Having spent most of the past two years undertaking numerous and varied challenges on behalf of the charity Mind and the Time to Change programme, I was planning a much quieter year in 2016… plenty of writing, trying to get fit and losing a bit of weight etc… but there is still a desire to push myself, to experience or achieve something new; and to continue raising awareness of mental health issues.
To that end, I am setting myself the goal of recording a single during 2016.
On the basis that I haven’t played a musical instrument since I was eleven (Grade 3 Trumpet—with a “merit” no less), I will provide what I can only loosely describe as vocals. I would then need someone to sing with me (then at least the song will be 50% in tune), a guitarist (or two), bass player and drummer—otherwise known as a band I guess!—who would be prepared to participate, a song (I grew up in the punk/new wave era, but I like lots of music), a bit of time to rehearse and a however long it takes in a recording studio (which I’ll happily pay for)… and hopefully, if modern technology can work a miracle with my voice, there will be a finished article that prove just what can be achieved by a willingness to ask for help, and a determination to succeed—two things that are so important in dealing with any form of mental illness.
Irrespective of the fifty-four tasks that I have already completed, much of the recent inspiration to start another project has come from an old friend Ian Jones, a former team mate of mine at Chester le Street Cricket Club, who not only trained for, competed in, but actually won a charity bout in the boxing ring earlier this month. As someone who sparred for just three minutes against unbeaten light-welterweight Josh Leather back in 2014, and was hit (fairly repeatedly) in the face by punches I never even saw, I have so much admiration for what Ian has achieved—congratulations mate. Tough guy with a big heart.
So many people have done such great things for charity during 2015—Andy Kelly and Jeannette Carroll immediately spring to mind for their amazing “journeys” (arghhh, I hate that word so much!)—that it just wouldn’t feel right not to get involved again next year.
I’ll hopefully get fit enough to attempt something a bit more physical in the summer, but for now if you live in the north east and you play in a band, or know someone who does (please share like you’ve never shared before), or you think you might be able to help in any way at all, I’d really love to hear from you.
I will not be able to do this without the help of others, but if that help is forthcoming, there will be updates, blogs and eventually an end product that might not get to no.1 in the charts (although top ten would be nice), but will serve as a permanent reminder of the reason why I started these challenges in the first place….
Finally, in wishing a happy and healthy New Year to anyone who has taken the time to read any/some/all of my blogs during 2015, I want to send my very best wishes to my good friend Glen Durrant who will be aiming to become the BDO World Darts Champion at Lakeside over the next couple of weeks.
Over the past two years, Glen has inspired and encouraged me, and taken me from someone affected by almost uncontrollable nerves to someone capable of hitting back-to-back 180s in a leg against the current world no.1 earlier this week… still lost though!! So thank you Glen… good luck… and just for the record, if you do lift the trophy on January 10, I will be holding you solely responsible for my subsequent failure to complete “Dry January”!
The BDO World Dart Championships get underway at Lakeside on 2nd January 2016; and there is a very real possibility that the trophy could be coming back to the north east.
The top seed is the Middlesbrough-born and bred current world no.1 Glen Durrant, and “Duzza” goes into the tournament as the deserved favourite following a string of hugely impressive performances, particularly during the latter part of the year.
Glen bowed out of the last January’s World Championships at the semi-final stage, after losing an epic match to the eventual runner-up Martin Adams. It was a remarkable game of darts… totally compelling viewing, which culminated in a defeat that could have broken a lesser man, but which has arguably inspired the 45 year-old’s subsequent surge to the top of the BDO rankings.
Victory in the Isle of Man Classic in March was followed by successes in the Denmark Open, Welsh Open and England Classic, before Glen’s major breakthrough at the Winmau World Masters trophy in October. He was in imperious form throughout the tournament and backed up that title with another important win, this time at the Finder Masters in Holland.
Oh and just for good measure, he was also a member of the England team that travelled to Turkey in October and returned with the WDF World Cup….
Obviously there are no guarantees in a sport where winning and losing can be determined by the narrowest of margins, but Glen will travel down to Surrey safe in the knowledge that he is playing superbly, and he is very much the man to beat.
