Saturday 9 July 2011


This is what the bombed Argana cafe in Marrakesh, Morocco looked like in June. As you can see, the building work has been covered by enormous plastic sheets and large paintings have been hung from the top.

It looks eerily beautiful.

And life goes on around it. The shops next to it and the entrances to the souk are still busy. Opposite, the colourful stalls, with their delicious displays of fruits and nuts operate as though nothing had happened.

There is no obvious indication that people were killed and maimed here. Thankfully, none of our friends in Marrakesh were involved but it has left people angry. They are peaceful people and terrorism plays no part in their lives.

Tourism was adversely affected for a while but seems to be picking up again.

Hopefully, when we return next year, the cafe will be up and running and, of course, we shall frequent it.

Thursday 7 July 2011


I wrote in my last post that as far as I was concerned, people are more important than anything else. Therefore, instead of spending this valuable computer time sifting through my photographs of the Essaouira Festival in readiness for further posts, I want to comment about the phone hacking scandal.
You would have to be stupid to believe that newspaper reporters don't play dirty at times. For example, investigative journalists probably need to bend the law a little in order to expose corruption and wrongdoing. However, this scandal that has imploded onto our TV screens is in a different class altogether.

I think the general public weren't too concerned about the hacking of the phones of the Royal family and celebrities, and perhaps this is why the ensuing police investigation seemed rather lack lustre, although for the individuals concerned it was a matter of great concern. I never thought I'd be backing John Prescott in any way shape or form but in this matter I am 100% behind him and applaud his persistent efforts to get to the truth.

But to hack into the phones of missing children who are later found dead is hideous beyond words. And now we're learning that the relatives of the victim's of the 7/7 bombings and soldiers killed in Afghanistan have also been targets. Probably, there's even more to come and it makes me feel sick to the very core of my being.

I heard just half an hour ago that the main culprit, the News of the World, is to close after next Sunday's edition, but this is no cause to rejoice. Not only is it a blatant attempt by the Murdoch Corporation to distance itself from the actions of some of its staff in order to achieve its main goal of owning British Sky Broadcasting, but probably it will re-emerge very soon under a different name.

It appears that the police have over 4000 names of people targeted. Why only tell us this now? They have had this information for years. Added to this, it is now being claimed that Andy Coulson, one-time editor of the News of the World, lied not only to the committee investigating this hacking into the phones of private individuals, but also to the Prime Minister. Hence his appointment as press officer to the Blair government until the allegations about him were so persistent that he also resigned from this position.

But even worse, and it is this that has troubled me more than anything, is the Metropolitan police involvement in selling phone numbers of the families of victims and soldiers to newspaper reporters. So, as investigations have been in their infancy, some corrupt police officers have taken time out of essential work to make a substantial amount of money by selling phone numbers of very vulnerable and distraught people given at a time of extreme stress.

And it poses the question about the integrity of that initial police investigation. Hints of the TV drama 'Shadow lands' comes to mind and one wonders just how far up the chain of command the corruption ends.

At the moment, we are still at the allegations stage but I will eat all of my hats if they prove to be false.

For me, the word integrity is key to all this and reaches far beyond not just the newspapers, the police, and possibly the courts, back to the MP's expenses scandal, the crisis in the banking world because of unscrupulous and dishonest dealings, and fanning out into the general public, society as a whole, and how we all behave.

I have lived for over 60 years now, and I see an enormous decline in standards, behaviour, what is acceptable, and how we do or do not consider other people apart from ourselves. There is no doubt in my mind that Margaret Thatcher started this slippery-slidy slope into hedonism and that it has become normal for a substantial number of people to consider first and foremost number one, i.e. themselves, and to discount, ignore or actively persecute other people, with no sense of shame or an understanding that they are actually doing anything wrong.

Of course, I'm talking in generalities here and there are still many people who have a strong sense of integrity. I feel great sympathy for the majority of police officers and reporters who are not corrupt and are appalled at what is being revealed. But corruption is, and I apologise for using the cliche, the tip of the iceberg. For beneath what is obviously criminal, is this pervading sense that we have, in this country, a lack of respect for others. And this lack of respect has a drip drip drip effect on the morality of the country.

JB Priestley, in his play "An Inspector Calls", warned that it is the little lies that people tell, seemingly not too serious, that can, collectively, snowball into something catastrophic. In the case of the play, it was the First World War.

It must be said that having integrity does not mean that one doesn't make mistakes or sometimes do something that is wrong. We are all human and we are all fallible. But, if we allow ourselves to lose sight of what is right and wrong then we not only damage ourselves but we also damage others. And we also damage not only society but also our standing in the world. If this country is seen to be riddled with corruption then it has no authority whatsoever to expose the corruption in other countries.

I sincerely hope that the British public will look deep within themselves to find that sense of integrity that we all have and demand that those involved in this disgusting case of corruption and withholding of evidence will be exposed and prosecuted, and to boycott any newspaper in the Murdoch Corporation until it has proved to be beyond reproach. I also hope that BSkyB does not fall into the hands of this insidious, self-seeking and over – powerful man who is not even a British citizen.

And finally, it is such an irony that I wrote so recently in my last post that we had in this country freedom of speech. Because now I'm wondering if my phone has been hacked and should I be careful about what I say during phone calls. My freedom of speech and yours and everyone's is under threat here and then we will be like all those people who live in countries where there is no freedom of speech.

There are many people, for example, in many Arab countries who are at this moment fighting for freedom of speech and are prepared to die in the process. We must not allow ourselves to get into the same position.