Thursday, January 16, 2020

Remembering Rene...

Words from my mum on her mum, January 16 2020:
It was 25 years ago today … that we said a sudden and far too early goodbye to my totally outrageous, unashamedly outspoken, embarrassing, but irreverently witty “Mum” known to officials, neighbours and grandchildren alike as “Rene”.
In the mucky, murky West Midlands town of her birth, Tipton - she used to boast to newcomers in a pseudo posh voice, “I come from the country: the Black Country” - Mum was known as the News of the World. What she didn’t know wasn’t worth knowing. But because she knew everyone, she cared about them deeply too and her other nickname was “Rene with the ‘eart of gold”.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

"In our winter city, the rain cries a little pity..."

"In our winter city, the rain cries a little pity..."

Thousands of volunteers are gearing up to provide food, warmth and what little festive cheer they can to record numbers of homeless people this Christmas - amid fears of rising risks to life.
The homelessness charity Crisis is opening up festive shelters in major towns and cities across the UK, including not only worst-hit London but also Birmingham, Coventry, Newcastle, Edinburgh, South Wales and elsewhere.
Other charities, both nationwide and more locally-focused, are also stepping up relief patrols, setting up shelters and encouraging members of the public to donate either supplies or their time to help feed, clothe and shelter those in need as temperatures plummet this Christmas.
The relief efforts come amid mounting concerns about Britain’s homelessness problem, with soaring numbers of people sleeping rough - up by 169 per cent since 2010.
And the latest official figures suggest 726 people died while sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation last year - up 22 per cent on 2017, with the average ages being 45 for men and 43 for women.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

"Homeland actor's goal is to save children's lives..."

(Past pieces here from Sierra Leone:

A Hollywood star who helped break England’s penalty shoot-out curse hopes to repeat the feat this weekend - while bringing help to children struggling to grow up in a country ravaged by civil war, famine and the ebola virus.
David Harewood saved two penalties to help the England side win last year’s Soccer Aid game in a shoot-out at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground a year ago.
And he has been encouraged in his hopes of further success by the senior England side breaking their spot-kick curse and winning shoot-outs against Colombia in last summer’s World Cup and to beat Switzerland in Saturday’s Nations League third-place play-off.
He is also keen to point out he conceded just one goal during regulation play last time around, whereas team-mate and former England and Arsenal stopper David Seaman let in two.
This Sunday’s match will be staged at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium for the first time, as an England side featuring former internationals such as John Terry, Joe Cole and Michael Owen - and managed by Sam Allardyce and Susanna Reid - faces a Rest Of The World XI including Terry’s former Blues team-mates Didier Drogba and Michael Essien, as well as Eric Cantona and Robbie Keane.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

In memory of a very Great-Uncle Reg, one D-Day hero among many...

Some words from my mum on her late uncle and my great-uncle Reginald Brownhill, proud former Para and brave D-Day veteran...

My dear Uncle was a Para and landed in France on D-Day 1944 on the secret mission.
On the plane, he was seated beside a 17 year old Private Hopkins who said: "I'm scared, Corp."
Uncle replied: "We all am mate, but we gorra get on with it. Stick by me I'll mek sure yo'me all right."

"You go out thinking you're joining a Boy's Own adventure..."

A D-Day veteran who feared he would not survive a night of bombardment after landing on a Normandy beach is among those returning across the Channel for an emotional 75th anniversary commemoration.
Ninety-four-year-old Arthur Hammond - known to friends and family as "Les" - was desperate to sign up to train as a fighter pilot aged 18, only to be turned away after failing an eye test.
Yet he found himself called up six months later for the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and the eager then-19-year-old was among those descending on Juno Beach as part of the Normandy landings.
Only, none of his colleagues lived on - and the enthusiasm he felt beforehand very swiftly turned to fear, when confronted by the death and destruction all round and enduring a night of bombardment at the foot of Hill 112 he felt sure he would not survive.

Friday, May 31, 2019

"Things are happening..."

“How can you be afraid to be happy?”
- “Because whenever you get too happy, something bad always happens.”
It’s a little bit funny, these last few months. That is, oscillating between all of a sudden breaking into laughter or breaking into tears. Cracking into a grin or crinkling the eyes - abruptly and inexplicably so, any which time.
Ah, come on, you Spurs. Never again #Spursy, or so this our Champions League campaign might - nay, must - suggest, having us somehow grasp not defeat but victory from the jaws of not victory but defeat, and just so incessantly.
And now here we are, this weekend. Somewhere even the most optimistic Tottenham supporter - should such a someone exist - could not have dared to dream, let alone see us do.
All while hoping my eyes do see the glory of that cup at White Hart Lane, while also knowing to appreciate all they are seeing in the meantime.
Beaming. And yet tear-ing up, at the littlest thought of what’s ahead or maybe more all significantly all those precisely-recalled moments of every goal, every assist, every near-miss, every tackle or deflection or save or hoof or, er, VAR that’s added all the more glory to the story.
Tears, eh - ah, 2019 and too many years before have produced plenty, here, there and everywhere. Many as vaguely unexplainable, if asked, as those suddenly smudging through even while commuting by Tubes these last few weeks and simply thinking once more of those magic words: “Here’s Dele’s Lucas Moura...oh, they’ve done it! I cannot believe it!”