From a personal point of view, I’ve been lucky to get to know Glen over the past couple of years, and he is an unfailingly supportive and generous man. I contacted him just after the 2014 World Championships to ask if he would consider helping out with one of my “charity challenges”. I had no right to expect a reply, but Glen not only took the time to meet (and beat) me; he offered me the opportunity to confront my genuine fear of playing darts in public, by getting up on stage and facing him in front of a room full of people.
The issues I have with nerves and confidence are deep-rooted (to the extent that I had not played in a pub or club for twenty-five years), but Glen was never short of a piece of advice or a word of encouragement, and come that August night I think I gave Glen a half-decent game. That said it wasn’t about competing with, let alone beating Glen. My “victory” was guaranteed when the first dart left my hand and hit the big twenty… but everything I achieved (if that’s the right word) that evening was down to one man: Glen Durrant.
During 2015, I have played darts five times… once against Glen and once each against the current World Champion (Scott Mitchell), a dual former World Champion (Ted Hankey) and a three-time runner-up (Tony O’Shea). I lost all those games—three by a considerable margin—but against “Scotty Dog” Mitchell I proved to myself (and hopefully to Glen as well) that I can play darts, as I matched the World Champion throughout a leg of 701, hitting 140 on the way, and actually having a shot at 85 to win the match.
Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that one “game” is unaccounted for. Actually the fifth outing was a twelve-hour solo charity darts marathon in May. Glen was scheduled to play in the Welsh Open the following day (which he duly won, becoming world no.1 in the process), yet typically of the man, he came still along to support the event—although rather craftily he waited until I’d been throwing for five hours before turning up and handing out a darting lesson!
I must admit I’ve been very disappointed with how I’ve performed in the last three “exhibitions”. I play fine when I’m practising at home… but finishing games in 15 darts or less (including one 11-darter during the summer) means nothing when you go to pieces as soon as MC Gok says “Game on”.
I’ve met some really good people through attending these events, and I wish I could show them that there is a decent player somewhere inside me; but most of all I need to repay Glen for everything he has done for me over the past two years. The best way to do that is to get up on stage and play like I can at home—just typing the words is daunting, but one thing is for sure, I’m not going to give up.
First of all though, it’s the “big one “ at Lakeside. I’ll be glued to my television (obviously not literally…), cheering for “Duzza”: a fine player, a top bloke… and hopefully the next World Champion.
Good luck mate… and thank you.
I watched the Sports Personality of the Year awards last night—or “SPOTY” as the event now appears to be known—and it certainly looked like a lavish occasion, as the great and the good from the world of sport gathered in Belfast to celebrate the achievements of the past twelve months.
And there have undoubtedly been plenty of notable performances and successes… but anyone hoping for an in-depth review of (or even a few half-decent clips from) the sporting year was going to be left disappointed as the two-and-a-bit hours (including an overrun caused almost single-handedly by Northern Ireland football manager Michael O’Neill) consisted mainly of profiles and interviews featuring the twelve contenders for the main award, and the presentation of the various other trophies.
For me, two of the biggest highlights were Bailey Matthews receiving the Helen Rollason award; the eight year-old has remarkable inner strength and I doubt we have heard the last of this inspiring youngster; and the appearance of Lizzie Jones, widow of the late Keighley Cougars half back Danny, who sang “Danny Boy” to the backdrop of pictures of those sportsmen and women who had passed away during 2015. To hear her sing so beautifully as an image of her husband appeared on the large screen behind her was so moving: she is an incredibly courageous young woman.
It was really good to see netball getting a mention, with England’s Tracey Neville being nominated for the Coach of the Year, and her squad in the long list for Team of the Year after their third-place finish at August’s World Cup. The England women’s footballers also finished third in their respective World Cup, and their efforts were rewarded by Lucy Bronze’s inclusion in the final twelve for the evening’s big prize.
