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“Totally normal caveat such as you might find in any normal book review,” tweets Richard Smyth. He points us to a book review by Nigel Jones in the latest issue of History Today. The subject is German author and war hero Ernst Jünger (29 March 1895 – 17 February 1998).
Spotter: Richard Smyth
The case for use of medical marijuana grows more compelling as the European Journal of Internal Medicine publishes the findings of a study: 93.7% of OAPs benefited from cannabis:
During the study period, 2736 patients above 65 years of age began cannabis treatment and answered the initial questionnaire. The mean age was 74.5 ± 7.5 years. The most common indications for cannabis treatment were pain (66.6%) and cancer (60.8%). After six months of treatment, 93.7% of the respondents reported improvement in their condition and the reported pain level was reduced from a median of 8 on a scale of 0-10 to a median of 4. Most common adverse events were: dizziness (9.7%) and dry mouth (7.1%). After six months, 18.1% stopped using opioid analgesics or reduced their dose.
Our study finds that the therapeutic use of cannabis is safe and efficacious in the elderly population. Cannabis use may decrease the use of other prescription medicines, including opioids. Gathering more evidence-based data, including data from double-blind randomized-controlled trials, in this special population is imperative.
Less reliance on opioids. That’s good, right.
Thoughts turn to 81-year-old Wayne Reid who while attending a Tennessee church for a “gun-violence at houses of worship” chat, accidentally shot himself and his wife, Kathy, 80. He did so after telling fellow worshippers, “I carry a weapon with me everywhere.”
The man removed the magazine and cleared the chamber to show the pistol to the others. He then reloaded it, put a round in the chamber and put it back in his pocket, Parks said.
When another person asked to see the pistol, the man took it out of his pocket and his finger accidentally hit the trigger. The bullet struck his right hand and then went through his 80-year-old wife’s abdomen and right forearm, according to the police chief.
The man and his wife are at the hospital. Guns in church is an ecumenical matter. “As far as I know, he’ll get to keep it,” says Police Chief Russ Parks. “No one who was in the church is wishing to press charges, and we in the police department think they’ve suffered enough.”
Spotter: Order Order
“Is THIS the Tube bucket bomber?” (Daily Star). Or to put it another way, “ON HIS WAY TO BOMB TUBE?” (The Sun). Or “Is this the Bucket Bombed On Way To Tube?” (Daily Express). To which the answer is ‘Dunno, is it?’
All that cash once earmarked for pre-Leveson shag ‘n’ tells could to be used to investigate jihadis in our midst. But the big-budget tabloids are content with playing catch-up. So around a grainy photo of a figure dressed in a grey tracksuit carrying a Lidl shopping bag in Sunbury-on-Thames, we get to wonder if he’s the one who placed a bomb at Parsons Green station. And, of course, we don’t know what to make of the video caught on a homeowner’s CCTV. We also don’t know why a homeowner in leafy Surrey is filming the street. Is it a dangerous area?
The Express has more on the attack over pages 4 and 5. Two men have been arrested. One arrived in the UK when he was 15, having “fled” Iraq. He was fostered by Penelope Jones and Ronald Jones. The other man is 21. He’s an Iraqi refugee also once cared for by the Joneses. The couple’s neighbour says the lad “wanted to leave home”. Well, job done. Another neighbour says the 18-year-old “seemed a really nice chap”. But he “seemed to be up at unusual hours”. In the Mail, however, he’s a “tearaway” who “was held by police just two weeks ago at Parsons Green station”. The Mirror hears him called “out of control”.
In other news, the terror threat has been reduced from ‘critical’ to “severe”. Just two weeks ago, it was at ‘Armageddon’, what with North Korean threats and Hurricane Irma. We live in hyperbolic times.
Think Of The Children
In the Sun, we get to know the name of the 21-year-old suspect. He’s Yahyah Farroukhm who was pinched at Aladdins [sic] Fried Chicken in Hounslow, West London, not far from his home in Stanwell, which is within inhaling distance of Heathrow Airport. At the time of his arrest, Farroukh was carrying a Kitkat and a drink can, which he dropped. The Mail says he has posted about his passion for smoking weed and anti-Israel images. But if those interests mark your out as a jihadi, then so much the worst for snowflake students and the hard-Left, although neither of those groups would be seen dead with a high-sugar KitKat.
Only in the Mail do we see the story couched as an asylum issue. “Council struggle to cope with influx” of “thousands of troubled teenagers” says the paper. It counts them all: a “staggering 4,2010 asylum-seeking juveniles” in council care across Britain”. The Mail says this is not to say they are all nutcases, just to highlight how many “vulnerable” children could “fall prey to radicalisation”.
A few words from some loon on the internet, and the normal, caring lad morphs into a mass murderer. Well, so goes the narrative. What it misses, of course, is the bit about what draws people towards radical and violent Islam? Why do they think it’s a worthy cause?
Policymakers and the media continually refer to young Muslims as ‘vulnerable to radicalisation’. The term ‘vulnerability’ suggests passivity, powerlessness and gullibility. It suggests, in short, that those called vulnerable lack the intellectual resources necessary to cope with challenges. No doubt there are some weak and confused individuals drawn towards the jihadist subculture. But the reality is that most people who travel to Syria, for example, do so because they are inspired by a cause they believe is worth fighting for. Often such individuals show a capacity for planning, dissimulation, inventiveness and, above all, initiative.
The idea of vulnerability invokes individual characteristics that are often the very opposite to those actually possessed by people making the risky voyage to the Middle East. Contrary to the myth of vulnerability, these young people are – albeit misguidedly – attempting to exercise a measure of agency over their life.
If the would-be killer is so vulnerable – groomed by sick adults – is he recast from perpetrator to victim? It’s not terrorism. It’s child abuse. And how can the vulnerable be protected? The Mail says we should clamp down on Google and all that easy-to-reach knowledge. Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP, agrees. “The internet giants have made it much harder for people to find child abuse images online,” she says. “It’s time they showed the same commitment to tackling terrorism.” See images of child rape and become a paedophile, goes the thinking? See instructions on bomb making and blow up the London Underground. To see is to download and do.
