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How do you respond to war?

Here’s 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:

  • 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.
  • When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs. I’m not sure why my parents bought me this book either (perhaps a means to deal with difficult concepts for children?). 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 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 features run by The Sun to support ‘Our Boys’ including an alternative version of the song ‘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 knickers 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 bare breasts 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 favour…

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

The Iraq War

I had a friend living in Kuwait who called me to describe the time a rocket went over as she was working in 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 worried constantly about her, hoped she would come home (which thankfully she did) and carried on living my life.

9-11

I was out shopping, buying a present for my husband to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.

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 websites had crashed so we put on a radio and stood there in silence and disbelief. I thought “We’re all going to die, WWIII is on the way.”

I took my shoes and belt off at airports, filled in forms, waited in extra long queues but still visited America many times in the years that followed. I carried on visiting tourist attractions, landmarks, corporate offices. I went to work for a big American company. I carried on living my life.

7-7

I was at Heathrow airport and saw the report on a news screen as I waited to board a plane. I phoned my husband. We made sure everyone we loved was safe. I still 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’ on the list – 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.

 

 

This was originally posted on my blog: Reasons to be Cheerful

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2 Responses

  1. Good piece, with humour and optimism (as your pieces always are). Keep ’em coming. Being older than you I can also remember the Falklands War: I was just out of uni and one day a friend told me that people were going to get conscripted. That shook me up a bit. A wind-up, of course. If that war hadn’t happened and hadn’t been won, Thatcher may well have lost the next election. What would have happened then? Where would we be now? Answers on a postcard…

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