It is no secret that the England women’s EuroHockey triumph is my absolute favourite sporting moment of the whole year. What the girls achieved in overturning a two goal final quarter deficit against the reigning World and Olympic champions Holland before dominating the penalty shoot-out was truly outstanding. The celebrations that followed Holland’s decisive miss were wonderful to watch, as goalkeeper Maddie Hinch was engulfed by her joyous team mates. It was a show of unrestrained joy from the girls, many of whom had shown so much character to win a bronze medal at London 2012 in the guise of Great Britain; and I for one can’t wait for Rio….
That said I must admit I struggled to recognise the members of the victorious squad who attended the event. They all looked fantastic, but every previous time I’ve seen them, they’ve had a stick in their hand and a number on their back… I’m pretty sure they had neither last night. I have been lucky enough to meet Alex Danson, so I spotted her straightaway. I’m 99.9% sure Sophie Bray was there… possibly Lily Owsley as well? I may need some help now….
It’s hard to criticise those charged with selecting a list of candidates (or eventual winners) because the process would seem to be a subjective minefield. I listened briefly to a radio phone-in after the show when callers were effectively saying that “so-and-so should have won because… er… I wanted them to”. Defining success or putting a scale of achievement into some sort of context is nigh on impossible; all I would say is that every single individual or team nominee absolutely deserved to be recognised… and the hockey girls were robbed!
Just for the record, I wonder if Leicester City came under serious consideration as a possible contender for Team of the Year, because you’d have been ridiculed for suggesting that what they have achieved in 2015 was even conceivable, let alone possible….
Moving on to the main award… my preferred winner and runner-up (Jessica Ennis-Hill and Kevin Sinfield) actually came third and second respectively. I was slightly disappointed for our World Heptathlon champion, but elated to see rugby league getting some totally deserved (and long overdue) recognition through the endeavours of the Leeds Rhinos and Great Britain captain. Sinfield is a modest man who has excelled in arguably the toughest team sport; and the fact that he and the eventual winner polled more than half of the total number of votes cast is a staggering statistic that must be a huge boost to everyone involved in rugby league.
The winner was by this point a foregone conclusion, and Andy Murray duly stepped up to receive his second Sports Personality of the Year award in three years. He wasn’t my choice, but no argument at all with the result; after all, three hundred-and-something thousand voters can’t be wrong, can they?!
Murray still seems to have his detractors, but notwithstanding his talent on the tennis court, I actually have a lot of time for the man himself; and I thought the speech he gave on receiving the trophy was just right for the occasion.
So there you have it. Congratulations to all the winners and a big well done to me for typing something in the region of 850 words and not mentioning Tyson Fury once….
Back in 2004, shortly after a revelation that completely changed the course of my life, I started to write a novel.
Over the years that followed, I wrote… I changed… I deleted… I wrote again... and again…. until a decade after typing those first words, I finally completed my book.
It was so difficult to write (for any number of reasons) and I will readily admit that I am more proud of this novel than any other piece of work I have ever undertaken. The book is called The Beige Beetle and here is the “official” synopsis from the websites where the e-book is available to download.
“Matthew Green was eighteen and just starting his first year as a university student. He hoped that being away from home might help him finally come to terms with certain events from his past, but his demons refused to release their grip... until a chance meeting that would have the most dramatic effect on not one, but two lives. Please note the book covers some difficult subjects, includes occasional strong language and mild sexual references.”
I don’t think for a minute that this book will bring me fame and fortune—to be honest I’m not greedy, I’d settle for just the fortune—but I do honestly believe that the story is worth reading. The “difficult subjects” mentioned above include (but are not restricted to) depression and bulimia; and I am therefore going to forward this short blog to Time to Change, the Mentally Sound Radio Show, and the Men Tell Health website with the following offer….
If anyone would be willing to write a considered and honest review of The Beige Beetle (of any length) which could be added to those currently on my website (there's a link below), please would you e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send a pdf version of the book by return (or at least as quickly as I can depending on where I happen to be when the e-mail arrives!).