The terrorists will never win, comes the declaration. But if their aim is to reduce our hard-won freedoms and make us distrustful of adults, then the enemy is having some success.
A native of Los Alamitos and bond trader by profession, Escalante started scouring the art galleries and swap meets of Southern California in the 1980s to find any art, kustom kulture artifacts, or just weird stuff that he could get his hands on. “I tend to do things overboard . . . [but] art is the heroin of collecting,” Escalante told the Los Angeles Times in 1992. That led him to meet Robert Williams, the legendary underground cartoonist; together, the two went on to co-found (along with other lowbrow luminaries such as Fausto Vitello; C.R. Stecyk III, a.k.a. Craig Stecyk; and Eric Swenson) Juxtapoz in 1994. The magazine helped to launch Kustom Kulture and all of its siblings into the art mainstream.
It will cost you £1 to read the Daily Telegraph‘s story “Why dragons and fantasy are ruining Game of Thrones“.
Rebecca Hawkes begins:
On the face of it, asking whether Game of Thrones has “gone too fantasy” feels like a bit of a ridiculous question…
Clickbait isn’t all that easy when you’re not talking about sport. Hawkes can look enviously at other Telegraph headlines in today’s batch, and think about writing her next story as a question:
Alexis Sanchez fit to play against Liverpool – but will it be his final game for Arsenal?
Mayweather vs McGregor: What time does the fight start this weekend and who is predicted to win?
Not to be confused with the other story:
Mayweather vs McGregor: What time will the fight start, what date is it on and who is predicted to win?
Champions League group-stage draw 2017 – when and what time is it, what TV channel and what are the teams?
New Zealand vs Australia, 2017 Rugby Championship – what time is the Bledisloe Cup, what TV channel is it on and what is our prediction?
Can America remove President Donald Trump from office?
Two years after opening Germany’s doors to refugees, Angela Merkel stands tall. How has she done it?
Which celebrities have these GCSEs?
‘I’m a student about to go to university, will I need a TV licence?’
And the Top Most Read stories today:
As seen in Boston, the greatest free speech sign in the age of narcissism, priggishness and intolerance:
Run, Rude Boy!
MY REPLAY COMMENTARY 😁 pic.twitter.com/XGO5lTrC5m
— Aurie Styla (@AurieStyla) August 12, 2017
Last Wednesday’s Kennebec Journal featured a terrible threat to North Korea: “Trump warns of ‘fire and furry'”. Furry what?
Journal city editor Susan Cover regret the error: “Our normally rigorous headline-proofing protocols broke down. We’re reviewing them now to prevent this from happening in the future.”
As they say in North Korea: fire at will!
PS: it was error, right?
The third biggest killer in the USA is death by medical error.
You go into hospital – but will you come out?
So who was the bloke with the bicycle at the G20-Riots?
Queer Anarchism has the low down:
60 year old historian Martin Buehler (who is a member of the press , I do not identify activists without consent) ‘photobombed’ a lot of media images of the G20 in Hamburg. In reality he is a long time observer documenting police brutality. In Hamburg he chose to cultivate the most non-activist ‘white bystander in a suit with a bike’. As police slow down or intermittent attacks and waited for the ‘bystander’ to get out of the way (is caught on the camera), activists had time to regroup or retreat.
You don’t need a protective cloak to doge the police and fight for justice. You just need to be ordinary middle-aged, white bloke with a push bike. The magic doesn’t end there. If you want to be truly invisible, you need to be old.
The essential Australian character in a single anecdote:
An Australian fellow asks his girl friend to fight, but she says she doesn’t want to because she
isn’t feeling well.
“Whatta ya mean, not feeling well?” he says.
“You know,” she says, “I’ve got my time of the month.”
“Whatta ya mean, time of the month?” he says.
“You know,” she says, “I’ve got my period.”
“Whatta ya mean, period?” he says.
“You know,” she says, “I’m bleeding down here.” And she opens up her pants to show him.
“Jesus,” he says, “no wonder you’re bleeding! They’ve gone and cut your cock off!”
Spotter: Solar Genreal
It was good plan until it wasn’t. Forbes reports on a problem with marijuana in Nevada: “Woeful Government Incompetence – Nevada Running Out Of Legal Pot.”
This is what happens when you regulate the distribution of weed but don’t sort out who can and cannot legally distribute the stuff.
Dispensaries in Nevada are facing a pot shortage and lost sales could result in less funding for the state’s schoolchildren. Recreational pot is taxed at 33% to 38%, depending on local regulations. A 10% sales tax goes to the Nevada’s rainy day fund, but a 15% cultivation tax on cannabis sales goes to the public education budget.
Nevada dispensaries licensed to sell recreational marijuana are running out of pot less than a week after the legal market came to life, according to the state Department of Taxation.
On Friday, taxation officials announced that Gov. Brian Sandoval had endorsed the department’s “statement of emergency,” allowing state officials to consider adopting an emergency marijuana regulation that could alleviate the shortage.
In short: criminals are best are selling weed.
Sheila Michaels has died. It’s largely thanks to her that people use the term “Ms.” for women. The term was adopted for women without a husband by the New York Times in 1971. The BBC:
“I didn’t belong to my father and I didn’t want to belong to a husband – someone who could tell me what to do.”
Born in St Louis, Missouri, Ms Michaels spent some of her childhood in New York City. She was a lifelong feminist activist, biblical scholar, and collected oral histories of the civil rights movement later in life.
In her professional life, she worked as a ghostwriter, editor, and even ran a Japanese restaurant – but her obituary in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes her favourite job was being a New York City taxi driver.
