I’ve been debating all day whether to write this blog post. I realise that today it is a topic being discussed a lot. There’s a lot of people writing a lot of stuff. What can I add to the thoughts that have already been put out there about the senseless murder that happened last night? Absolutely nothing. What can I add to the descriptions of a beautiful, vibrant and special city? Absolutely nothing. And so I’ve simply applied the same decision process I do to every blog I write. I’m writing because it’s on my mind, and I need to get my thoughts out.
Firstly, I simply want to echo the thoughts of so many people today about the city of Manchester. If you’ve never been there it’s a special place, and a place that holds so many special memories for me. I saw my first Premier League games in that city, first European game, my first England international. Many of my favourite musicals I saw for the first time in their world class theatres. The most special moment of my life came in the Etihad Stadium, dancing in the Commonwealth Games Closing ceremony. I’ve laughed and cried on the streets of Manchester. I raced for the first time in a racing wheelchair on the streets there. Just last year during a weekend with one of my best friends we sheltered from the rain in the foyer where so many lives were devastated yesterday. And in all my time in Manchester I can say one thing. The high profile people giving beautiful descriptions of that city today are not exaggerating one bit. It’s a brilliant place, it’s vibrant, and the people are lovely. And that’s not just something I’d say today…people who know me know just how much I love the place.
The stories of people going out to help are not surprising either, and not just because of the circumstances. Manchester is a place where you feel safe. The kind of place where, when you fall out of your chair outside a busy bar, you’re suddenly surrounded by people who run out of the pub because they want to help. Why do I write all this? Because it’s tragic that the best in a place, and the best in people, only comes out, or gets reported, in the worst of circumstances. I want to say that this is Manchester all the time. A lovely city, a city of people who care, a city where I’ve always felt safe.
I could go on, for hours talking about this city I love, about the pain and sickness I felt today whilst waiting to hear from my friends in Manchester, but I simply want to write down 3 things that have struck me. They are things that seem more important today, but things that apply all the time. Things that can apply to Manchester today, but apply anywhere, all the time. I don’t want to dwell on them, or write an essay, I just want to put out there 3 things that have struck me today, that will maybe help others too:
- In times of grief or despair, let people deal with it in the way they need to.
In the midst of all the tragedy today, as always, the internet has not failed to amaze me in the things that some people can write. People who in the midst of the suffering of others have the audacity to start worrying about whether a gig will be cancelled, or to start analysing, or passing comment upon, the way other people deal with grief or anxiety. We are all individuals and we deal with things in different ways.
Whether directly affected, or simply scared by a situation that seems a little too close to home, because of the location, the industry they work in, or simply because of an anxiety disorder, everybody’s own way of dealing with situations is different. Please don’t judge people for their decisions, don’t use the internet to tell people they should be acting in a different way. People are individuals and deal with things in different ways. Whatever the circumstances, whether today or a year down the line, support them, and give them the space to deal with whatever the situation is.
- Be careful about what you post on social networks.
On all my social channels earlier today I posted a video taken from this mornings BBC Breakfast where Dan Walker addressed the fact that some people were posting fake reports, and fake victims, to gain ‘retweets’. Unfortunately this concept isn’t a new one (in fact I wrote about it in some detail back in 2015). We have to be aware not everybody on social networks is posting stuff for the right reason. Whilst some people post these pictures or information simply because they want to boost their public profile, there have been stories of people posting ‘help me find…’ posts in order to breach protection that has been put in place by courts to safeguard the wellbeing of others. In times like this it is easy to allow compassion to take hold and for the heart to make decisions, however please think before you share posts you can’t verify. If you want to help, follow official channels and share their posts – for example today the best thing you can share is information about Greater Manchester Police helpline and emergency stations.
- Live life to the full
It risks being one of those things people just say, but today is a reminder to live life to the full. Yesterday evening’s attacks were horrible and senseless. People went out to enjoy a night of music, and dozens didn’t come home, either ending up in hospital or worse. The fact that many of those were so young seems to make it even worse, when you think about all the things those youngsters may not get to do. Things that right now, we still have the chance to do. So when you get presented with opportunities, grab them with both hands. Don’t have regrets. Live life to the full.
To finish, and return to Manchester, I want to share this video. It needs no words.