Please feel free to pass on this message to any friends you think might be interested in reading and reviewing the book. I’ve said before that this is my magnum opus (my biggest ice cream, if you will...) and anyone who takes the time to commit their thoughts to electronic paper will be acknowledged in all updated versions of the paperback—oh and also in the film credits should wildest dreams ever come true!
Thank you so much.
The curtain fell on the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing last night, with the final providing more of this season’s mix of exceptional performances and no little controversy.
In the lead up to the semi-final, the main talking point in the media surrounded perceptions... allegations even, of “biased” marking—attempts to manipulate the leader-board to cancel out the vagaries of the public vote that had seen the talented Helen George dispatched in a dance-off against another of the leading contenders, Georgia May Foote.
Katie Derham had made remarkable progress during the competition and was as popular with the public as the overly-excitable (yet wonderfully gifted) Kellie Bright evidently was not... but the judging panel’s collective credibility was lost (or maybe the producers’ instructions were simply followed...?) when Anita Rani was sacrificed to allow Ms Derham—or rather Anton du Beke—a free pass to the final.
The controversy theorist in me thinks that this will be du Beke’s swansong, with a place on the judging panel beckoning as Len Goodman drifts into walnut-pickling retirement. Only Craig Revel-Horwood voted to keep the inspirational Anita Rani on the show; and it is to the credit of the oft-maligned judge that he raised his head above the political parapet to support the better dancer overall... the better dancer on the night... and the better performer in the dance-off.
As for the final itself, it seems quite bizarre to state that the night’s surprise came with the fact that the pre-show favourite duly lifted the Glitterball trophy, because after du Beke had enjoyed his moment in the proverbial sun, Jay McGuiness and Aliona Vilani played it incredibly safe, whilst Kellie and Georgia threw caution to the dancing wind with contrasting, but equally brilliant show dances and two sublime Charlestons.
Georgia and Giovanni’s show dance, which started with the former Coronation Street actress blindfolded, moved me to tears, before Kellie Bright and Kevin (from Grimsby) produced a routine that fully justified the four tens it received.
For his part, Jay McGuiness made the difficult look effortlessly easy; he was consistent and eminently watchable on the dance floor, and understatedly charming off it. His pre-final favouritism was totally justified, but his three dances were not of the quality of his two main rivals; and we were left with what was effectively a popularity contest to determine the winner.
Having appeared in two dance-offs, Kellie Bright may have feared the worst, as an element of public indifference had already been demonstrated. The Queen Vic’s landlady could have done little more on the night (119 out of 120 is staggering) and Georgia’s efforts look like being rewarded with a future West End career... not a bad prize for a runner-up, but ultimately it was Aliona plus Boy Band member (shades of Harry Judd and the Kazakhstan-born beauty in 2011) who emerged victorious.
Despite the contentious moments, and the continually irritating presence of Tess Daly (am I the only one who thinks Claudia Winkleman is streets ahead as a presenter?), season 13 of Strictly Come Dancing has been fantastic... but I still bet that by Boxing Day you’ll not be able to name all the celebrities who took part!
“I’m not sexist,” declared Tyson Fury. “I believe a woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back. That’s my personal belief. Making me a good cup of tea, that’s what I believe.”
And about Jessica Ennis-Hill: “That’s the runner, isn’t it? She’s good, she’s won quite a few medals, she slaps up good as well. When she’s got a dress on she looks quite fit.”
Add remarks seemingly equating homosexuality and abortion with paedophilia, and it isn’t difficult to form an opinion about the 27 year-old recently crowned World Heavyweight boxing champion… and it’s certainly not a particularly flattering opinion.
I have read that Fury is a religious man… a born-again Christian apparently. I disagree totally with his beliefs and comments, but I suppose he has as much right as anyone to air his views.
Or does he?
In the overall scheme of things, my opinion is of no consequence. I’m not even sure if the people living two doors down the street know who I am… far less care about what I have to say. However in defeating Wladimir Kitschko, Fury not only reached the pinnacle of his chosen sport, he (almost by definition) became a role model.