There’s fake news and there’s regretful reporting. After Grenfell Tower, the Independent told readers in a big and shocking headline: “Grenfell tower was covered in material to keep luxury flat owners happy. That’s being blamed for multiple deaths.”
The link between the desires of the rich and the horror endured by and fatal to Grenfell residents was stark. The story told readers.
Shocking stuff. People died so that the rich could enjoy a better view. But was it true? The story went viral, being shared tens of thousands of times on sites like Reddit and Tumblr. The Indy got lots of clicks. But the story has been changed, the headline now telling readers:
Grenfell Tower cladding that may have led to fire was chosen to improve appearance of Kensington block of flatsGrenfell Tower cladding that may have led to fire was chosen to improve appearance of Kensington block of flats.
The suspected cause of so much pain “may” be about appearance. And there’s no word on luxury flats. The story’s URL makes no such caveats. It has not been updated from the original:
In paragraph 3 we get the first word on those “luxury flats” and the view from them:
And that cladding – a low-cost way of improving the front of the building – was chosen in part so that the tower would look better when seen from the conservation areas and luxury flats that surround north Kensington, according to planning documents, as well as to insulate it.
The story is based in a 2012 planning report. It stated:
“Due to its height the tower is visible from the adjacent Avondale Conservation Area to the south and the Ladbroke Conservation Area to the east. The changes to the existing tower will improve its appearance especially when viewed from the surrounding area.”
Still no word on owners of luxury flats triggering the cladding. But in paragraph 8, readers are told:
An environmental statement said that the “primary driver behind the refurbishment” was to address the insulation and air tightness”.
You can read the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s entire document here. You can also read that the cladding was “an integral part of the upgrade to the heating of the building, while also being a complete overhaul to its appearance”.
Looks were a factor. However, the reports contain not a single mention of luxury flats. But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good click.
The NRA will fight the domestic US enemy with a “clenched fist” . And a gun. Lots of guns:
If you want to know the Right Way With Guns, read this.
Emily Bell points to why no-one was listening when the residents of Grenfell were campaigning for improved safety. The horror as preventable. But no-one was listening. No-one was reporting things in a local newspaper the powerful didn’t want residents to know.
She hears Ishmahil Blagrove tells Sky News:
“This is not just a story – this situation has been brewing for years … You the media, you are the mouthpiece of this government and you make it possible.” Later Blagrove describes the mainstream media as “a bunch of motherfuckers” to a small crowd surrounding him who break into polite applause. Channel 4’s Jon Snow faced an angry group outside Grenfell the same day, asking him where the press was when the fire safety concerns were first raised.
…the evisceration of any sustainable professional journalism at the local level creates both an accountability vacuum and a distance between media and the communities it reports on.
As well as council-owned outlets, a plethora of glossy lifestyle and housing media mop up the advertising revenue not ingested by Facebook or Google. The local publication Kensington, Chelsea & Westminster Today – listed as the only free newspaper in the borough – has no local reporting at all.
Grant Feller has more, recalling his time as a reporter on and then editor of the local Kensington newspaper:
I had forgotten about those stories until this week. And I had forgotten about my first week on the Kensington News, when the then leader of the borough’s Labour group, Rima Horton –inspirational, quick-witted and not a little scary – walked me round the area and conspiratorially said: ‘You can make a real difference here. A story in the local paper, getting their picture in somewhere, won’t just lift them, it will give them fuel to fight for what’s right.’
We talk about community and religious leaders as being the lifeblood of neighbourhoods but we forget that local newspapers are too. There are an essential ingredient in the fabric of society, a cornerstone of democracy. Or were. Recent research suggest that up to 80 per cent of UK local newspaper journalism jobs have gone since 2006, and almost 200 titles have closed in the past decade. According to research last year from media analysts at Enders, circulations of local titles have halved since 2007 from 50.5m a week to 26.6m. At the same time, print advertising has fallen from £2.7bn to £977m.
Because 20-odd years ago, local newspapers mattered. They had access to people, information and events that made genuinely important stories. It was why door-stopper council agendas sent in the post were among the most important documents local reporters received. We pored over every single one of them to find potentially interesting leads. Such as committee debates about whether or not to use flammable cladding in tower block renovation works and the suspect backgrounds of companies chosen to carry out those works.
Those stories rarely make it into the public consciousness unless an enthusiastic local reporter, seeking the thrill of bylined fame and fuelled by the hopeful expectations of a local community desperate for their voices to be heard, takes it upon him or herself to get it out there. And because their future career rested on it, the story would have to be water-tight.
News stories start locally.
News is that Grenfell Tower was not the only building swaddled in flammable cladding. The Sun leads with “600 Fire Traps”. It sees “thousands of families living in fear” that what happened in North Kensington could happen to their home. Eleven building in eight local authorities have been tested by the Government so far, including those, says the paper, in the London borough of Camden, which just happens to be a council under Labour control. So much for the narrative about only people in jeans, double-vent jackets and brogues placing the poor in danger. The Sun is happy to point out when a horror comes along and upsets all the pieces on the board, playing party politics with the dead is a campaigning boomerang.
Theresa May does not murder children. Jeremy Corbyn does not value life more or less than other party leaders. Using the dead for a political campaign is sick. I’m sure among the enlightened and knowing screaming about justice for Grenfell and Tory child killers it’s a monumental order of self-restraint not to revisit Guy Fawkes’ old plot.
On page 5, the Sun tells us of the 4,800 residents in five Camden council tower blocks who can’t sleep for fear of a blaze. The “killer cladding” was installed by Rydon, the same company that worked on Grenfell Tower.
Over in the Mirror, the front-page news is also of thousands more people “living in deathtraps”. We hear from Labour’s Harriet Harman, who calls the news “chilling”. It too mentions Camden Council, and looks at the Rivers Apartments in Tottenham, London, where the building is wrapped in the same “lethal material” as Grenfell. In Camden, the council has ordered the cladding on the Chalcots Estate to be stripped immediately. The paper does not mention that Camden Council is under Labour control. It does, however, remind readers that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is under Tory control, and that its hapless leader has resigned.
