Space-time

To the omnipotent observer it could look still
Silent and never changing, if you watch long enough
You’ll see colours shift and patterns wander
As the great orb revolves
Its colours are striking against the neither black nor white
Vacuum of space; and the vast emptiness
Speaks volumes of nothingness out into nothing again
As the great orb revolves

Update

Hello readers – oh it is nice to have readers! Again, I have some apologies to make. I’ve been asked a few times where on earth the second installment of Home is and the answer, to be honest, is somewhere in my head. That is to say, I know what I want to write, I just have not had time to write it as I have been trying to hone my journalistic skills. Please forgive me. I am solemnly promising you that part two will appear during my Easter holidays, which I much look forward to.

There have been a lot of important news recently and I am painfully aware that I have not documented it very much. For this I apologise. It is very frustrating, because every time I watch the headlines (which is often, I am ever so slightly obsessed) I want to write about four different posts. And if I did that, I would not do any homework and would be zombified from a lack of sleep. Wait, is zombified a word? It is now.

On another note, some books by Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate, were recently given to me as an award. I have only read a few poems, but I have found them quite inspiring. I am jumping back on to the creative bandwagon.

Bombs rain down on marginalised Gaddafi

Yesterday, the UN passed a resolution that gave members a mandate to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya and to use ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians. In response Colonel Gaddafi announced a ceasefire, which – had it been upheld – would have illegitimised any military action. There was a high potential for extreme embarrassment, until reports came that the ceasefire had been broken.

NATO countries started to gather planes in the Mediterranean in preparation for an attack. The main countries involved were France, the UK and the US, who had been accused of not knowing what to do. It was a very difficult dilemma – on one hand, NATO and the UN could not ignore the awful plight of the rebels and the civilians caught up in the fighting. On the other, if military action did not go according to plan, they risked increased terrorism and a repeat of the failures in Iraq. Neither scenario was without its problems.

Within the last few hours, however, French planes have begun firing at pro-Gaddafi forces, with reconnaissance missions also being carried out. As yet there are no plans from any country to deploy ground troops, but multiple air forces and navies are involved. This is not all out war – yet – these forces are simply trying to stop Gaddafi from killing his own people.

Katy Perry at the Apollo

Yesterday, it was very hard to concentrate. The clocks ticked in some kind of time warp that made it possible to check the time several times within a second (well, maybe not quite). After almost six months of waiting, my 16th birthday present was just around the corner. It was a matter of hours until I saw Katy Perry perform at the Hammersmith Apollo.

The evening lived up to all my expectations. We arrived at about half past seven and to my delight, not only did we not have to queue, the disabled seats happened to be the best in the house. Sometimes, the old wheels pay off. Watching the pit fill up only served to stir up my excitement, as the music got louder and louder and the audience’s buzz became palpable.

A band came on at eight and a tense silence fell. It was clear that no one knew who they were, which was not helped by the fact that the singer was cloaked in a feathery veil-type garment. The music started. At first I was simply deafened and could not really listen to the song. I realised at some stage that the lyrics were not English but the noise meant I could not work out what language it was. When the song ended, the singer enlightened us by revealing that her band was called Yelle and that they were from France. Well, the strange music made sense then. The French are not exactly renowned for musical talent. Unfortunately the music did not improve and most of the audience remained puzzled as to why this band had been chosen to support Katy Perry. Finally (and I say that emphatically), they left the stage and Katy Perry’s DJ Skeet Skeet came on to warm up the crowd. He pumped out some chart hits and the party swung into life.

We danced. We cheered. But still, we wanted Katy. Suddenly, the curtain rose, revealing a fairytale backdrop of sweets and cakes. Three cloud shaped screens showed a cartoon of a young girl, Katy, forced to work for an evil butcher. She runs away and buys herself a cupcake from a rather good looking baker’s boy. It is love at first sight. The rest of the concert carried on the story as the fictional Katy falls asleep and dreams of finding her baker’s boy.

