News broke last night that our local MP had been arrested. I’m not going to go into the details here; you can look it up if you want to, I doubt many MPs were arrested last night, although I’m sure many of you think more should have been. I’ve met him before, I know his next-door neighbour, and now he’s headline news.
Last Autumn, not long after we’d moved into the house, I noticed half a dozen CSI police cars and dog vans and the like parked by the side of the road, a half mile or so from the village. A little later it emerged that a convicted murderer had finally disclosed the location of his victim’s body, and the police were trying to dig it up. After a few days, they were successful. Just outside the village, TV cameras all over the place, headline news.
When the Buncefield oil depot went up, the house shook and the noise would have woken the dead. I didn’t so much wake as jump clean out of my skin. I found myself at the window, staring in shock at the flames that seemed to cover a quarter of the world and assuming an aeroplane had crashed onto the common. I switched on the TV, hoping for an explanation, and heard the voice of my own next-door neighbour telling viewers on BBC1 what she could see from her window. She and I, glass still in place, were the lucky ones, as it turned out. Windows all along the street were shattered, and even though we weren’t the closest people to the site, the news cameras were there for days, watching as the pall of black smoke gradually thinned to reveal blue sky behind.
Three stories. I could probably come up with a couple more. I could even think of one where I was less peripheral, closer to the epicentre, a story that seemed so big when it happened but which the passage of time has turned into meh. And others too, significant or tragic events I’ve been closer to but which haven’t been extraordinary or quite tragic enough to make the news at all. And the thing is, however close I might feel to each of these stories, there are probably hundreds, maybe thousands of people much closer. People whose lives will be affected, in the long-term, by what’s happened. It’s obvious enough, really, but the ripples each story puts out are so enormous they can embrace whole communities, whole tribes, entire nations.
So I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to comprehend what kind of ripples you get when 70,000 people are killed in a two-year-long civil war that shows no sign of coming to an end. Not just broken windows and a few mysterious vehicles, but dead and wounded and mourning and homeless and hungry and frightened and far, far from home. In numbers alone, Syria is a tragedy beyond comprehension.
If you liked this, please comment and share, and don’t forget to take a look at some extracts from my soon-to-be-published novel Without Due Care here.