In the Express, Grenfell and cladding becomes something to do with illegal immigration. Ross Clark agrees that any illegal immigrants who survived Grenfell Tower should not be prosecuted but his bleeding heart swiftly dries like camel spit. No-one wants to be an illegal immigrant, dead or both. But he tells us that illegal immigration is a health and safety issue because lots of them live in sub-let council flats. Presumably, the way around this is to flush them out with random spot-cheques and drills. All for their own good, of course. The Grenfell Towers disaster, he notes, “might not have been caused by overcrowding” – no might about it, Ross, it wasn’t – “but unless we investigate properly the living conditions there, then sooner or later we are going to have similar tragedies caused by having people crammed into unsuitable housing.”
As the Express looks to rehousing the poor and displaced in better accommodation – i.e. a prison before deportation – the Mail sees the “GREAT EVACUATION”, saying that thousands of tenants in the 600 infected towers may have to move out.
Of course, the exact cause of the inferno that destroyed Grenfell Tower on 14 June remains to be discovered. But, yes, you’d want to move out if you lived in a tower block with questionable safety standards.
So they move out into temporary accommodation, the contractors move in, the council wonks say “lessons have been learned” and thank sheer luck that Grenfell never happened on their patch – and then what?
Right now the feeling is not that we need more legislation, but that building companies and clockwork councils need to better observe rules already in place. They should employ more common sense and gut-feeling in jobs that have been reduced to box-ticking. A disaster on this scale could have been prevented had people in power listened to the warnings. The cladding changed the building. But who was looking into how cladding affected fire risk and fire control? Nothing exits in isolation. In focusing on the cladding, the councils are not considering the bigger picture: who oversees the whole thing not just the micro-management? Who wasn’t listening to Grenfell Tower’s residents when they campaigned long and hard for their Tenant Management Organisation to address their concerns? Instinct and local knowledge were ignored. Removing faddish and dangerous cladding won’t alter that.
And then there’s the ubiquitous inquiry. Over the need for quick action and addressing the concerns of people who live in their flats and know them best, politicians franchise action to a body not accountable to the public. And nothing changes.
A firefighter who attended Grenfell Tower has written on the Facebook ‘Save the Fire Service’. It begins: “Sent to us at STUKFS, powerful and emotional story from a firefighter who attended Grenfell Tower.” STUKFS is: Save the UK Fire Service.
I’M not sure if this is something that I should vocalise or whether or not it should be shared with the world but as I sit at home thinking about the other night the Grenfell Tower I feel like people might want to know how the incident went from the point of view of a firefighter who was sent inside, while the tower burned all around us and how after years of cuts to the service I work for, how I feel about what we do and how the past few years have been for us.
I’ve always been very proud of the job my colleagues and I do week in week out as part of the fire service. At times its hard, at others not so much but the uncertainty of what might happen is always there.
We are a funny bunch, we like to laugh to play jokes on each other, sometimes we are silent and won’t tell you what we are thinking about.
We laugh off the good natured banter directed at us from outside the service and mostly manage to do the same with the insults we get as a public service, even when it’s not always easy to do so.
It is especially hard to think about those insults during times like this. When I think about all the occasions I’ve heard and seen on the news or social media where people are calling us lazy or greedy because we dared to show anger at the 1% pay rise we’ve had imposed year after year. While MPs sit in Westminster drinking and eating in a subsidised bars and restaurants while they make £100+ a hour all on the tax payers money, getting a 11% pay rise and increased pensions to go with it.
When people think we have some sort of golden plated, over generous pensions. Ignorant to the fact that we pay in over 12% of our wages into it every month. That’s £300/£400 a month, every month! That we are worse off now than we were 7 years ago.
And we weren’t well off then by any means.
Ah Yes some of you say.. but you’ve all got second jobs.
Well. Yes! Some people do work second jobs on their rest days, but this isn’t good is it!
It can’t be…
Who wants to work a second job on days you should be resting and recovering or spending with loved ones.
They only do it so they can provide for their family’s.
And you know what! We will have to continue to do this extremely dangerous job until we are 60 years old! That is of course as long as they don’t sack us because the physical strains of the work took their tolls on our body’s and we can’t physically go on meeting the fitness standards any longer. Or maybe they will decide to move our pension age again, robbing hard working men an women of tens of thousands of pounds they had planned for their retirement.
Can you imagine seeing all those images from that awful night but pictured in them instead of containing lots of young fit firefighters able to recover quickly, ready to go again and again to save you, it’s full of 50-60 year old grey haired firefighters pushing their worn and broken body’s that have suffered through 40 years of service through the strains of the job to breaking point.
If you can you can imagine it that night might of been very very different.
I can’t help but think “if only those people really knew!” if only those people who make those decisions, those people who think we are money wasted because there are the days we have no shouts to attend. The days we might just be at the station or when we are going out to put up smoke alarms for people or familiarise ourselves with the local risks or talk to kids at local schools.
If only those people could experienced the things we’ve seen and done on the days that aren’t that easy. So they can see first hand what we do to deal with these horrific incidents.
Not just turn up after it’s all done to have their photos taken with us giving out hollow praise so they look good in the news as they continue to cut our funding and working conditions.
So with all that in my mind and hopefully now in yours I though I’d write my personal experience of what I faced at Grenfell Tower.
Somethings I will miss out as they don’t need to be said, some I can’t say, other things I will simplify so hopefully everyone can understand them, I’m not looking for praise I just want to let you know we did all we could.
As always we were woken with a start, the lights came on and the automated tannoy voice started shouting our call signs. It never fails to set your heat racing. Getting dressed I looked at the clock, I’d only lay down less than a hour ago. Time to see what we’ve got this time..
Down the pole to the trucks and it’s here I’m handed the call slip make pumps plenty.. what! No..