The first song was incredible and from that moment on we were truly enthralled. Katy Perry sung all her hits and songs from her new album Teenage Dreams. She does more than impress us with her voice, she puts on a show. Her singing is always amazing and powerful. The set is the stuff of dreams. And she, undoubtedly, looks incredible. The great thing about this concert was that the songs are all happy. This sounds like an odd thing to say, but it is a lot easier to have fun while listening to feel-good, up-beat music. Everyone sang along with gusto and we had a good go at blowing the roof off. It was awesome. I had expected some more songs from her first album One of the Boys, however only a few featured. At some points a lot of the audience did not know the song being sung, but this was the only flaw. When the big numbers came on, you could feel the excitement. I have never danced so much in my life.

It is surely a sign of a good show if you wake up with not one, but all, of the songs still in your head. In that case, it is safe to say that Katy Perry’s opening night in London was spectacular.

Japan’s devastation

On Friday a huge earthquake rocked hundreds of kilometres of ground in Japan. Even in a country used to such events, this quake was a shock. The Japanese have their own measure of quake intensity, where one is the lowest and seven is the highest; Friday’s measured seven on this scale and 8.9 on the internationally used Richter scale. It was the biggest quake ever to be recorded in Japan.

Luckily – if anything can be lucky in such situations – Japan’s infrastructure is built to withstand earthquakes and only relatively minor damage was inflicted. However, as the earth stopped shaking a new disaster took shape as a tsunami warning was issued for the entire Pacific coast line, from Chile to the US and across the ocean to Japan and other parts of Asia.

The tsunami struck an hour after the original quake and was, by this time, a thirty foot high rolling mass of water. It crashed into the north eastern coastline of Japan, demolishing towns and destroying everything else in its wake. There were reports of fires breaking out as the vast mass of water began to recede, dragging with it homes and lorries as if they were toys.

As things start to steady and aftershocks decrease in magnitude a new problem becomes apparent. Many of Japan’s nuclear power stations have become unstable because of the tsunami and are beginning to pose a threat to nearby people. I can’t really tell you what is happening here, because no one seems to know, which is quite worrying

In fact, any time you hear the word earthquake, followed by tsunami, and then by nuclear meltdown, it is quite worrying – to say the least. Combine this with not knowing what is actually going on in respect to the latter, it is surprising that people are not running around like headless chickens. They’re not. One of the most amazing things about this whole disaster is how calm the Japanese seem to be. They have seen earthquakes like this before, such as the Kobi quake of 1993, and training has been implimented well. Video footage shows offices workers climbing under desks or leaving rocking buildings with little outwardly visible panic. You can prepare for earthquakes, but tsunamis are another matter.

Now rescue teams from all over the world are arriving in the region. Planes carrying emergency survival kits have been flown out. Shock is slowly being converted into action as the outside world watches on in horror. It is at times like this that the world unites.

Libya – the end of Gaddafi?

Despite the force of the recent successful protests in Egypt and Tunisia, it is incredibly hard to predict what is going to happen in Libya. A few days ago it seemed as if the days of Gaddafi were numbered, but now it seems equally plausible that he will remain in power. The confusion is compounded by the limited supply of verified information coming from the country. The world’s media is scrabbling for news.

So what do we know? We know that rather than a protest movement intent on change, the Libyan opposition has bought the country to the brink of civil war. Gaddafi has rallied his loyal troops and the two sides are now embroiled in an Afghanistan-style fight for territory. The rebels have control of the second city of Benghazi but Gaddafi has a firm hold on Tripoli. Towns and cities across the country are being fought over but it is impossible to tell who is in control where.

A map from the BBC News website:
Libya, military bases map

Innocent people are being caught up in the violence, with three unarmed civilians killed in Misrata by government forces who had made it to the centre. The UK government condemned the violence and removed its support of Gaddafi, which resulted in some embarrassment on the part of the Foreign Office.

The problems in Libya are very different to those we have already seen. There is one main sticking point – and that is Gaddafi himself. When he came to power forty-one years ago, he did not assign himself a titled position. Therefore, even if he did want to resign (he doesn’t, but still) he has nothing to resign from. Officially at least, he has never been Libya’s leader.

