Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Responding to War

A brief summary of the wars and terrorist attacks I can recall in my lifetime so far, and what I did as a result of each:

IRA Attacks
I wasn't quite ten but I do remember the Brighton bombing being reported on the news.  Bins were removed from town centres and train stations.  I put my crisp packets in my pockets and carried on being a child.

The Cold War
This boils down to a programme I watched and a book I read:
  1. Spitting Image - I'm not sure why my parents let me watch this as a child - the political satire completely washed over me as I concentrated on waiting for the "Gorby", Reagan and Thatcher puppets to appear and the song at the end of the show.      
  2. When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs.  I'm not sure why my parents bought me this book (do you detect a theme?).  Having thoroughly enjoyed Fungus the Bogeyman I thought I was in for a treat.  Instead I was absolutely petrified and wondered how quickly I could paint the windows white and turn the kitchen table on its side when the four minute warning came.  I cried a lot after reading this book.
I continued to enjoy Spitting Image, never looked at When the Wind Blows again and carried on being a child (albeit one with a knowledge of satirical songs that I could recite, but didn't understand).

The Falklands War
I was seven when this happened but have very clear memories of various features run by The Sun to support 'Our Boys' including a song to be sung to the tune of 'Don't Cry for me Argentina'.  It is entirely possible that we stuck a Union Jack that came in the centre pages of the paper to one of our windows.  It is also entirely possible that The Sun ran pictures of bare-breasted women wearing camouflage as a means to support the war effort.

I learned the words to the song, and carried on being a child (albeit one who thought seeing a pair of tits in a newspaper was normal).

The Gulf War
By this point I was using fake ID to get into pubs and dodgy nightclubs.  Quite often you'd encounter men who said they were soldiers who were off to serve and "might not come back", and they wondered if me or my friends might like to oblige them with a sexual favour.... 

We carried on going out, carried on using our fake ID but stayed the hell away from men with low rent chat up lines.

The Iraq War
By this point I had a friend living in Kuwait who described the time a rocket went over the British Embassy.  She hid under a table.  I thought again about 'When the Wind Blows' and decided that tables are actually a life-saving bit of kit.  I also worried constantly about her, hoped she would come home (which thankfully she did) and carried on living my life.

I was out shopping, buying a present for my husband to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.  My phone beeped with a text from my brother that read "A plane hit the Twin Towers" - I called him to ask what the punchline to the joke was.  Then realised how far from a joke it was.  

Walking back to work some fighter jets crossed the sky and when I arrived at the office everyone was crowded around a computer - the news website crashed so we put on a radio and stood there in silence and disbelief.  I thought "Oh shit, this is it, WWIII is on the way."  I still can't believe it happened.  I did travel to America in the years that followed, and continued to visit tourist attractions, landmarks, corporate offices.  I went to work for a big American company.  I carried on living my life.

I was at Heathrow airport - and couldn't believe the news.  I phoned my husband.  We made sure everyone we loved was safe.  I was afraid but I got on the plane.  I carried on visiting London and using public transport.    

I have children now.  They want to know what's going on in the world.  I tell them a little, avoid 24 hour news when they're around, and am mindful of the newspapers.  They worry about whether there will ever be a time when "they don't have any family" or whether bombs will "come here" and then remark on how lovely the sausage rolls were that they had the other day, and write out their Christmas Lists.  They don't put 'world peace' - they want a Lego Death Star and Sylvanian Families.  They carry on being children. And I want to protect that.  To protect them.

I am not a politician, I'm not a soldier and I'm not a member of the security services.  I can't trawl the 'dark web' and track people, infiltrate ranks, engage in combat or seek to solve problems that have no clear resolution, so what can I do?  

I can only do what I know.  The stuff that I was born and brought up to do: show kindness and compassion, give and receive love, enjoy life, make music, draw pictures, trust people, laugh, have fun, take the opportunities that life puts my way, enjoy the moment.  This life is a gift, and whatever way it is taken away from me, I want to know that I have lived my life, and helped my children to live theirs - happily and unafraid.


  1. Really enjoyed reading this Toni and I resonate with it strongly. I feel our best response to news like this is to continue to focus on the love, peace & compassion in our own homes.

    1. Thank you Claire, really glad you enjoyed it. I think love, peace and compassion are great places to focus our energy too x