That’s a big incident.
Wait…. I don’t know where this is.. it’s not on our ground.
We have to look it up and then we’re out the doors.
We arrived about 0120hrs but due to the way cars are parked in the streets and the fire engines that are arriving with us we couldn’t get closer than 4-5 streets away from the building. Other trucks were closer they would be setting up water ready for us.
We could see this was a bad one immediately. The sky was glowing. Leaving our truck we started quickly towards it. Picking up pace we are carrying our BA sets on our back, while making our way we are trying to read the conditions in front of us, trying to take in as much information as we could. How big is the tower, where is the fire, where is the fire going next, how’s it behaving, how many flats are internally affected, how many people are in there?
We mustered outside the entrance. Parts of the building we already starting to fall down on to the surrounding area.
As we entered the building the fire on the outside was raging from the top to the bottom.
Walking up to the bridgehead on the 3rd floor we were told to look at a floor plan that had been hastily drawn on a wall.
We stood looking at it waiting at entry control to be given instructions my BA partner and I stood waiting with other firefighters waiting to see what information there was available. Then we received our brief… 23rd floor people stuck in their flat go!
23rd floor? I repeat back.. giving the flat number I received to the Watch manager.
She confirms. I turned at told my BA as the reality of how high we are going to try and go on a single cylinder of air.
Weighed down carrying 30kg+ of equipment not including our firekit and breathing apparatus (BA) we passed through entry control handing in our tallies and confirming our brief.
We made our way up a crowed stairwell struggling to make progress, at times unable to pass because of the amount of people on the stairs. The stairwells were full of other BA crews bringing people down all in various states and conditions.
The smoke grew thicker with each floor we went up. No proper floor numbers on the stairwells after about the 5th floor made it hard to know where you were. Someone before us had tried to write them on the wall with chinagraph pencil but this didn’t last long. The dirty smoke was covering the walls with a film of blackness
Around the 9th floor we lost all visibility and the heat was rising. Still we continued up and up through the blackness. We reached what we believed to be the 19/20th floor but there was no way to tell. It was here where we found a couple trying to find their way out, panicking, choking, blinded by the thick toxic air.
A quick gauge check showed us that the amount of floors we’d climbed had taken its toll, we were getting low on air. There’s no way we could make it to the 23rd and back to the bridgehead.
The couple were shouting and screaming at us through the coughing, trying to tell us there were 5 more people on the floor above!
Now I had horrible decisions to make and a very short amount of time to make them.
In what I think would of been less than a minute these are all the things I had going through my head.
I will list a few of them for you.
All of which I needed to consider before making my decision:……..
•Now that we’ve stopped and lost our rhythm on the stairs would we have enough air to leave this couple and try to reach the next floor?
•Was the information we are getting from these people was correct. After all they are frantically panicking as they choke and suffer from the heat.
•If we let them carry on down the stairs alone would they or could they find their own way out?
•If we went up another floor would we actually find the 5?
•If we found them what state would they be in? Could the two of us get that many out especially one or more are unconscious?
•How would we decided who to take?
•Do we have enough air to make it back down to safety ourselves from where we are?
•Should I be considering asking my BA partner a “new mother” to risk even more than she already has…?
•Can I accept/live with the thought that saving two lives is better than taking the risk to go up and potentially saving no one?
Ahh!! Come on think…!
Am I doing enough?
Can I give more?
Am I forgetting any of my training….?
•Why haven’t we seen another crew for so long?
•Will another crew find them?
•Are we really where we think we are?
•The radios are playing up… have we missed a important message.
•Have all crews been pulled out?
•Is the structure still safe?
Come on make a decision… and make it quick these people are choking…….
Ok Ok Ok!
Come on!! Think!!
I do a double check… ask my partner…
Is it the right decision..?
I’m doubting myself,
Ahhh! there’s no time for this!
Come on get on with it…
Right! Make the call!
I try to radio down to entry control.
“Alpha Control Priority!”……
“Alpha Control Priority!”
Still No response….
Where are they… what’s going on?!?
“Alpha Control Priority!”
Did they answer… it’s hard to tell.. the signal is all broken I think I can just about hear something.
“Alpha Control Priority!”
Alpha control responds…
“Go a head with priority over”
Are they talking to me I can’t hear my call sign…
Pass the message
Alpha control.. Two casualties found approx 20th floor, crew now escorting them down, request another BA team be committed to reach flat on 23rd floor. Further traffic….
5 casualties are reported apparently trying to make their way out on the floor above. Over
Alpha control “Message received”
Were they talking to me it broke up again…
Ok we really need to get out.
Grab my arm.
Taking a casualty each we set off. Within two floors both of us had been pushed down one of the flight of the stairs by our casualties. They are screaming at us that they couldn’t breath.
We try to reassure them.
Stay with me!!
We are going to get you out!!.
Please stay with me!
Down and down we go… I hear a shout from behind me from my partner, the female casualty has become unconscious. My partner is now having to drag her down alone. I can’t help at this time.
Two floors later we find another crew making their way out. One of them is carrying a little girl. I hand off my casualty to the firefighter who has a free set of hands, please take him out I shout, we’ll be right behind you.
I turn to go but with that he hands me something I’d not seen initially.
Im handed a firefighters helmet!
This can’t be good!!
Why does he have this?
Where is the firefighter it belongs too!
As I turn round and go back up one turn of the stairs I see him.
He’s missing his helmet but he’s with my BA partner.
He’s got no helmet and no breathing apparatus.
Are you ok? Where’s your BA set!?
He’s given it to a casualty.. he’s coughing as he tells us, he’s delirious from the heat and smoke.
Still he tries to help carry the casualty! Helping others is still his first thought.
I shout at him.. Get down those stairs, get down to the bridgehead!
I take the casualties arms my BA partner has her legs.
We start down again.. round and round we go, hear the noise of crews working hard around us. There are still crews going up the stairs past us.