Him

FEBRUARY 2009
The old woman turned and smiled. Her granddaughter was struck by the paleness of her eyes, which she had always thought of as a dazzling aqua-marine. Now they were that baby blue of a sky without cloud or sun in early spring. The weakness of the colour mixed with the weakness of her bones, and the young woman felt the need to rest her hand on her grandmother’s arm.
‘Now, Becky, I have some things to show you. Your uncle dug them out when I moved and I’ve been waiting for you to visit. I remembered how much you enjoyed your history lessons at school – you were always asking me questions on the telephone – so I thought these might interest you.’ She leant over the side of her armchair and pulled a pile of papers out of a half-open draw.
Rebecca did not mention that it was, in fact, her younger sister Holly who was now a history graduate, nor that she had actually never had much of a liking for the subject. It was nice to be perched on the low foot rest and to peer into her grandmother’s lap, as the old woman used both hands to put on her glasses. At the top of the pile was a black and white photograph of a large family. The youngest child, although her head barely reached her father’s knees, was clearly recognisable as Rebecca’s grandma, then known affectionately as Evie. As the two women leafed through the papers they watched the girl grow up until there she was, aged ten, wearing Sunday best for church. The old woman grimaced, but her eyes smiled. Rebecca had heard of the hours her grandmother had spent in church as a child and she too smiled to herself. They carried on through time, pausing now and then to read tickets to music halls and theatres. The grandmother explained some things and simply laughed at others. Soon they were staring into the eyes of a laughing sixteen year old, photographed on the arm of a handsome young man. Rebecca heard her grandmother’s sharp intake of breath. ‘Now, that’s a story.’ she muttered, almost to herself. Rebecca heard her, and begged to hear it.
***
June 1939.
Evelyn Johnson sat on the wall of the front garden of her family’s small terraced house, swinging her legs. Any minute now her mother would be calling for help with the dishes or the mopping, but Evelyn was too happy remembering her sixteenth birthday to move. It had been a very ordinary birthday in many respects. All her girlfriends at school had squealed with delight when she had arrived in the playground. School had been as dull as ever, apart from when old Mr Bracken had dropped a whole box of chalk, which had produced so much dust that he had turned completely white. That in itself had made the birthday a good one! After school the girls had stood in the playground and giggled together. Evelyn was relishing being the centre of attention when all went quiet. She turned, following the gazes of her friends, and watched as the most popular boy she knew made his way over. She caught his eye and he grinned his lopsided smile. And then, he actually asked her on a date. She had thought that she would die of happiness.
It was the beginning of an idyllic teenage romance, full of dancing and laughing and sunny afternoons on the green. Over the summer, the two of them became inseparable. They spent hours sitting together on the same front wall, while Evelyn’s mother watched secretly from behind the fraying net curtains. She enjoyed seeing her daughter’s face filled with such simple happiness, but was sad to think that it would not be long before her youngest child left home.
Evelyn had the summer of her life. For her, the sun seemed to always be shining, the air always full of silken warmth. She admired the vibrancy of the flowers that bloomed in her neighbours’ gardens and spent what felt like eternity gazing up at the stars in the navy sky, marvelling at her unforeseen luck. The summer felt like it would never end. Half way through August there was to be a dance. Evelyn waited and waited for her suitor to ask her to it, but he never even mentioned it. Two weeks before it, she decided that if he did not ask her within the week, she would arrange to go with her friends. The day approached, but still he said nothing.
***
FEBRUARY 2009
‘Did he ask you Grandma?’ Rebecca asked, as her grandmother paused her story to take a sip of water. She was enjoying this insight into a by-gone era that seemed so romantic to her modern eyes. She imagined the old woman as a young girl with a spring in her step, lips formed into a joyful smile, neat pastel-coloured dress swishing at her ankles. She had never considered that her grandmother could have been that young; she had always seemed so untouchably old to the girl.
‘That’s where the photo was taken.’ nodded the old woman. She shut her eyes and remembered the evening. She had worn that wonderful dress her mother had surprised her with as she was pinning up her hair. It was, and would remain, the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.   When she had put it on, she had felt herself grow up and gain the kind of elegance she had always admired in her older sisters. It had given her a sense of empowerment, as if from this point onwards the world was to be her oyster.
Rebecca listed as her grandmother described the delight of the dance and recalled what everyone had worn or who they had danced with. She could hear the band playing and the laughter of the young couples. She saw the colours of the various dresses combine into a delicious kaleidoscope as the bodies twisted and turned.
‘It was a fantastic night,’ said the old woman, ‘I felt so glamorous!’ she chuckled.
***
AUGUST 1939
The heat solidified as August continued, leaving the inhabitants of Evelyn’s street lethargic and irritable. She still basked in her happiness, oblivious to the inexplicable sense of apprehension felt by many around her. She thrived under her partner’s love and admiration. After the dance she spent more time out with him, having satisfied her parents as to his character. They ate ice-creams and skimmed pebbles on the lake in the park, laughing at each other in giddy competition. They sang along to his wireless and danced when no one was watching. It was so exciting to be growing up. It was so exciting to be alive. Evelyn barely noticed the leaves begin to brown and saw the cooler air that arrived with September as a perfect excuse to have this handsome boy’s arm around her shoulder.
One day they had been playing scrabble with his younger siblings whilst listening to the wireless, when the program was interrupted by a news reporter’s voice. His serious tone was enough to make the children stop squabbling and sit very still. Then the clearly recognisable voice of the Prime Minister came on air. ‘This country is at war with Germany,’ he declared. Evelyn stared at the wireless, dimly aware that this announcement changed everything. The children started chatting again, but were unnerved by the silence that prevailed and soon slipped out into the garden.
