Stolen: a shred of cloth stained with the blood of Pope John Paul II; meanwhile, on theshores of Lake Geneva, Syria’s ‘peace talks’ foaming with blood on both sides.
When fire sweeps through an old people’s home in small town Canada, water from firemen’s hoses turns to ice at 20 degrees below. More than 30 dead.
In the Ancient Kingdom of Fife, masked raiders hijack Glen the Baker’s delivery van (a few quid and a tray of Scotch pies); and hundreds queue to enter the memorial service for three-year-old Mikaeel Kular, whose body was found in woods close to his former home in Kircaldy.
Dennis McGuire (53) lay still after more than 10 minutes of ‘air hunger’ – heaving, choking, snorting and gasping . Danish manufacturers Lundbeck have stopped supplying the United States with lethal injections, and the country of Big Pharma has failed to produce a reliable replacement.
Mexico is ‘quickly turning into the China of the West’, with car production predicted to rise 60 per cent by 2020. In Mexico’s drug wars, however, modern production co-exists with medieval ritual. Thus the five bodies wrapped in white sheets, roped up and strung out along an underpass in the northern city of Saltillo; iconic as a crucifixion scene.
At the height of the tidal surge, photography student Harry Martin went shooting thestormiest waves off the South Devon coast – and never came back.
Upper Middle England is messing about in boats on wide, brown rivers dotted with cars and road signs half-submerged. Wellies and woolly jumpers instead of twinsets and pearls.
A dog called Killer has killed a ‘china doll’ called Ava-Jayne – the ‘doll’ being an 11-month-old baby. The incident took place in a town north of Manchester that just doesn’t matter any more.
Marius the Giraffe was invited to come to Britain, regardless of immigration status. Immigration minister Mark Harper was obliged to resign, because the man who put outthe adverts saying ‘go home or face arrest’, had not checked his cleaner’s visa (it turned out to be out of date). Surplus to requirements of the breeding programme at Copenhagen Zoo, the giraffe was killed and its corpse fed to the lions. The fate of Mark Harper’s cleaner remains unknown.
Arrested in Lucknow for allegedly cheating India’s small investors, in Western eyes ‘flamboyant tycoon’ Subrata Roy Sahara is a bit of a joke. His moustache belongs in Bomber Command; he speaks English like a native of the 1950s; his hair is bouffed up for an American boardroom of the 1970s. But this anachronism employs more than a million people. More people than currently live in Birmingham are directly employed by this man – nothing anachronistic about that.
Like wind across a wheat field, news moves across the face of the woman in the white padded jacket. Waiting at Beijing International Airport, she has just been told of thedisappearance of flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur.
Dressed in frock coats and other assorted finery, when actor Andrew Wade and guest house owner Neil Allard emerged from the Regency splendour of the Brighton Pavilion, they were hailed as the first same sex couple to be married under English law.
At Fort Hood, once again a deranged US Army shooter shot at his own side before shooting himself. Ivan Lopez killed three – 10 fewer fatalities than the first time this Texas base became a shoot-to-kill firing range, back in 2009. One of the three casualties was Sergeant Danny Ferguson, who closed the door on a room full ofpeople and prevented Lopez from making more kills.
High school students sporting red life jackets, sitting on the upturned hull of a stricken ship, await their turn to be winched to safety in a wire basket. Survivors of the South Korean ferry disaster, they seem unperturbed.
Flat palm facing camera, splayed fingers of one hand raised in a forlorn, fatalistic farewell, Manchester United’s ex-manager David Moyes is leaving Old Trafford for thelast time.
Undercover footage revealed the savagely uncaring carers of an Essex care home. Residents of the ‘unique concept for senior living in beautiful surroundings’ were seen to be shouted at, pushed and punched. In the land of TOWIE, is it that life lived in thestyle of Reality TV is the only way of life worthy of humane treatment? Perhaps not thatthe carers were uniquely selfish; more that they couldn’t care less for any one who has lived past the selfie stage.
The United States president dressed in drag to support the 200 female students abducted from a boarding school in northern Nigeria. Appearing as ‘Michelle’, Obama gave a heartfelt performance of #Bring Back Our Girls. Meanwhile the Eurovision Song Contest was won by a bearded bloke in a dress, aka Conchita Wurst.
Stephen Sutton (19) died of bowel cancer in the early hours of 14 May. Later that day, donations to the Teenage Cancer Trust pledged via his website, topped £3.6m. Earlier, photographed on his deathbed, besides the jawbone now too big for such a scrawny neck, the real standout is his look of defiance. Less victim, more Mercutio; that’s Stephen Hero.
