Archive for July, 2005

Hold the front page/index.html/SMS…

Monday, July 11th, 2005

A different take on the democratisation of the news process and the true birth of the “citizen reporter”.

“It was a new kind of story. Not in the sense of what happened, which was thoroughly and depressingly as anticipated, but in the way it was reported and disseminated. The mobile phone photographers, the text messagers and the bloggers – a new advance guard of amateur reporters had the London bomb story in the can before the news crews got anywhere near the scene.”

Guardian Unlimited – ‘We had 50 images within an hour’

Mixed feelings

Monday, July 11th, 2005


Since last Thursday’s bombings in London, I have been troubled.  Like many other bloggers, I have posted a mixture of information, opinion and reflection on that day’s events.  Whilst I believe that I have done so with good motives and a clear conscience, it is hard not to feel that one is, in some small way, taking advantage of a situation or exploiting it.  Interestingly, when I shared this concern with fellow London blogger PinkFairyCat, she pointed me towards a post by Viennese Metroblogger Heinrich Hinterhalt, in which he questions where blogging ends and journalism begins.  Although Heinrich’s piece is short and far from conclusive, it does go someway to starting to explore the nature of the relationship between newspaper reportage and ‘citizen journalism’.

“blogging is on the way to reestablish choice of news sources, an alternative to politically influenced (read: abused) mass media. bloggers were the first to announce bush’s reelection, they tell you about all possible and impossible things you won’t read elsewhere from every imaginable point of view […] in my personal opinion blogging and journalism are two very different things meant to coexist. journalism should be serious, well investigated, checked, double checked, spellchecked, authorised by independent editorial staff… not to speak of critical unbiased and well written. blogging on the other hand is fast, it’s free and it’s fun. and it opens it’s readers a world of choice […] all in all it’s yours – the readers – decision: read it, or delete it.” [all links are Heinrich’s]

How strange then that, this morning, I learnt from a friend that one of my posts to the London Metroblog had been quoted in today’s Guardian newspaper in Mark Honigsbaum’s article on the role that blogs play in covering such events.

“From messages of support superimposed on well-known London landmarks to angry weblogs and defiant postings on community message boards, the internet was fizzing with responses yesterday to the London bombings. Many of the messages were posted by commuters who narrowly missed becoming victims of Thursday morning’s bomb atrocities. Others chronicled the appalled reaction of Arabs and Muslims eager to distance themselves from the acts of the terrorists. But interspersed with moving first-person accounts and agonised soul-searching there was also much defiant humour.”

Maybe I’m being arrogant and self-centred in thinking that folks actually care about what and how I write about in my blog posts.  Whatever the truth is, I hope that what I do write is fair, has integrity and adds to the debate, rather than detracts from it.



Monday, July 11th, 2005

Today, as with most other days, my inbox has a bunch of forwarded emails, jokes, pictures and spam along with the legitimate stuff.  Amongst these were a couple of emails on the same subject – the East Anglian Ambulance Service’s In Case of Emergency (ICE) campaign.  In light of Thursday’s events in London and considering the distress of those who are waiting to hear from missing family members, I thought it deserved a wider audience.

“The idea is that you store the word ” I C E ” in your mobile phone address book, and against it enter the number of the person you would want to be contacted “In Case of Emergency”.  In an emergency situation ambulance and hospital staff will then be able to quickly find out who your next of kin are and be able to contact them. It’s so simple that everyone can do it. Please do.  Please will you also email this to everybody in your address book, it won’t take too many ‘forwards’ before everybody will know about this. It really could save your life, or put a loved one’s mind at rest. For more than one contact name ICE1, ICE2, ICE3 etc.”

