Thursday, May 03, 2018

"Our heroes in a crisis..."

Terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower tragedy have made the past 12 months the British Red Cross’s busiest year since the Second World War, for an army of emergency response volunteers.
More than 1,000 recruits have been called to the scenes of atrocities over the last year - with many doubling or even tripling up, helping not only victims and survivors of Grenfell but also the London Bridge, Finsbury Park mosque and Manchester Arena disasters.
Now a dozen of them are being celebrated by the charity by featuring in a new photoshoot, unveiled today after being spearheaded by award-winning artist Rankin - ahead of next week’s Red Cross Week, 148 years since the British branch of the charity was founded.

Monday, December 04, 2017

"Old songs lose young meanings - but new ones, they gain..."

“Old songs lose young meanings
But new ones, they gain...”

The lyric may come from a different song - his First Song, indeed - but the sentiments resonate here at least when it comes to Ralph McTell and his most famous masterpiece.
Streets Of London has been re-recorded and re-released to mark its half-century and also that of the anti-homelessness charity Crisis - and McTell tells of his despair that his most famous track remains relevant so long after first recording it, with rising numbers of people living on the streets.
Guest vocalist Annie Lennox performs on the new recording released today - with all sale proceeds to the charity - alongside an 88-voice choir made up of not only charity workers but some of the homeless people they help.
The song, first released in 1967 before reaching number two in the charts seven years later, urges understanding and compassion for the homeless, with the chorus: ‘Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London.’
McTell, who turned 73 on Sunday, said: ‘The first time I recorded it, it was an after-thought on an album - but now it’s become so much bigger.
‘Yet the situation on the streets remains the same - it’s like we’re almost inured to it now, these scenes on the streets that I thought back then no civilised nation should ever expect to see.’

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Fall from grace - tyrant Mugabe finally toppled...

The downfall of Robert Mugabe - the Marxist teacher turned revolutionary pioneer turned globally-reviled tyrant - has been an agonisingly long time coming.
He has ruled - and ruined - Zimbabwe for all of its 37 years since winning independence, a victory for which he claimed much of the credit.
He has been variously described as ‘the lion of Africa’ and ‘a wily old crocodile’, known as ‘Uncle Bob’ to supporters and ‘Mad Bob’ to critics - and he had plenty of both, after seizing unprecedented power but bankrupting his country and brutalising millions.
Mineral-rich Zimbabwe used to be known as ‘the breadbasket of Africa’, prosperous on the back of its diamond and gold mines and expanses of fertile land.
But under Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party it has become one of the world’s poorest - with infrastructure left to rot, schools and hospitals neglected, families left in near-famine conditions and opponents bullied, tortured and murdered.
A cholera epidemic in 2008 killed almost 4,300 people, at a time of economic meltdown when inflation soared as high as 500billion per cent, ransacked supermarkets lay empty and bank queues for the following morning would begin to form each afternoon.
An undercover visit by Metro in December 2008 when foreign journalists were banned found piles of unburied corpses dating back weeks, hospital patients languishing outdoors attached to drips looped around branches, and children obliviously swigging from rubbish-crammed, contaminated streams.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

"Well, I really don't mind the rain and a smile can hide all the pain..."

A lyric leapt to mind the moment it was finally confirmed tonight, as sadly long anticipated, that this world had lost Glen Campbell.

No, not the wonderful ones everyone's sharing, about needing more than wanting and wanting for all time. Not here in this head, anyway, heartaching as they are - but instead:

"You take a K, an E - you add an N and a T - a U and a C K Y: and that spells Kentucky, but it means Paradise..."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Some come here who escaped but who want to talk about how they feel guilty somehow..."

Young child survivors and witnesses of the Grenfell Tower inferno are still turning up pleading for help in the nearby streets - while too frightened to fall asleep.
Kids whose parents either hauled them to safety or who watched in horror in the surrounding estates will remain in need not only in the weeks but years ahead, volunteers say.
Helpers on 24/7 duty at the nearby Westway Sports Centre told Metro of being haunted by scenes reminiscent of British Red Cross emergency responses in overseas warzones and natural disasters.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

"...and the Tottenham Hotspur will be there..."