A street vendor caught and saved a one-year-old baby who rolled off a second storey window ledge in Zhongstan city, Southern China. He said it was only ‘human insinct to do so’. Phone footage shows his instincts were unerring; but as he takes hold of thefalling infant you can see the weight of it takes him by surprise.
Strange fruit hanging from the mango tree; villagers gathered round a bitter crop. Among them a girl of seven or eight looks up, awestruck, at the bodies in shalwar kameez, hanging in the breeze. Heads bowed, a picture of modesty: two low-caste teenagers, raped and murdered in remote, rural India.
‘Today the gliders and some of the discarded parachutes lie like crumpled flowers inthe wet wooded countryside north east Of Caen’. Not today but 70 years ago, BBC radio reporter Richard Dimbleby found the form of words in which to capture the D-Day landings of June 1944. Message to today’s journalists: the significance of such events is to be found in the way they are formulated – in words, sounds and pictures; this is journalism’s job.
Mohammed Hadi is the baby-faced Kid who absented himself from Coventry in order to join IS. Tabloid wags tagged him ‘Osama Bin Beiber’; their making light of his plight seems Justinfied by his bringing it upon himself.
Jimmy Savile could not have made it more obvious: he presented himself as a cartoon fiend, complete with bug eyes and uncontrollable antics. When he described being shut up with the body of his late mother as ‘the best five days of my life’, he was surely asking to be investigated. At a lesser level of depravity, Rolf Harris, convicted ofindecent assault and sentenced to five years in prison, was judged to have ‘got a thrill by committing the offences while others were present or nearby’. Harris had long been seen as a ‘sexless being…. a man so guileless and innocent and unsullied that he couldn’t see the smutty innuendo lurking within the title of his most famous, all time, blockbuster hit-single, “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport”.’ With hindsight, was their criminal behaviour in any way a response to the infantile roles these men were called upon to play? Or did they contrive such spontaneity to disguise their pre-meditated actions?
The father looks tenderly upon the corpse of his 10-year-old-boy, which he is about to wash. He looks almost content, because he still has one more thing he can do for his son. Meanwhile the woman in charge of Baghdad city morgue continues her efforts to reconcile shelves of cadavers with photos of missing persons. She laughs when thereporter inquires whether there are more sectarian killings this year – not out ofcynicism or nervousness; she is simply bemused that anyone should need to ask.
Pile high the body bags! Show enough victims and there’ll be no disPutin’ who shot down flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. Beneath the painted skies of East-West geopolitics, local miners are searching the area for body parts. Wearing socks and sandals and faded print dresses, their overweight wives are combing through sunflowers for ribbons of flesh. Their respect for the dead – how civilised it is compared to the prodding of corpses for political ends.
When he fell ill only a few days after his father died, pharmacist Saa Sabas presented himself at Gueckedu Hospital. Clinical procedure must have been in the blood as much as the Ebola virus, for him to brave the hospital wards – scenes of a zombie apocalypse – by his own volition. Against the odds, survival was his reward. Subsequently known as ‘Anti-Ebola’ or simply ‘the Revenant’ (he who comes back), Sabas has since been touring West Africa, telling the tale of how others can live to tellthe tale – by turning themselves in for treatment.
Amateur footage shows 34 Afghan migrants who were trafficked into the UK Port ofTilbury in a sealed container on board the P&O cargo ferry, Norstream. Though their faces have been (intentionally) blurred beyond recognition, they are seen sitting on thepainted floor of a dockside holding area, encircled by Port of Tilbury officials in high viz vests. One of their number is missing: Meet Singh Kapoor (40) was declared dead after his son failed to wake him on arrival in Tilbury. Rights to the footage are owned by ITN, and reproduction, in the period immediately following this incident, cost £699. Aroundthe same time, P&O were offering luxury cruises with ‘up to £320 free spending money’ for advance bookings. ‘Tempted?’, asked the advertising blurb. ‘You’re only human.’
In response to the surge of surveys seemingly in favour of Scottish independence, on behalf of Better Together (the ‘no’ campaign), Douglas Alexander MP declared that ‘over four million individually addressed pieces of communication started going out last week.’ That’s all right, then. No need to fear there’s nothing holding the Union together except fear itself, when it can still muster something as truly exciting as ‘individually addressed pieces of communication’.
At any time before he died aged 88, did the Reverend Ian Paisley hear the sound of a silk sash slashed (perhaps the one his father wore in Edward Carson’s Ulster Volunteer Force in 1914)? In the wee small hours, did the Big Man ever experience a moment of doubt? Or did he manage to protect himself by refusing to read any book published after the year of his birth? But what, pray, were the criteria for this particular form of cognitive confinement? With hindsight, it sounds more like solipsistic self-obsession than bounden duty and service.