You can read more on the campaign at the following links:

“A Cambridge-based paramedic has launched a national campaign with Vodafone to encourage people to store emergency contact details in their mobile phones.” – East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust

“Eight out of ten people aren’t carrying information that would help if they were involved in an accident. Storing next-of-kin details in your mobile phone can assist the emergency services if you’re unable to tell them who to contact.” – ICE sponsor Vodafone

Glad to be here

Sunday, July 10th, 2005


This morning, I am sobered by the fact that the revised timing of the Edgware Road blast last Thursday now places me about 2 minutes away at the next station, Paddington.  With SWMBO evacuated from a train in the City of London area and our second eldest safely off the train and walking the last 100 yeards to school, I am thankful our family has been spared the pain and grief others are experiencing today.  Having also missed the 1996 IRA bomb at South Quay by just a few minutes (we live 200 yards away), one is tempted to read all manner of significance into such near-misses.  However, I am convinced that we are no different to millions of families who live in London, Belfast, Madrid, Jerusalem, Gaza, Bagdhad – ordinary folk who have little choice but to pause, reflect and then carry on as normal.

As we look forward to a sunny afternoon in the garden with our extended family gathered around us, my heart goes out to those whose loved ones perished on Thursday or have not been seen since.  I wear my London shirt for you all.

Closer to the dream

Saturday, July 9th, 2005

Six or so weeks on from my last post, there now appears to be very little that stands in the way of us moving to New Zealand…other than the fact that I have not been able to secure a job that will allow us to secure right of residency visas there. Whilst this is often the single most important factor in any planned immigration, it is also the hardest to achieve remotely unless one’s professional skills are deemed to be in short supply and qualify for Skilled Migrant status.

After much consultation with friends, advisors and recruitment folks in New Zealand, we have decided to relocate regardless. The deciding factor in this is that I am to made redundant from my position in the UK at the end of August. Rather than focus on trying to secure a short-term position here whilst I continue to hunt for a position 12,000 miles away, we have decided to sell our flat and car, pack all our belongings into a 40ft container bound for the southern hemisphere, buy 6 return tickets and head for London’s Heathrow Airport. Although we have yet to book our flights, we are currently thinking of flying with Air New Zealand as they have generous baggage allowances for emigrees – essential for families that are 5/6ths female and fashion-conscious. Given we haven’t had a family break this year, we are also considering breaking up the journey with a couple of stopovers, perhaps a couple of days in California (Los Angeles is an Air NZ hub) followed by another four or five days in the Cook Islands. The additional costs appear to be small and I feel we’d benefit both physically and mentally from the break.

Once there, I’ll concentrate on getting a work-to-residency or skilled migrant position whilst the family find their feet. Rae and Peter, the parents of one of our Kiwi friends here in London, have kindly offered their bach (beach house) for us to use as our initial base. Located an hour or so north of Wellington, it will provide us with a ‘sponsored’ abode for our visitor and student visas as well as a base for house and job hunting. Furthermore, as I am not restricting my job hunting to just Wellington, the airport at Palmerston North 40 kms away may prove to be handy if I need to fly to Auckland, Christchurch or Dunedin.

Despite all this activity and planning, we are still in a state in bemused denial. Other people emigrate, we say, not us. It is always us seeing folks off on their travels, not the other way around. Yet, all being well, it will soon be us climbing on board a plane, ready to swap years of dreaming and planning for new beginnings in a new country.

Well, there goes the neighbourhood

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005


Local cyclists enjoying the Lea Valley in June 2005


The same view of the Lea Valley in 2012

Whilst the politicians and the business people and the sports people are all head over heels, I and a good many others are not so happy with today’s news.  I was born at one end of the Lea Valley and have lived at the other for most of my life.  I have cycled up and down it many a time and enjoyed many happy times taking in the flora and fauna, not to mention the peace and quiet the valley has to offer local city-dwellers and visitors alike.  I am sad that riverine landscapes and marshland habitats are to be lost.  I am sad that well-used existing grassroots open-to-all facilities will disappear in order to make way for open–only-to-some ‘centres of excellence’.  I suspect that compulsory land purchases and aggressive building schedules will mean that we have but a few short weeks in which to enjoy the Lower Lea Valley before public access is withdrawn and lost forever.

