5. Thursday on the tube

In my last post I shared the 5 reasons why I started blogging again. Number 5 needed some explaining so here goes.

Last Thursday I was thinking a lot about remembrance. So much so that my brain started to hurt and I needed to write stuff down. This has happened a few times recently and so I’ve been collecting these in my phone or on my laptop. Anyway, I left work on Thursday and wanted to finish off my writing about remembrance while it was still in my head.

I got on the tube at White City and took out my laptop. As I tapped away people got on and others got off around me. I wasn’t really aware of the man sitting next to me at all until I finished typing and closed the window I was working in. And then something odd happened…

This guy next to me took out his right earphone and said – “aww I was reading that.” Like most commuters I am used to people reading over my shoulder. I work on 3 out of my 4 train and tube journeys everyday either on my phone or laptop so I’m accustomed to a certain level of intrusion that comes when curiosity meets boredom. What was unusual was this guys willingness to put himself out there and turn himself in as an over the shoulder peeper. I smiled politely and told the defendant (although having confessed his defence was surely shakey) that it was just some thoughts from my day. He then did the unthinkable by asking – “Could I read the rest of it?”

Woah woah woah, this is way beyond the rules of London travel. The fact that we were talking was bad enough, he’d been caught (albeit by confession) reading over my shoulder, that’s one thing but to then front up ask to read the rest well I was…..I was….well actually I was really flattered so I opened it up again to let him read.

I don’t know much about this guy, we didn’t swap names or suggest another meet-up but what I do know is this – he’s an out loud reader. And so as we sat on the packed central line train he began to read out loud my thoughts on remembrance.

He smiled when I was being light-hearted and nodded his head when he agreed with something and when he finished he said “I liked that, I’m glad I met you today”. He then put his headphone back in and resumed the position of a London commuter with eyes front and music on. As I got off the train he patted my shoulder, mouthed “thanks” and we parted ways.

I don’t know why he was glad he met me that day. Maybe, like me, he doesn’t always know what to say in slightly awkward situations and he went for something that sounded good in his head. Maybe he really was glad to have met me that day, maybe it was one of those ‘right place at the right times’ moments for him. Maybe it was one of those for me.

What I do know is that a blog I’d restarted a month before but told no-one about was reopened and I started blogging again. And my first post after that was all about remembrance.

So thank you Mr Reads Out Loud Central Line Man…I’m really glad I met you that day.


Why I decided to start blogging again

I guess there’s a number of reasons. I’m not sure what that number is yet so I’ll start writing and see where I end up;

1. When the Dale Farm travellers where evicted I got so wound up with the nonsense being put on Facebook and twitter that I ended up typing all my thoughts into my iPhone.

2. I was thinking a lot about remembrance this week. Reading articles, watching people debate on TV and again I had of stuff that I ended up typing onto my laptop.

3. I have a lot of thoughts and my head gets full.

4. I can be quite forgetful so this will help me find stuff I’ve read or thought about.

5. Thursday on the tube.

So there we are – 5 reasons why I’ve got back into blogging.

I appreciate number 5 may need some more explanation. That comes next.

Culture, Faith, Politics

I haven’t bought a poppy yet…

…To be clear, I’m not making any sort of stand or political point. I’m not desperately scouring the streets for an illusive white alternative or hoping someone will ask why I’m not wearing one so I can share my lament on the glorification of war or suggest a 9-point plan of alternative remembrance…I just keep forgetting to get one.

I’m the guy who on Sunday morning will wake up and realise he hasn’t got one yet. I’ll run across to my local petrol station hoping they’ve got some left. Sure, they’ll be the bottom of the box ones which are always a bit squashed and there’ll be no pins left but I’ll still pay my £1…no, I’ll pay £1.50 just on case the person at the till thinks I don’t care enough.

Maybe I’ll get a pin badge, or a sparkly one like those ones off of X-Factor (is there a more satisfying phrase than ‘off of’ ?) I could attach one to my car or embroider it into my shirt…the options are endless. But whatever one I choose, I will wear a poppy this year. It’s not because I long to glorify war or because I want to justify our military budget or suggest no lives have ever been lost unnecessarily. I’ll wear one because I have the choice not to wear one. I can pin on a red one or a white one. I can choose to stand on the street and observe a silence, I can choose to sit silently at my desk. I can choose to not be silent, to carry on working, put some music on. Or I can shout, bang drums or blow whistles. I get the choice.

I’ll wear one because right now I have the freedom to write this, to post it online, to share it with the world…or at least those parts of the world where opportunity, poverty or government measures don’t stop people accessing it.

I’ll wear one because the fact that in some parts of the world people are held back by opportunity, poverty or government measures can be protested by camping next to landmarks or marching or banging drums and blowing whistles here in the UK. Genuine opposition to government is welcomed, encouraged and even voted for. Questions of or concerns about the government aren’t just allowed, they’re broadcast week in and week out on national television and radio. If you don’t like the leader, you can tell him, make posters about him, draw cartoons of him and, in at least a few years time, get rid of him. Despite the cries of both the absurd extreme right and equally absurd extreme left – we are free.

I’ll wear one because whilst back in the first half of the 20th century my asthma might have got me out of it, countless others didn’t get a choice. Either by conviction or conscription they went, and today they still go. They still go to places I’m not sure they should be but I’m also not in the position where I have to weigh up the evidence and make those choices. They still go to places where people don’t get to vote or blog or protest. They still go where they’re wanted and they still go where they’re unwanted to protect and serve and when we don’t like it we can write or blog and protest all we choose because we are free. And the idea that by stopping for 2 minutes or wearing a red flowery symbol or laying a wreath somehow glorifies war is an absurdity. We remember so we don’t forget in our free society in which it’s often too easy to.

I believe that peace has to be the ultimate goal. I believe that peace has to be what we seek at all times and in all scenarios. I dream of a day when peace is the norm, of a world in which my kids (don’t get too excited mum) learn from our leaders and from us each that there are other ways besides conflict…but when that day comes I’ll still wear a poppy and I’ll still stand in silence of the people who helped us get there.

I read recently that someone felt the tagline for the poppy appeal ‘Lest we forget’ was a bad one. They suggested that without the appeal and the services and silences we wouldn’t forget. Maybe they’re right. Maybe without it all we’d still be reminded to take a moment, to reflect on those who died and who still put themselves in danger day in and day out as the world tries to figure out how to live in peace with itself and each other. But right now I’m not sure it’s worth the risk…because I still haven’t bought a poppy yet.