For me, elevation to the kind of lofty status that brings worldwide fame and no lack of financial reward is accompanied by an albeit unwritten code to preserve the reputation of the sport in question—and the ability to step away from causing needless controversy.
To overcome the Ukrainian was an undeniably fantastic achievement, and in my opinion the performance warrants Fury’s inclusion in the twelve-strong shortlist for Sunday’s Sports Personality of the Year Award.
But he won’t win.
And in fairness, he wouldn’t have won whether or not he’d opened his mouth to impart his own brand of self-perceived “wisdom”—his comments have just brought proverbial nail and coffin together one final time. The real reason why Fury will not be collecting this particular sporting accolade is that several other candidates simply have better credentials.
Andy Murray, Lewis Hamilton and maybe Chris Froome will have their supporters, but my idea of the winner is Jessica Ennis-Hill; you know… “the runner”… or as I prefer to describe her: “the finest all-round female athlete on the planet”.
To win a world title in any multi-disciplinary athletic event is a staggering accomplishment, requiring dedication and determination and skills that are way beyond my imagination. Jessica had climbed that mountain twice before, claiming World Championship heptathlon gold in Berlin in 2009, before her golden success at London 2012, achieved despite the massive pressure of being the media-created “poster girl” of the first home Olympic Games since 1948.
To then be crowned World Champion once again, a little over a year after giving birth to her first child, takes her actual feat to a level that none of the other contenders can match. As well as being a supreme athlete, she comes across as a charming, engaging young woman and a brilliant ambassador for her sport…
I reckon that ticks all the boxes.
It’s great to see rugby league represented in the final twelve, and Kevin Sinfield’s presence amongst the nation’s sporting elite is a richly deserved accolade for a man who has served Leeds Rhinos, England and Great Britain with such courage and distinction. I would love to see him placed in the top three, although I would concede that contenders from sports with a higher national profile may be more popular with voters.
It’s just a shame that the individual and collective achievements of Jessica Ennis-Hill, Kevin Sinfield et al have almost been superseded by the crass remarks of a man who should arguably let his ability in the ring do all his talking for him.
As some of you will know it is a bit of a bugbear of mine that Fury’s camp seems intent on portraying the fighter as the new Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, but claims that Tyson Fury “shook up the world” in defeating Wladimir Klitschko are way off the mark in my opinion. True it was a fine performance against a great, but ageing champion… but I really can’t see any valid comparison between the Klitschko of 2015, and the Sonny Liston that stepped through those ropes in February 1964.
Maybe Fury and his entourage think that being outspoken is in some way another similarity with “the Greatest”… well Ali’s wit was as fast as his feet and lightning fists, and he was genuinely funny to the point that you almost forgot he was often trying to get under the skin of an opponent. I’ve watched an awful lot of archive footage and can’t recall any remarks of the general and demeaning nature attributed to Tyson Fury. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… comparisons are frankly pointless; there will only ever be one “Greatest”.
A few months short after Cassius Clay took Liston’s world title, British heptathlete Mary Rand was named the 1964 Sports Personality of the Year after her exploits during the Tokyo Olympics. She is rated by some as the finest all-round British athlete there has ever been, and perhaps it would be fitting if Jessica Ennis-Hill, surely the best of her generation, stepped up to receive the same award on Sunday....
Mid-December already… we say it every year, but where has the time gone??
As another year draws to a close, now seems like the appropriate time for some personal (but publicly shared) reflection.
Away from the workplace, much of the past two years has been dominated by my attempts to raise awareness of mental health issues and stigma through a series of what turned out to be fifty-four “challenges”, as well as a willingness to share my personal life experiences.
2015 was the year in which the condition I have had for probably four decades was identified as dysthymia… for so many things to suddenly fall into place after all those years was a massive deal for me. Subsequently I have spoken about my condition and how it can affect/has affected me on live radio and, even more recently, in front of my work colleagues. It wasn’t an easy thing to do (maybe that’s the point…), but much as a diagnosis of “depression” felt like both a heavy burden and an unwanted label, the realisation of what I actually have… and who I actually am, has been as much of a release as my symptoms will allow. It felt right to share… because you just never know when your story might a strike a chord.