The televised beheadings carried out by ‘Jihadi John’ are not just killings on camera; they amount to killing for social media – more narcissist than terrorist.
I AM a number, I will be a free man. Hong Kong protesters have flipped the self-defining statement from the 1960s cult TV series, The Prisoner: ‘I am not a number, I am a free man’. They readily identify themselves by the start date of their street protests: 926 (26 September); they advertise their affinity with 8964 (6 April 1989), the day the Chinese authorities broke up the pro-democracy protest camp in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. In Hong Kong numbers which are necessarily impersonal are not seen as inevitably inhuman; whereas in the West it seems that the quest for freedom has become (almost) inextricably linked to the cult of personality.
‘Whiteout’, said one survivor. ‘Blackout conditions’, said another. A third man reported stumbling through ‘an abyss of nothing.’ Tourists on the Himalayan trail went out in search of Nepalese nothingness. When snow came down impossibly hard for this timeof year, 40 of them died. Others blundered and straggled their way down from the roofof the world, relieved to re-enter the messy mundane.
Patients have fled the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital after one man died there and two of his nurses contracted the Ebola virus.Outpatients are staying away from their appointments, corridors are empty, and, despite re-assurances, ‘the Presby’ has turned into a ‘ghost town’. Meanwhile in Bedfordshire, UK, the father of a 13-year-old has taken his daughter out of school after he was denied permission to send her in wearing an anti-Ebola facemask. There are no health risks involved in either of these situations. ‘Ebola’ has simply come to symbolise the dangers rather than the benefits ofa world teeming with other people.
Reflected in the masked face of ‘Jihadi John’, the absence of all the virtues we can hardly bring ourselves to speak of nowadays, still less believe in; his being runs on our nothingness. In footage of ragtag fighters dangling off the back of trucks on their way to carry out crucifixions, we are seeing yet another version of our fear of the mob. Islamic State – you couldn’t invent it; because in many respects, we already have.
The Renee Zellweger of Bridget Jones’ Diary seems to have been replaced by ReneeWellzeger, who simply must advertise her well-being or she’ll never work in this town again.
The British establishment has allowed two of its top women to be groomed and then discarded. Having been appointed chair of the government-sponsored inquiry into ‘historical child abuse’, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss was obliged to step down; now her replacement, Fiona Woolf, has also been forced to step aside. If this were a sink estate family, it would be decried as dysfunctional.
It’s not an outright lie – dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Rituals of remembrance, such as the centennial ceremony at London’s Cenotaph, enact the sweet and noble, so that what was brutal and barbarous on the battlefield – and sometimes merely banal, can be made fully human again. Pace Wilfred Owen, would you deny this opportunity tothe dehumanised dead (even if it means making the Military look better than it should)?
On the top floor of the White House, a locked room containing the Picture of President Dorian. On yet another anniversary of his election, how else to explain the face unchanged, apart from a Gray head of hair? Still smooth as caramel; iced coffee cool. And blue-black lips plump as berries. But there is a less Gothic explanation: that there never was another man behind the mask of Barack Obama; only the rhetoric of theimage, and the president’s image reinforced by his recurring rhetoric.
On the one hand your new born baby – head flat against outstretched palm, its body pushing back onto your lower arm like a monkey on a bed of leaves. In your other hand, the stock of an AK-47, barrel pointing upwards – a vertical axis to complementthe horizontal infant. Reports of 31-year-old Abu Rumaysah, who skipped bail (awaiting trial for ‘encouraging terrorism’), and boarded a bus from Victoria coach station to jointhe Jihadis of Islamic State (dodging MI5 turned out to be as easy as taking the Victoria Line from his North London home), have pointed to the gross discrepancy between left and right: innocent infant on one hand, shoot to kill on the other. But there is no mistaking the poise in the picture. Misguided he may be, but in this instant a foolish man seems to have found his spirit level.
‘Resilience’, ‘rallying round’, ‘the heroism of Glasgow people’ as they ran to help others. These soothing words came too soon; only hours after a driverless dustbin lorry (‘driver’ seemingly slumped at the wheel) skittled into Christmas shoppers, killing six ofthem as it careered alongside George Square towards Queen Street station. Of course such words were said, as of course they are largely true; but saying them too early, too often, too readily, only reduces their restorative power. Better to be dumbfounded at first. Shocked into silence by arbitrary, unnecessary death, since it contains thepossibility that our whole lives were always that way. Then the slow climb back to theword, up to the logos in which rationality is real, and the real is also rational – sometimes.