Sunday, April 07, 2019

The new Tottenham Hotspur stadium: "Das Teuerwerk"...

(Kicker magazine, Monday 08 April 2019)
For some it's been 18 months in the waiting, or for others 18 years in the making.
But patience has finally paid off for Tottenham Hotspur fans after English club football's second largest stadium finally opened for business.
Heung-min Son went down in history as the first man to score a goal in an official game at the North London side's £1billion new ground on the footprint of their old White Hart Lane stadium, almost 120 years after the old venue was opened and two years after it was demolished.
Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen added a late second on Wednesday night as Spurs marked their homecoming with a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace, ending a five-match run without a win and ahead of Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Manchester City.
For all its stunning appearance and stirring unveiling, the new stadium has come late and at quite a cost.
Wednesday's grand opening began with mock-operatic singing on the field, as well as a marching band, before a burst of fireworks above the north London skyline - as well as a roar of relief fromfans who have spent almost two seasons exiled at Wembley.
Yet years of delays may well have done Spurs and their supporters plenty of favours - at least in learning lessons of local rivals' new-build hitches.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

"Nowhere is home for us" - Rohingya massacre survivor's sorrow, one year on...

A Rohingya refugee gang-raped by soldiers before seeing her family slaughtered and burnt to death in front of her never wants to return to Myanmar, a year on from the massacre.
Dildar Begum only has 11-year-old daughter Nur as a comfort and fellow survivor of military-led ‘scorched-earth’ violence that broke out a year ago on Saturday.
They are among those who managed to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh, where it is now estimated almost 1million of Myanmar’s persecuted ethnic-minority Rohingya refugees are living as a result of the latest crisis.
Aid agencies such as Unicef, who have been helping Dildar and others, are warning on ongoing torture, monsoon flooding risks and a lack of access to food, water and medical aid.
Dildar, 30, told how haunting memories of the atrocity - including her husband being stabbed to death in front of her and her daughter being attacked with a machete - are seldom far from her mind but have been exacerbated by the approaching anniversary.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

"Surrounded by love" - Jo Cox's mission continues, two years after her murder...

Anger, despair and yet also hope are emotions driving the mourning sister of murdered MP Jo Cox as the second anniversary of her shocking killing looms this Saturday.
Kim Leadbeater told Metro she and her family still feel ‘numb’, two years since far-right terrrorist Thomas Mair stabbed and shot the mother-of-two to death in her West Yorkshire constituency.
But she thanked the public for keeping them going with a wave of support - including thousands of events being planned to mark what would have been Mrs Cox’s 44th birthday later this month.
Ms Leadbeater, 42, is spearheading the ‘Great Get Together’, a three-day nationwide celebration first held last year on the first anniversary of the murder.
The events - from music and festivities on London’s South Bank to street parties, coffee mornings and picnics, iftars and communal dog walks - are centred on Mrs Cox’s ‘more in common’ philosophy.
She used the phrase in her maiden Commons speech after being elected for her home constituency of Batley and Spen at the 2015 general election - just 13 months before her violent death aged 41.
Ms Leadbeater is taking the lead ahead of this year’s Great Get Together, with plenty planned for the weekend of June 22-24 - but the pain of suddenly losing her elder sister still lingers, yet inspires.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

RIP Gena Turgel...

RIP Gena Turgel, who has died in London aged 95 - a Holocaust survivor who shared a concentration camp with and comforted Anne Frank, who herself was born 89 years ago today and was given her first diary 76 years ago today. A privilege to speak to lifelong campaigner Gena ahead of last year's Holocaust Memorial Day...

January 27, 2017: A Holocaust survivor who survived a concentration camp gas chamber as a child fears the world is suffering a new neo-Nazi rise.
Gena Turgel, 91, told Metro that this year’s annual Holocaust Memorial Day today is shrouded by far-right insurgencies in Europe and across the Atlantic.
Mrs Turgel, who has lived in London since escaping Nazi Germany in 1945, saw two brothers shot dead by the Nazis and spent four years in three different concentration camps.
France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen is expected to contest the presidential run-off election later this year while hardline right-wing chiefs have come to prominence and power in Hungary, Serbia and Greece.
New US president Donald Trump has also been scrutinised over the white supremacist views expressed by some of his closest aides - and his backing from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Mrs Turgel, now living in Stanmore in north-west London, said: ‘It’s terrible - I’m very surprised, but these people are criminals.
‘They should be arrested, for disturbing the lives of so many others.
‘They want to destroy the peace and happiness we’ve tried to build.
‘I can’t understand, after all we’ve been through, that children are growing up in this environment.’

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.