"There used to be a football club over there."
So (supposedly) muttered a resigned Keith Burkinshaw, walking away towards Tottenham High Road in 1984, presumably looking forward to lighting up a consolatory pipe back home.
And leaving behind him a Uefa Cup trophy newly, thrillingly won under the White Hart Lane lights - but a board too cravenly preoccupied by that new entity, THFC plc.
This Sunday night all the switches will be flicked off at that grand old stadium for the final time, ahead of demolition beginning on Monday morning, leaving behind ... well, what?
Well, still a grand old team to play for and a grand old team to see - albeit one that will, after a year’s unwanted exile in Wembley anyway, be a little further along that High Road.
For all the sweetbitterness of the Burkinshaw goodbye, there is certainly a football club still here in N17.
Why, one flourishing in recent seasons in stark contrast to those drear years of the Nineties and early-Noughties.
It seems to have been a long time coming, this new next-door behemoth of an arena - too long, some may feel, if certainly a necessary and enticing next step.
And yet, and yet - a so-long to the old White Hart Lane we know can’t help but feel like it's come sorrowfully suddenly upon us.
So this final farewell to Tottenham’s official home ground for 42,621 days and 1,993 games this coming Sunday provides a sadly celebratory time to reflect on what’s gone and what’s going.
Cliché as it may be, "second home" feels the perfect wording for what it will have been to Tottenham fans of and throughout all ages.
Somewhere to go to for release from everyday stresses and strains, for a surge of excitement and achievement - or else, of course, simply all the more (alternative) stresses and strains.
A place of such familiarity, and yet one where the only predictable thing is that something different will happen - sometimes exhilirating, sometimes disappointing, yet invariably something to chew (or drink) upon afterwards.
Until the next time.
Surely few better tributes exist than the exemplary words-and-pictures tour de force The Lane by Martin Cloake and Adam Powley, alongside designer Doug Cheeseman and with invaluable archive photo contributors including the legendary John White’s son Rob.
Nor the elegiac video posted this week by MPH1982, one which appears to have cast more tear-inducing dust into the air than any annual "Flying Ants Day" might imminently manage.
But perhaps the finest memorial - this Sunday’s send-off aside, hoping and trusting it proves appropriate - will be our own memories.
And oh-so-many of them, both collective and collectively individual.
Pray (self-)indulgence, perhaps, for a few scattered here...

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

‘Talk, more talk. Chat, more chat. I'm happy to do it for you...’

‘Talk, more talk. Chat, more chat. I'm happy to do it for you...’
Stigma, and beyond. (See also: Self-harm, and beyond...

Talk is cheap. Yet can prove so valuable. How dear, then, is stigma?
‘Just talking about it is really important.’
So it is - as movingly displayed by so many, such as the (for want of a better word) ‘stars’ of the ten Heads Together two-minute, tear-enticing films released today.
Who could fail to be moved by the heartfelt testimony of so many people who have not only plunged the pits of despair yet also re-emerged strong and willing enough to talk about their ordeals not only with loved ones but the wider world?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Harry's band of brothers...

A British soldier dubbed ‘the human fireball’ and a blind American serviceman were given the royal seal of approval yesterday as they prepare to run two marathons in a week together.
Karl Hinett and Ivan Castro were among wounded military veterans hailed by Prince Harry for their efforts fighting back against not only debilitating physical but also mental suffering.
The pair were welcomed by the prince yesterday, ahead of running both the London Marathon and the Boston Marathon next month in aid of the Royal Foundation-backed Heads Together mental health campaign.
Prince Harry made a plea for military personnel with mental health problems to seek help - and at least begin by talking to anyone about their feelings and fears, as they attended an event run in partnership with military community mental health coalition Contact.
As Mr Castro told Metro: ‘It all starts with a conversation.’

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

"Can't shout, can't scream - I hurt myself to get pain out..."

(See also, appearance on BBC World Service's The Why Factor episode about self-harm - broadcast on June 5, 2017:

"Sink a few too many pints and the world sings and swigs with you.
Puff your way through a pack of Marlboro Lights and a gang of fellow smokers will seldom be far away.
But stub one of those cigarettes out on your arm, or slice a razorblade across your flesh, and you do it alone. The world turns away very quickly.
Four types of self-harm, four ways of coping with pressure – but while half might invite mild disapproval, the other two inspire a blend of revulsion, anger, shock and frustration..."

Ping an elastic band repeatedly around your wrist and a colleague might raise an eyebrow.
Fill a cup at a fountain and dash the cold water in your face and they could then raise both.
But produce a razor and scythe it across that wrist, or repeatedly thump yourself in the face, and any unfortunate witnesses might well raise alarm - and more.

Today is the fifth annual Self-Injury Awareness Day, to highlight concerns - and indeed misconceptions - about the estimated one in 200 who harm themselves, or one in five women and one in seven men, or 13 per cent of those aged between 11 and 16, depending on different studies.
And to encourage those in need towards help - and encourage those who can offer so, to do so.
If only such alternative actions and distractions suggested above and by some counsellors, when feeling any urge to self-harm, were the entire answer.
And yet here at least, they can prove just enough of a coping mechanism in times of rising anguish at home or work - with apologies to colleagues taken aback by such behaviour.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

"Never underestimate the power of a simple gesture or that of the humble little snowdrop – a symbol of hope and consolation..."

