difficult to talk to. At one point they let the house to a pair of drug dealers who roared around town late at night in their flash cars, and had noisy and terrible parties going on into the early hours and beyond.

These neighbours are American and have been understanding about the noise and mess of a three child house. In return, my daughter has regularly jumped over the fence to let them in their own front door, as they have regularly locked themselves out at the front.

We were out on Friday when the family made contact, told my husband they were going back to the States, and said that they had a few electrical things they couldn't take back to the states, would be like them. He said yes, and agreed to go round later than evening, but they weren't there. They came around later with a stereo which the children fell upon with delight.

They told us they would be leaving more stuff, some flower pots, a couple of rugs etc, at the front of the property and we should help ourselves. We said goodbye.

The following day I arrived home to find a rug I didn't recognise on the floor. They had indeed left a lot of stuff out at the front, about 20 black bin bags and some loose husband had said that he would clear the black bags and he took the items they left.

My sister asked what was in the black bags. I told her I had no idea. My son told me that there was something interesting in one which looked like a rucksack. We decided to have a quick look before we took the things to the tip.

We found...
5 laptops, 30 ethernet cards, one leather rucksack, a blow up bed, a battery-powered inflator for said bed, a shoe box full of hotel toiletries, a clip-on spotlight, a table lamp, a door mat, a runner rug, a (new-looking) computer printer, a hold-all and a leather folder with notepad....

There was a lot more, but we didn't want to be intrusive and sort through personal items, at least, I tried not to do anything which I wouldn't like anyone else to do to me. I didn't look at the papers and correspondence, for example.

On Sunday my son went out to War Hammer, and I was typing on the computer. There was a knock at the door and I ran downstairs in my decorating clothes, no bra. I was expecting it to be my son.

The couple were standing on the doorstep. They had a card in their hand. They had come to say goodbye, and were clearly expecting an invitation to come in and have a cup of tea. But I couldn't! in my living room were 5 laptops...30 ethernet cards...etc

As I talked to them from behind the door, I became exquisitely aware that I was standing on a doormat (rescued from their bin bags) with a runner rug behind (rescued from their bin bags) my leather rucksack on the stairs (rescued from their bin bags) and a box of three soaps (rescued from their bin bags) sitting on the hall window ledge.

I nearly died with embarrassment as they told me how grateful they were that John had taken the bags to the tip and they handed me the card. I don't know what I said, I was too embarrassed to make sense. I think I have post traumatic stress disorder now. I keep getting flashbacks.

I muttered, said goodbye, good trip, and shut the door, and sank to my knees. AAARGH

To make matters worse, the card contained vouchers for Marks and Spencers and kind words. I may even be able to look at it without blushing by 2008.

My mother keeps never have to see them again...they did say that they wanteed you to feel free to help yourself to never have to see them again. It doesn't seem to be an effective treatment, I'm still getting the flashbacks.