What frightens us

Manchester is where as a little kid my mum took me to ballet matinees and for two magic hours my World was princesses in sparkly chiffon skirts. Manchester is where as a teenager I went for Life: shopping, bright lights, music and dancing. I wasn’t there in 1996 when the IRA bombed the Arndale Centre, but I remember it happening. My generation grew up with IRA terrorism. But I don’t remember ever being really afraid of it. We were more terrified of dying, slowly and agonizingly, in a nuclear holocaust.

I told a friend this morning about the 1996 bombing – the biggest bomb exploded in the UK since WW2. When I told her that the IRA called the police 90 minutes beforehand to warn them, she looked at me in disbelief. This was twenty years ago. In just twenty years, it  has become inconceivable that someone would warn the police before they committed an act of terror. Because of the warning, no one died, although 200 were injured.

My teenage fears about dying in a nuclear holocaust feel so old-fashioned and quaint now, even though there are nuclear weapons in the world now as then, just as there was terrorism then as now. Then we were scared of men in suits pressing The Button. Now –

Now I am thinking not just of Manchester, but of the little kids and the teenagers in Aleppo, Baghdad, Kabul, in so many cities, who can no longer go shopping, dreaming, dancing under the bright lights. I am thinking: how could it become inconceivable to us that a bomber would warn the police beforehand. How could it become conceivable to someone who was once a kid, once a teenager, that they should kill not only themselves with a bomb but also ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred boys and girls out dreaming, dancing – living.

donetsk man united ticket

I usually tell people in other countries I’m from Manchester, and they usually respond with “Manchester United!” This ticket was given to me by a young man living in an underground bomb shelter in Donetsk in 2014. When I said I was from Manchester, he ran outside to his nearby house to fetch it. It’s for a Man United match in Donetsk’s Donbass Arena in 2013 – before the war in East Ukraine, back when people in Donetsk could party all night and dance and go to international football matches.

 

 

 

 

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