My BA pre alarm starts going this off…. this means one thing.. my air is running low.. similar noises are all around me.
Turning a corner we see a white helmet, it’s a watch manager in the stairwell we’ve reach the bridgehead.
It’s moved again. It’s now up on the 5th floor.
My partner takes the firefighter with no BA in to the 5th floor lobby to administer Oxygen.
The watch manager takes the casualties legs from her.
Walking backwards down another 5 floors and finally I’m on the ground floor but I can’t stop yet. I hand the casualty over. Then I’m off back up those stairs to the 5th floor.
Reaching entry control, now finally I can shut my set down and I take my mask off. Hoping for a deep breath of clean air…
It’s not clean air in here, I suck in lung full of light ish smoke. It makes me cough and retch.
Still It’s clean enough to breath I guess. It’s better than the air higher up.
With my tally collected I find my BA partner. She’s with the firefighter we found and she’s administering him Oxygen. We’re off. We take him down and out with us.
As we get outside we are desperate for a drink of water, collapsing on the grass by the leisure centre. Someone see us and throws us some water I drink it straight down, its gone so fast it barely touches the thirst I have.
As I look up colleagues are all around us, tunics off their t-shirts soaked through with sweat, no one really able to talk.
All of us sat there looking at the building we’ve just come out of. It’s worse now! The fire is everywhere and fierce!
It’s hard to comprehend we were just in there.
We see a man in a high window trapped in his flat, we can hear the radio traffic. They know he’s there but no one can get to him… but crews are working hard trying to help him.
He’s there for a long time disappearing then coming back.
Slowly we catch our breath, we service our BA sets new oxygen cylinders on them we are ready to go again.
Recovering I go to find more water. At a cordon a woman pleads with me… crying and pushing her phone at me she says she has her friend on line.
Her and her baby are trapped on the 11th floor.
It throws me… I struggle to reply.. I look across at a police officer I point at him and tell her he will take her to the people who will take her friends information and pass it on to the crews inside.
Stay on the phone with her I say!
Tell her not to give up!
We are still coming.
We are still getting to people I promise.
No time to stop, don’t get distracted. I’ve got to get a drink and get back to it.
Time passes quickly, some people are given jobs while others have to wait to be tasked with going back inside.
Some time later I couldn’t say how long we are all grouped together waiting for news. A senior officer is telling us he knows we’ve already broken all the policy’s we have. He knows the risks we’ve taken but thats not enough we are going to have to take more! There are still a lot more people who need us.
He says he’s going ask us to do things that would normally be unimaginable. To put our lives at risk even more than we already have.
Everyone is looking round at each other listening to this officer try to motivate us into action again. He didn’t need to though
we are ready for it! This is what we train for.
Those colleagues who a little while ago were collapsed and broken from on the grass from their first entry are back up, ready, stood in full kit waiting for their orders to go in again.
Now lots of things happened during the time I was outside. Some people were rescued alive, some unfortunately weren’t. People jumped, a mother threw a baby from a floor high up, caught by a complete stranger arms just so she could get it away from the fire.
All this time hour after hour my colleagues were pushing themselves above and beyond what you’d think was humanly possible.
As the light broke and time passed we knew it had gone to make pumps 40, and that 20 relief trucks were ordered. So as the trucks with fresh crews arrived those of us that were there early on were starting to be swapped over. We were told to find our crews and go to the debrief but no one was wanting to leave each and every one willing to give more, but eventually we all had to leave the scene.
So 19 hours after starting our night shift the members of Red Watch made it back to the Fire Station.
Time to try and rest.. in 4 hours time we will be on duty again.
We hand over the appliance to the Blue Watch. Tell them what equipment we known to be missing.
I swapped out my dirty fire gear so I’m ready for 8pm, I might as well do it while I’m still covered in sweat and dirt.
I shower, but the smell of smoke won’t go away. I wash three times and give up.
I’m beyond tired but I cant sleep.. there’s to much going on in my head.
I think I need a drink!
I go out to the local pub with colleagues. I order a shandy, I’m back on duty soon.
As we sat with our drinks we don’t really talk. Sitting in almost complete silence, each lost in thought trying to begin to process everything that’s happened. Yet we are aware of the people all around us laughing and joking with friends, enjoying their drinks in the sun. Oblivious to what we’ve seen, unaware of what we’ve been doing all night.
I’ve no appetite but I know I need to eat. We go to and get some food but it’s hard to concentrate.
We go back to the fire station, there’s no time to get home. I find a bed in the dorm room and eventually manage 45 min sleep before I wake up. Wash my face, get dressed and I’m ready to report for roll call, ready to do it all again.
Now… this is only a small part of the things we saw and did on that night. Other stories will obviously come out but some won’t. Some will be kept by firefighters and the other emergency services hidden away deep down in their thoughts, never to pass in to words, never to be told to a living soul but always there, those emotional scars will forever be there.
After all that I want to ask you this.
When you see emergency services workers plastered on papers or on the news being slated by the mainstream media, or sometimes missing from a story or a incident you know we would of been at, being called lazy because we are seen trying to eat or have a coffee whilst on duty and your initial thought is any level of outrage
“what! they can’t do that! I’m paying their salary!”
“They should be doing something else!”
Stop! and Think!
Take a minute to consider what that person might of already seen or done that day or what they might see or do in 5 minutes from now.
When you see big incidents like this on the news, stop… take a moment think about the thousands of incidents that are attended every year by blue light services that don’t make the mainstream media either because they don’t sell papers or give the right message for the current political agenda of a particular party.
Maybe it is because they are only small or maybe because they are not considered news worthy enough.
Maybe they do make the news its because something went wrong and then it is reported so someone can be blamed. Reported on so some MP can say pubic services are in meltdown so they can sell off part or all of that public service to one of their multimillionaire friends or a private company they are on the board of, all so they can introduce privatisation and make cuts to try and make a profit out of saving lives.