‘It will be ok,’ he told her when he saw the panic in her eyes, ‘It will all be over soon.’
***
FEBRUARY 2009
‘It was a very confusing time for us youngsters, Becky. We were reassured so often during the first month or so that everything was fine that we forgot that it wasn’t. By October though, things had changed. The air raids became more frequent and before we knew it the younger children were evacuated. I think that was the worst bit of the war for many people; seeing their frightened faces with forced smiles peering out of those train windows. I’ve never seen so many women cry. It was for the best, I suppose.
‘Then conscription started and men disappeared in dibs and drabs. By that time my father had a very bad back and was not allowed to join, but my eldest brother left for France in mid-November. We all worried about him, but we never really doubted his safety. Everyone would like to say that the beginning of the war was terrible, but it wasn’t, Becky. No, not at all. You see, everyone was convinced that it would be finished within months and all our men would return. It did not quite go like that in the end.’
***
JANUARY 1940
Evelyn felt as if someone had taken up the floor she was standing on. After his older brother had been killed, all he had been able to think about was joining the fighting. Nothing she had said had dissuaded him and now, here he was, back from the recruitment office. He had gone so far as to lie about his age so that he would be accepted. The officer had suspicions, but the forces were desperate and no questions had been asked.
At first, Evelyn hid her fear under anger, accusing him of not loving her enough to stay. He stood looking straight at her until her lips quivered and tears formed in her eyes. As the first one began to trickle down her face he silently stepped forwards and gently placed him arms around her. He rocked her gently back and forth as she cried; not letting go even after the sobs had halted. He repeated the words he had said so often during the last few months. ‘It will all be ok.’ he promised.
Within a week he was leaving. Evelyn went with his parents to see off the convoy of vans full of young men. Those departing and those left behind waved to each other and cheered raucously in an effort to cover up the gloom. Fathers slapped their boys on the back, making endless jokes about winning the war. Mothers and sisters presented the new recruits with extra socks and homemade biscuits.
As the vans drove off, one by one, Evelyn felt the vitality drain from her body. She waved and waved, but each movement involved an increased effort until she felt unreasonably tired. She gave up waving before any other member of the crowd and just stood still. Eventually she turned and wandered home. Somewhere along the way she must have taken a wrong turning in the streets she had known all her life, because she found herself walking along the edge of the park. For the first time in ages, it was empty. Evelyn wondered if anyone would ever enjoy the open space again. In the space of days, the park had acquired that haziness one sees when remembering a place known only in early childhood.
***
FEBRUARY 2009
‘After a while, I pulled myself together,’ the old woman said, rolling her eyes as if to mock herself, ‘I threw myself into the Dig for Victory campaign and ended up spending my days tending the carrots my father had planted in the garden. Now that I think about it, I don’t think anyone carried on going to school. Most of them were closed anyway, I suppose. I must admit that those months passed in a dream for me. I was completely unaware of what was happening around me. In a way, it was blissful. We all really believed that our carrots would win the war!’ she laughed at her granddaughter’s smile. ‘Yes, ludicrous isn’t it? But we did, we really believed it then. That was the best part of the war.’
‘What changed Grandma?’ asked Rebecca, sensing something ominous in her grandmother’s tone.
***
MAY 1940
Evelyn opened the telegram which was sealed with the army’s coat of arms, but she did not have to read it. Too many people had received identical envelopes for her to doubt its contents. It was obvious. He was gone. He would not be one of the boys returning home on leave in a few weeks time. No, he would never return. She would never again dance with him or laugh as he teased her. She would never again see his smile or hear his voice. She sunk down into a chair and her mother wrapped her arms around her. No one cried, no one spoke, but Evelyn felt the walls draw closer and the ceiling bear down upon her. Her clothes seemed to tighten, squashing the air from her lungs and making her dizzy. As black dots peppered her vision she was vaguely aware of her father’s voice, normally so strong, now sounding as if it was stuck in his throat. But she couldn’t work out what he was saying. It was as if he was floating further and further away from her.
***
FEBRUARY 2009
Becky frowned. ‘But Grandpa came back from the war. He must have.’ she said, her brain whirring as it tried to piece together the story. Nothing made sense and she wondered if her grandmother had become confused.
The old woman regarded her with surprise. ‘Who said anything about your Grandpa?’ she asked, ‘of course he came back from the war; I didn’t meet him until 1948.’
Becky opened her mouth and shut it again as she realised she had misunderstood the whole story. Her grandmother’s childhood sweetheart was not her grandfather, but one of those countless boys who had died on the battlefields of France. ‘Grandma, did you ever love Grandpa?’ she asked slowly, drawing out the words as if part of her brain did not want to be speaking them. She could not imagine the young girl in the story ever loving anyone else but nor could she erase all the wonderful memories of her grandparents together. The two thoughts conflicted in her mind.
‘Why of course dear, don’t be silly.’ The grandmother laughed, her eyes shining with some unnamed emotion.
The two women sat in silence. Rebecca held the photograph in both hands, while the old woman watched the world outside her window. After several minutes Rebecca spoke again, quietly and calmly. She had asked the wrong question. There was another, much more important one to ask. ‘But did you ever stop loving him?’ She pointed at the photograph.
After a short pause, still staring out of the window, the now old Evelyn replied. ‘It was a long time ago Becky. Who knows what could have happened. And in some ways, it doesn’t matter anymore. Life will always go on.’ she sighed and Becky sensed that it was time to talk of other things.

