When I were a lad, the IRA tried to kill me. In Harrods, which is in Knightsbridge in London. I was standing on the ground floor, in the women's handbag bit, just inside the Brompton Road door, and smoke began to billow along the ceiling towards me. All the staff, every last one of them, came round from behind their counters and pointed (silently) to the nearest exit. We left quietly, thankfully uninjured.
I got a cab to Marble Arch, and just as I arrived, the police cordoned off Oxford Street in an "IRA security alert". I thought "the bastards are following me... "
But of course on that particular day, in the midst of yet another mainland bombing campaign, the IRA weren't actually trying to kill me, as it were, just scare the shit out of me. Thanks Gerry and Martin. You did.
But, the other night, someone tried to kill my teenage daughter. I don't know who. Not in a political or economic way, as the IRA might have tried, but in a cold-blooded-slaughter-way outside some random club off Piccadilly Circus - Tiger Tiger in Haymarket. Never mind the Vicar's tea party of code-worded warnings, or creating headlines from bombing banks and city institutions (or even Scotts Restaurant); this could have been mass, cold blooded slaughter of ..... the infidel. My teenage daughter. Or me again. "Legitimate targets" Both of us.
When I were a lad, the IRA didn't like me. In Crossmaglen, anywhere in South Armagh, or in various parts of Belfast. The man who pulled the gun on me in the Falls Road, who told me that "they ruled" on that side of the wall, was of course, right. They did rule. I didn't. He showed me photographs of him in his balaclava, with his gun. With his ammo. He didn't like me.
On the other side of the wall, on the Shankill and in Portadown - or Drumcree - they didn't like me either. Just to balance things up a bit.
And recently in London, I had to walk from one tube station to another, because someone else who didn't like me, I have no idea who, wanted to kill me so much he was willing to kill himself. His detonator might have been faulty, but he still wanted to kill me, whoever he was. He didn't. And I had to walk all the way to Baker Street that day. From Warren Street. Jeez.
When I were a lad, Glasgow Airport was called Abbotsinch, it became a carpet warehouse then an industrial estate, and if anyone had driven a jeep into the terminal by accident it would have been front page news. Shock Horror! Drunk Paisley man crashes into Airport!! A wee pensioner returning from Benidorm (or palmamajorca) has been hospitalised!! Ohmygod!
My son, a Londoner, was close enough to Glasgow Airport today to possibly have had a wee burn or two from a major car bomb. There has never, to my knowledge, ever been a political act of terrorism in Glasgow, but let's not delve too deeply into why. Let's just consider why my son, one of life's rebels, became a legitimate target tonight. By a total stranger. Same as his sister in London. Come back to me when the papers begin to identify the perps.
When I were a lad, Gordon Brown was a long haired lecturer who taught me for a year. He became a TV presenter specialising in politics, and he was a Labour firebrand. Tonight, a Saturday for chrissakes,Gordon Brown had to face the cameras in his first week as Prime Minister. Go Gordon. Go! I want to know exactly what you are going to do to stop total strangers who have no idea who I am, or my daugher, or my son, from killing us.
When I were a lad, parking meter attendants were wee blokes who walked about with clipboards, peering at meters, trying to figure out if the car parked in that bay might be liable for a ticket or not. They evolved into parasitical bloodsuckers, ten to a beat, who write down what time you have parked, how many coins you have inserted, so that they can issue a ticket at the precise moment the meter says zero! They work for local authorities who make huge amounts of money from Penalty Charge Notices. In the case of Westminster, heading towards an annual income of 100 million quid. Even speaking as a non car owner, it is truly obscene. It has nothing to do with traffic management, and everything to do with generating revenue.
But now the meter attendants, the clampers, the towaway truck drivers on the front line turn out not to be our enemies. They are our friends who pick up, and cart off, live car bombs to the pound. Bravo!
When I were a lad, well, it weren't all great.