Regardless of what they do, regardless of what the job is, regardless how big or small it is. We as first responders are still going to be there, we are sill going to go out day after day helping the people who’s lives are at the lowest point imaginable. We are going to be there for you!
So If you see us out and about please show us you’re support, show us you’re thinking of us and appreciate us by giving us a smile or a wave and if at some point we ask for your support or go out on strike know it’s not because want to it’s because when we say things like cuts are dangerous we are doing it for the right reasons, because ultimately it’s you we are looking out for, it’s the people we serve that unfortunately suffer from government cuts.
Finally if you can take a few moments out of your day to really consider the sacrifices the men and women of the emergency services are willing to make to protect you, your loved ones and the local communities we serve you will see that it’s not about money or fame we do it because we genuinely care about serving you.
I’m off to see my family and friends now. I might talk to them about it if I can, but then again I might not. I’m not sure they need to know what’s in my head just yet.
Maybe once I’ve made sense of it i will.
Please take care out there people, but if you can’t don’t worry to much..
We will be there looking out for you, all day everyday!
STUKFS The truth is out there.
Grenfell Tower: Get angry, stay angry. Overthrow the Government. ‘Blood, blood, blood on your hands.’
Manchester and London: Don’t get angry. Let’s love one another.
Horrific events have claimed many lives in London and Manchester. But the message being delivered to the masses is different. After the horror of fire at Grenfell Tower, the message is, as one Labour MP demands, to “get angry, stay angry”. “Burn neoliberalism, not people,” says another Labour MP. Others on the Left want to marshall the dead to overthrow the Government. “Blood, blood, blood on your hands,” comes the chant. “May must go.” There will be a march on Number 10, the protesters demanding change and promoting the narrative that only a socialist government prevents such horrors; that only the Left does compassion.
As one commentator puts it: “The protesters outside No10 seem to be using the template of the Mark Duggan affair, which preceded the 2011 London riots: ‘no justice, no peace.'”
— Damien Gayle (@damiengayle) June 16, 2017
Justice delayed is justice denied. We want to know what happened whilst the matter is high on the news cycle and all parties involved are compos mentis. After Hillsborough, we fear that the long march towards justice will be a limp towards no-one being to blame. The dreaded “lessons must be learnt” must not be the end game. That must not happen.
But this protest and demand for justice is being shaped by party politics. The horror at Grenfell Tower is rooted in so much bad planning, greed and neglect perpetuated by successive Governments for decades. If you blame the Tories, then surely you must blame Labour, too, and the coalition which oversaw social housing.
As the far Left clambers over the ruins and co-opts the dead into campaigning for a Labour win at the next General Election, we should recall how different things were after Islamists attacked London and Manchester. Then it was all about love. Only the Far Right were using the dead to promote their own monocular agenda and bigotry, demanding collective blame for all Muslims. Love not anger was the watchword. “Be unified. Feel love. Don’t give in to hate,” ran the mantra delivered by media and politicians. There was no circumspection and sensible, rational debate about an ideology that kills children at a pop concert. No-one sane wants to be branded a racist or Islamophobe. But to talk openly about such things is to foment civil unrest and unleash the impressionable masses – those race-rioters-in-waiting. Better to hold up the light on your mobile phone and sway in unity.
In Manchester, officialdom and the media’s fear of public opinion drowned out a quest for the truth, the central responsibility of journalism. After Grenfell, public opinion is sacrosanct. Both responses are founded on the same matters: fear of the masses and a profound lack of leadership, “somebody who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.” Corbyn is slippery and nuanced. May is stark and spent. Where’s the leadership?
I don’t agree with politicising the Grenfell Tower horror. Politics matters, but to divide the response along party lines limits us. The horror was eminently preventable. Political policies is at least partly to blame. But to make it all about the Tories is wrong, just as it is wrong to blame the actions of deranged mass murderers on to much freedom of speech, radicalising preachers, religion or a response to our behaviour.
Narrowing the debate applies blinkers to any inquiry and stymies a clear quest for truth. That’s not to invalidate the activism and the anger. We feel the passion, the sense of outage and hurt. Not just hashtags and candle-lit vigils for Grenfell. Fury. Protest. Noise. The people will be heard. Good.
But it wasn’t so after Manchester and the attack on Borough Market and London Bridge. When children and families were murdered at a pop concert, we were told to behave, to embrace one another and to remain passive. As another voice notes: “If the massacre of children and their parents on a fun night out doesn’t make you feel rage, nothing will. The terrorist has defeated you. You are dead already.”
We need openness to discern right from wrong. We need gritty, unflinching commitment to say what we believe in, not to have our views dampened by official decree. Making a statement is not a simple state of being. We work hard at what we want in a disciplined way. We crave integrity. But without clarity, and objectivity, our demands are shrill, bigoted and shallow.
Much nastiness has been written about the Tories since the horror at Grenfell. As I’ve said, the race to blame, to point the finger and scream “Murderers” at people who clearly aren’t is degrading. However tempting it is to demand instant justice, such behaviour should be resisted.
To behave so when brave men and women are searching for bodies in the blackened tower, and below that grim and dangerous task the missing and dead’s relatives and loved ones are hoping and praying for miracles is cruel. People are seriously ill in hospitals across London. Medics are fighting to save their lives. Many more people are shellshocked by what they survived.
But no sooner was the fire news than party politics waded in. Important questions are being funnelled into party lines. The Labour Party’s assumption that it has a monopoly on grief is despicable. But it’s been ever thus since Tony Blair told us Princess Diana was “Queen of all out hearts”. (But, as one commenter writes notes, Theresa May is a politician who can’t seem to do politics at any level. She’s working out her notice. Emoting in public might be the least of her worries.)
And I think we’ve reached rock bottom in this party political campaigning on a ruined building and destroyed lives. As Jeremy Vine notes: “Somehow using what is effectively a vertical graveyard for a political slogan seems wrong at this time.”