A message from Lynn Radnedge, who chairs Finchley's CCJ (Council of Christians and Jews) branch, for this evening's Holocaust memorial service at St Mary at Finchley...
(See also Metro coverage of Holocaust Memorial Day and one survivor's story here: "Far right rise is so shocking, says survivor of death camp")

Anyone who has ever suffered a devastating loss or tragedy in their lives often asks themselves how life can possibly go on. 
Each year at this time we hear stories of unimaginable horror and loss and it's hard to imagine how millions of people then and now found the courage to carry on.
And it’s right that we keep telling the stories of those who died and the ones who survived against all the odds.
I’m so proud of the tradition we started eight years ago at this church to honour HMD with all faiths and ages.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The refugee kids who fled terror in Syria and Iraq, now facing a fresh hell in Lesbos detention camps

Forgotten families plucked from the sea after fleeing death and destruction in Syria and Iraq face a miserable Christmas in limbo on the island of Lesbos.
Extras and Ugly Betty star Ashley Jensen has just returned from a mercy mission to the Greek island where thousands of people are being detained after fleeing their homes and heading to Europe.
She was especially struck by the young mothers forced to bring up their traumatised children in bleak and unhelpful surroundings more akin to ‘a prisoner of war camp’.
Ashley, who has a seven-year-old son Francis, told Metro: ‘The whole atmosphere is desperate and desolate. 
‘These people have the impression they’ve just been forgotten about - it feel like very little’s being done to help them.’
She was visiting in her role as an ambassador for Save The Children, the charity which this Friday holds its annual ‘Christmas Jumper Day’ - encouraging people to donate £2 apiece while wearing festive woolly tops.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ditching of Human Rights Act 'betrays Hillsborough dead'

Families of football fans killed in the Hillsborough disaster are urging Theresa May not to ‘betray’ them by scrapping the Human Rights Act.
‘Justice for the 96’ campaigners are backing a new Amnesty International defence of the act, which proved crucial in securing a second inquest into how and why their loved ones died.
They told Metro how the government’s readiness to repeat the Act could prevent similar disasters from being properly investigated - and instead protect corrupt police and authorities.
They today backed Amnesty International’s new ‘Save The Act’ campaign - launching on Tuesday - to keep the Human Rights Act, which came into force in Britain in 2000.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

"Just let me hear some of that rock and Bowl music..."

"The next song we're gonna sing is an oldie, some of you older people might remember - it's from last year, and it's called She Loves You..."

If John Lennon's tongue was not necessarily always embedded in his cheek then his speaking-voice could invariably give the impression it was at least jabbing towards that general direction.

His She Loves You intro, approaching the end of the melded set making up The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl - newly-reinvigorated at Abbey Road and given a first CD/digital release - is not quite up there with that "and the rest of you, if you'd just rattle your jewellery" crack at the Palladium.

In fact, it may be that to hear more of his habitually sarky drawl in this is to underestimate even the most cynical Beatle's authentic wonder: look at just how much had been done in those few months between '63 Beatlemania erupting and '64 Beatlemania not so much consolidating as surging even further.

Few can have imagined packing, let alone actually go on to cram, just so many careers into mere years as the Fab Four had already done and would continue. Count 'em: singles, albums, films, gig-a-day tours, TV and radio factory lines, and the little matter of prolifically, inventively not-so-simply songwriting throughout.

This "new" album might well prompt mere shrugs from many outside that (hefty enough) Beatle-obsessive demographic.

And yet after the Anthology bootleg rounds-ups of the Nineties, the sweeping Mono and Stereo remasters of the past decade along with the mixed pleasures of Let It Be Naked, Love and Yellow Submarine Songtrack, the too-much-unloved live album sneaked out in 1977 now gets its belated turn.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Humanity remains washed ashore, for all too many more...

A year ago today: an emotive photo of one tragic child among so many, yet special in being the one to prompt a horrified world to act - or, at least, piously promise so.
Yet 12 gruelling months since three-year-old Alan Kurdi died, drowned - and those harrowing images emerged of the poor boy, face-forward on a Turkish beach - that same world stands accused of letting him down. And many thousands, potentially millions, more.
Gasping politicians' vows to better protect those fleeing Daesh and Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war have not been met with sufficient help in the region nor safe havens elsewhere, exasperated aid workers say.