The London 2012 web site is showing ‘unavailable’ at the time of posting.  The irony of the that statement is sadly pertinent.

Live 8 and G8: It’s about mortality not music

Sunday, July 3rd, 2005


This is a real picture of my kids – which one should I choose to lose?

Let’s play a game.

  • Stop what you are doing. 
  • Leave the mouse and the keyboard alone for 60 seconds. 
  • Close your eyes and visualise a nice group portrait of your nearest family or friends. 
  • Once you have the picture nice and clear in your mind, now choose the one you love most right now – there are no favourites, of course, are there?.
  • Imagine them dying suddenly – crushed by a drunk driver, knifed by a mugger or killed in a workplace accident.
  • Imagine the police knocking at your door in ten minutes time and then imagine living the rest of your life without seeing them ever again.

Senseless?  Inconceivable?  Maybe.  Try again:

  • Imagine your loved one dying slowly in your arms.
  • Imagine being unable to provide them with even one meal a day.
  • Imagine them fatally ill for the lack of over-the-counter medication.
  • Imagine holding them, touching them, smelling them, washing them, kissing them for weeks and months whilst you are completely and utterly powerless to prevent their passing.
  • Finally, imagine what it would be like to know that their death was all because of what is basically an overdraft.  Your loss of a loved one was directly caused by the crippling conditions and interest charges levied against a bank loan you never knew you were liable for. 

Senseless?  Absolutely.  Inconceivable? In London or any other major city perhaps, but it is all too conceivable in the 28,800 other places where it will happen today.  What is a macabre and unsavoury mind game for you and me, surfing the web over a mug of conscience-salving Traidcraft coffee on a lazy Sunday is daily reality for millions in Africa and elsewhere around the world.

– – –

OK, you say, but what about the G8 summit next week, they’ll have it sorted.  Not really.  The much-vaunted debt relief and cancellation program, worked on for years by many unsung folks, will be announced in a blaze of PR and hype by Blair, Bush and Co.  However, the eight will announce that like it’s just happened since they got involved and the Live8 concerts were all they needed to finish the job.  Ongoing aid, via the organisations and charities who were involved before the world took notice, will continue.  Their efforts will continue to be fractured, uncoordinated and derailed by so-called first world governments extracting whatever political leverage and votes they can by piggy-backing the efforts of NGOs and aid agencies.  Whatever trade solutions are proposed or implemented will undoubtedly have the sheen of philanthropy but will ultimately benefit the first world just as much if not more than at present.

Enough of the ‘the greatest gig ever’, pompous pop star politics and credit cards easing consciences. 

Do something.  Inform yourself.  Involve yourself.

If you really can’t be bothered then, at the very least, copy the game above and email it to your elected political representative and ask them: what are you doing about this?  My eight year old wrote to Blair recently and got a patronising brush-off letter in return.  Do you know what she did?  She wrote back and insisted he answer the question in her original letter.  Now, are you going to stand beside her or are you going to leave it to someone else?

my lo-fi ears are listening to She Cries Your Name/Beth Orton/Pass in Time

Le Tour Prologue

Saturday, July 2nd, 2005


I’m getting in the mood for today’s Tour de France prologue time trial by listening to the excellent KRAFTWERK – TOUR DE FRANCE SOUNDTRACKS.  The prologue will provide the first glimpse of the much-touted battle between six-times winner Lance Armstrong and arch rival Jan Ullrich.  Free UK TV coverage will be on the ITV2 digital channel.

Later tonight, BBC4 digital channel will be having a Tour de France evening including Death on the Mountain, the story of Tom Simpson, who died whilst on the tour; Sunday in Hell, the classic documentary about the notoriously punishing Paris-Roubaix one day classic and Belleville Rendezvous, the animated movie featuring the Tour de France and some exploding frogs.


Tom Simpson