Like everyone who is reading this (well… providing you’ve read this far), there have been any number of ups and downs over the last eleven months--such is life I guess. Elaine has certainly had more than her fair share to deal with; yet she conducts herself with such incredible dignity. I am both extremely lucky and immensely proud to be her husband.
If I was to pick out a couple of my most memorable moments from 2015’s “challenges”, facing England badminton international Rhys Walker definitely stands out. I hadn’t played for ten years, I’m totally unfit, and my hips are completely shot; but for forty minutes I gave everything I had to try and compete… and it felt fantastic. Meeting the Olympic gold medallist Ann Packer (now Brightwell) was another wonderful experience. I would normally shy away from meeting people for whom I have so much admiration, but Ann was lovely—and it was the perfect way to bring the challenge project to an end.
As a sublimely gifted couch potato, my highlights from the world of sport were the stunning performance of England’s women to win the EuroHockey championships, and Glen Durrant proving that nice guys can finish first by lifting darts Winmau World Masters Trophy just a few short weeks ago. And finally, my enduring sporting image of 2015 is of Scotland netballer Gemma Sole (below right), piping her team mates onto court during the World Cup in August… a wonderful moment.
I would just like to thank everyone who has supported my work for Mind and Time to Change these past two years, and to wish Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year to: all my family, and the friends I have made… through any of my varied challenges; from my time playing cricket for Gateshead Fell and Chester le Street; from watching Gateshead FC and Gateshead Thunder; members and fans of Killing for Company, Epic Problem, The Karma Heart and This Elegant Chaos; friends from St Peter’s and Newcastle Polytechnic (as it was way back when…), those who have helped me with, bought, read (and hopefully) enjoyed my books on Doctor Who, Marilyn Monroe or Marie Prevost; to my friends from the local Muslim Community, work colleagues past and present, everyone I’ve got to know at Grangetown Netball Club, new friends at Netball Ireland, and anyone I may have inadvertently overlooked (for which I apologise)….
I’ve got to go now… I’m playing darts against the “Silverback” Tony O’Shea later this evening. My recent form can best be described as “crap”, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll be better tonight.
I’ve had an almost entirely Facebook free week in the sunshine, but thankfully BBC and ITV kept me up-to-date with the important events back home... and away from the terrible floods that have devastated parts of Cumbria, the words of two men have grabbed many of the headlines.
I will consider Tyson Fury’s provocative comments another day, but firstly I just wanted to type a few words in response to Donald Trump’s desire to impose a blanket ban on Muslims entering the United States, and his assertion that Britain is hiding a “massive Muslim problem”.
Such comments are always going to create a the widest possible divide in public opinion, thereby guaranteeing Trump’s place at the top of news bulletins right around the world... and being so blatantly controversial is undeniably the ideal “shit or bust” tactic for a political hopeful.
He may well have a deeply-held conviction in his views, and may also believe he can back up his claims, but frankly the words of anyone who wears the remains of a once cute and furry animal on his head should never be taken seriously....
Unfortunately his comments are serious... they are inflammatory, accusatory... and as far as Britain is concerned, they totally undermine a country that isn’t even Trump’s home.
But Britain is my home. And equally it is home to many thousands of Muslims.
There are people out there far better informed and able to argue the rights and wrongs of conflicts around the globe purportedly raging in the name of religion; it is my simplistic belief (and I apologise for a generalisation of my own) that there are good and bad people of any and every (or even no) faith. The fact is that I share the world/country/town in which I live with a wonderfully diverse group of fellow human beings, so many possessing proud heritages and customs, rich cultures, and... whisper it softly... their own particular God in whom they entrust their spiritual wellbeing.
I am not a Muslim. I do not fully understand what it means to be a Muslim... to follow the Islamic faith, but rather than simply forming a judgement based on the oft-quoted media stereotype, this is what I did....
I made friends within the Muslim community. I observed Ramadan and celebrated Iftar (and yes, I still hate dates), and I even went to Friday prayers at a Mosque. I might have been the only white man (and non-Muslim) in a room of well over one hundred, but that didn’t stop me being welcomed, embraced and respected simply for having an open mind.
