In past years, I’ve usually posted my stand-out memories of the year so far, around this time. Last year there were four; the year before five.
There aren’t so many big, stand-out memories on my mind this year. That’s not because the year’s been dull or empty. Rather, the opposite: there have been so many happy memories that I can’t single many out from the crowd.
This one, though, is from my birthday. It’s getting dark, and I’m looking out of a plane window, at lamplit streets and tower blocks, watching the ground get closer and closer and trying to make out landmarks I recognise from the map. If you know me, you’ll know I don’t fly very often; in fact, at this point, I’ve been up since about 4am, I’m on the second plane ride of my birthday, and also the fourth of my life. I’m scared, not because of the flight or the impending landing, but because I’ve never been to a foreign country quite so foreign before, but I’m also rather excited. We might still be in the EU, but this is definitely more exotic than France or Germany. Latvia at night, as I turn 30.
Well, I’m glad I’m not going anywhere today. Not just in a plane, but anywhere that might involve driving past an airport, because no doubt the traffic around them will be awful too.
Today demonstrates the horror of 24-hour news. I’m just as bad as everyone else, refreshing the BBC News site every five minutes to get the latest on the Terror Alert. The news reports, meanwhile, are filled with hyperbolic phrases such as “mass murder on an unimaginable scale”.* No it isn’t. People have imagined it. To quote The Princess Bride, “I do not think you know what that word means.”
The government seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place, when it comes to statements. “We have arrested everyone involved, apart from the ones we haven’t”. “This is nothing to do with race, but we’re talking to Community Leaders about it.” How do you become a Community Leader, anyway? Are there elections?
No doubt bottled liquids will be confiscated on planes for the next few months, before everything goes back to normal, and the next terrorist attack comes along with something completely different. The ones that get through are never the ones you expect, after all.
* To be fair to the media, it was a police spokesman who came up with that exact phrase.