Please

Invisible hands grasp me
Claw and pull and push and squeeze
Fingers dig ‘til flesh turns pink
And white and I can not move –
Can no longer free myself
Shouting then, whimpering now
I beg you to come, save me

This poem was written in a creative writing exercise where we had to write seven lines of seven syllables. Enjoy, Luc

What this blog has taught me so far

Hello to my wonderful readers! I would like to take the time to thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you enjoy reading what I post, and that you find my news articles informative. Writing this blog has changed how I view the media. I am forced to question whether information given in articles in newspapers or on television reports is necessary or interesting. I am starting to link different stories together and I am beginning to see the bigger picture in terms of world politics and the economy. By analysing what I am told, I feel that I am gaining more from it. My research has led me to question the accuracy and biases of different takes on the same story and forced me to form my own voice, of which I hope you approve. And of course, as I am always looking out for an article the news is now even more important to me.

I am aware of the lack of creative writing on my blog, for which I apologise. I can only promise you that this is due to a failure of time management, rather than a serious case of writer’s block. I will try to post some more in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your continuing support, Luc

The world is changing

Tunisia tried, and prompted Egypt to follow. They both succeeded. Now, all across the Middle East, ordinary people are rising up against those who have ruled them for decades, if not centuries. In Yemen, Bahrain and Libya protesters are demanding the rights and freedoms they have been denied for so long.

People power seems to be winning, which is something that should give millions of people around the world a very important thing – hope. For so many, hope is the one thing that drives them on and now we are finally seeing it bring about real change. A new era of democracy is tantalisingly close.

Of course, these things take time. These countries have been under autocracy for so long that there simply is not an acceptable political system that could allow free and fair elections. In Egypt and Tunisia, it will be some time before new constitutions are instated. We need to allow this to happen without growing impatient for change. If things are hurried there will be opportunities for people to take advantage of the new system. Most importantly, the West needs to put trust in the people of these countries, because we can not force our ideals on them. For democracy to succeed, it must be chosen by the people.