It is wrong. It’s horrible. To use the dead of Grenfell Tower to draw battle lines in another General Election is callous – it might even be more callous than those dastardly Tories.
After Grenfell Tower the media and politicians are demanding that we find someone to blame. The horror invites many questions about the 24-storey tower block’s cladding, sprinklers, fire-alarms, house building, the cost and availability of new homes, social-housing, gentrification that makes you look at London and wonder where the working class and poor live in the shiny, super-pricey city – where cladding Tower blocks rather than rebuilding them is a priority – and the ‘decanting’ of poorer people living in crowded accommodation on land that has soared in value following policies like the Urban Task Force with its mantra to build up not out.
As the acid stench of burning permeates the air and the painful, painstaking work of finding and identifying the victims continues, a cynical cloud has seeped in. The clamour to blame and make arrests quickly, to play party politics over the destruction of so many lives is nasty and limiting.
I touched on this race to blame yesterday, noting a section of former US poet laureate Josef Brodksy’s speech to students in 1988. This is more from that address to the graduating class. You can read it all here. It’s a terrific read. In six rules for successful living, Brodsky words on politicians and blame resonate.
3.) Try not to set too much store by politicians — not so much because they are dumb or dishonest, which is more often than not the case, but because of the size of their job, which is too big even for the best among them, by this or that political party, doctrine, system or a blueprint thereof. All they or those can do, at best, is to diminish a social evil, not eradicate it. No matter how substantial an improvement may be, ethically speaking it will always be negligible, because there will always be those — say, just one person — who won’t profit from this improvement. The world is not perfect; the Golden Age never was or will be. The only thing that’s going to happen to the world is that it will get bigger, i.e., more populated while not growing in size. No matter how fairly the man you’ve elected will promise to cut the pie, it won’t grow in size; as a matter of fact, the portions are bound to get smaller. In light of that, or, rather, in dark of that — you ought to rely on your own home cooking, that is, on managing the world yourselves — at least that part of it that lies within your reach, within your radius.
Yet in doing this, you must also prepare yourselves for the heart-rending realization that even that pie of yours won’t suffice; you must prepare yourselves that you’re likely to dine as much in disappointment as in gratitude. The most difficult lesson to learn here is to be steady in the kitchen, since by serving this pie just once you create quite a lot of expectations. Ask yourself whether you can afford a steady supply of those pies, or would you rather bargain on a politician? Whatever the outcome of this soul-searching may be — however much you think the world can bet on your baking — you might start right away by insisting that those corporations, banks, schools, labs and whatnot where you’ll be working, and whose premises are heated and policed round the clock anyway, permit the homeless in for the night, now that it’s winter.
But more than that, this. It’s one of the most motivating pieces of advice I’ve read.
5. ) At all costs try to avoid granting yourself the status of the victim. Of all the parts of your body, be most vigilant over your index finger, for it is blame-thirsty. A pointed finger is a victim’s logo — the opposite of the V-sign and a synonym for surrender. No matter how abominable your condition may be, try not to blame anything or anybody: history, the state, superiors, race, parents, the phase of the moon, childhood, toilet training, etc. The menu is vast and tedious, and this vastness and tedium alone should be offensive enough to set one’s intelligence against choosing from it. The moment that you place blame somewhere, you undermine your resolve to change anything; it could be argued even that that blame-thirsty finger oscillates as wildly as it does because the resolve was never great enough in the first place.
After all, a victim status is not without its sweetness. It commands compassion, confers distinction, and whole nations and continents bask in the murk of mental discounts advertised as the victim’s conscience. There is an entire victim-culture, ranging from private counselors to international loans. The professed goal of this network notwithstanding, its net result is that of lowering one’s expectations from the threshold, so that a measly advantage could be perceived or billed as a major breakthrough. Of course, this is therapeutic and, given the scarcity of the world’s resources, perhaps even hygienic, so for want of a better identity, one may embrace it — but try to resist it. However abundant and irrefutable is the evidence that you are on the losing side, negate it as long as you have your wits about you, as long as your lips can utter “No.” On the whole, try to respect life not only for its amenities but for its hardships, too. They are a part of the game, and what’s good about a hardship is that it is not a deception. Whenever you are in trouble, in some scrape, on the verge of despair or in despair, remember: that’s life speaking to you in the only language it knows well. In other words, try to be a little masochistic: without a touch of masochism, the meaning of life is not complete. If this is of any help, try to remember that human dignity is an absolute, not a piecemeal notion, that it is inconsistent with special pleading, that it derives its poise from denying the obvious. Should you find this argument a bit on the heady side, think at least that by considering yourself a victim you but enlarge the vacuum of irresponsibility that demons or demagogues love so much to fill, since a paralyzed will is no dainty for angels.
Regulation is lifeless without the will to make things better.
Let’s have another look at Labour Party links to those “crackpots” at the pro-British DUP, the Northern Irish party that articulates a sense of discontent and dissatisfaction with Westminster and the Peace Protest. The DUP is the only mainstream party to oppose the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
The Boston Globe told its readers in 2003 that the Good Friday Agreement was “one of Bill Clinton’s foreign policy triumphs”. The DUP were ‘on the wrong side of histoy’.
Which bring us to WikiLeaks – yes, I know – which has published a cable it claims was sent to Hillary Clinton on May 7 2010. In it Sydney Blumenthal, an unofficial adviser to Ms Clinton, reportedly headlined the email to the then US Secretary of State “H: HERE IT IS! WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON. SID.” The sub-head added: “The Downing Street meeting today.”
Gordon [PM Gordon Brown] is doing whatever he can to hold on to power. Shaun [Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward], for his part, is working on an economic package for Northern Ireland to win support from the DUP and other parties for Labour—a package to be proposed in the Queen’s Speech.
The DUP, those crackpots – albeit ones voted for in a free and legal election – were in the near past Labour’s great hope.
Spotter: Paul Gallagher