Of course, it doesn’t follow that because those members of the Muslim community that I am proud to call friends are inherently good and kind people that the same can be said of all Muslims, but as I mentioned earlier, you can apply the same logic to any faith group. And the reverse must therefore hold true... which is why Donald Trump’s comments are (in my albeit insignificant opinion) fundamentally flawed; and if the friends I have made are symptomatic of this country’s “massive problem”, then I’d settle for Britain as it is today over Donald Trump’s vision of America every time.
Next stop Tyson Fury....
Every time I attempt to write about a subject that is even remotely political or religious, I start with the caveat that I am more often than not way out of my depth when it comes to subject knowledge—and today is no exception.
Given the apparent political vacuum caused by civil war, the situation in Syria appears (to me at least) to be incredibly complicated, and I would never underestimate the difficulty in working towards any resolution that would bring stability to the area—if indeed such a solution exists. At times, I find it hard enough to get my head around who we’re supposed to be fighting, because the threat goes by so many different names: IS, ISIS, ISIL, and now… apparently Daesh. In a sense the idea of using a term that does not include the word “Islamic” is a positive step; there is absolutely no connection at all between those involved in acts of terror and the members of the local Muslim community I am proud to call friends.
I am sure that I’m not alone in being unable to fully comprehend the vile acts and atrocities perpetrated by IS/Daesh (call them what you will…); they seem to hold the lives of their “own people” in precious little regard, so clearly the threat they pose to the West is very real… the events on the streets of Paris last month providing brutal evidence of a total lack of compassion for innocent life.
There are so many crucial questions that combine to form a full debate around possible airstrikes, but I have whittled them down to the three of most personal importance. Firstly, would more innocent Syrian lives be lost if Britain dropped its bombs? Would the decision (irrespective of what that decision was) place Britain under any greater threat of terrorist attacks? And finally, given that other countries are already involved in bombing Syria, what difference would Britain actually make?
You may have a wider variety questions. I respect that, but in my fairly simplistic world, the safety of the innocent is what concerns me most. (And I also respect the fact that those in parliament and government are charged with making these incredibly difficult choices… decisions which have consequences that could seriously test the individual conscience, and eventual outcomes on which they will collectively (for we are a democracy) be judged.)
The answer to the first question is a definite yes. However good the missile technology, civilians will die.
Secondly, based on the fact that Britain is already on a heightened terror alert after Paris, presumably we’d still be on high alert even if we did nothing? Certainly I’m struggling to see how the current situation would be “improved” by carrying out airstrikes; although I suppose they could make it worse.
And as for the third question, we may have the laser-guided Brimstone weapon, but if IS does indeed access to “impenetrable” tunnels, or the option of simply mingling with the masses (as happened in Iraq), you could argue that Britain’s involvement may well have minimal impact… oh, apart from drawing a bit more attention towards our island nation.
David Cameron seemed determined to involve our country in bombing Syria—and he has got his wish; although he may find a potentially massive public backlash harder to ignore than the dozen or so requests from inside the sanctuary of the House of Commons calling on him to apologise for describing opponents of the airstrikes as “terrorist sympathisers”. It was a unbelievably crass remark from a man on a mission, but as far as the decision to launch air assaults is concerned, Cameron’s words need to be ignored. There are strong opinions on both sides, and people should be influenced or convinced by the quality of rhetoric and argument, not swayed by petty point-scoring.
To listen to the facts, weigh-up the arguments and make an informed decision has to be the right thing to do; whether you are a Member of Parliament or that “man on the Clapham omnibus”. If you do all that, and believe that bombing Syria is the best solution towards the ultimate goal of defeating IS, then criticism cannot really be justified—the fact is that on balance I simply don’t agree.
I have no idea how many innocent lives have been lost in the conflicts that have been fought all over this planet during the past century… one is too many, but I’m guessing the number is in the millions. Do we need really need to be directly responsible for more?