Thursday, 8 January 2015


Tonight I can't sleep. Now insomnia and I are no strangers to one another. I have wasted many a witching hour tossing and turning, reading, piecing together jigsaws with bleary eyes trained on the clock watching the hours tick by until I need to be up again. But tonight the reason for my sleeplessness is much more real than a racing mind caught up in knots over its own inability to capture the silken web of slumber.

Yesterday saw terrorists gun down a group of journalists as they held their editorial meeting and I can't help but picture the scene on and endless, horrific loop. I imagine it was the first time the team will have met after the New Year. The would shamble to seats in a cramped meeting room, coffees and notebooks in hand, exchanging the odd Bonne Annee, discussing food eaten, parties attended, nights spent slumped in front of the television rather than revelling to celebrate the arrival of 2015.

Then down to business, this was a satirical magazine, so I imagine the order of the day was which political or religious bubble would be burst by their rapier pens. Now I make no claim to have known about Charlie Hebdo before today, and after a cursory glance at its work its not a publication that would particularly appeal to me.

The cartoons are too graphic, gross and yes, offensive for my taste. But what resonates with me is the familiarity of the circumstances in which this magazine would have come to life. I spent most of my 20s working for magazines. They weren't as high profile and or as contentious as Charlie Hebdo, but I can't help but think that the environment would have been pretty similar to the one into which bullets came flying and blood was shed.

Magazines are laid back places to work, the people who work on them tend to be pretty cynical, iconaclastic - if not they would probably have got proper jobs working as accountants or management consultants. Instead they were the ones messing around at the back of the class, refusing to take what they were told at face value and poking fun at those who did. They are bright, quick witted and more than a little bit disaffected.

This was my happy home for over a decade and even after I left I continued to work as a freelance journalist so I feel a kinship that makes what happened in Paris somehow more personal and painful, more difficult to forget in favour of a good night's sleep. The idea of those slacker writers and fastidious subs being ripped to pieces by a rain of bullets from a military trained terrorist just jars my brain. The juxtaposition between these acerbic cartoonists armed only with their wit and a smart drawing pen and combat ready maniacs wielding AK-47s just doesn't make sense to me.

While I have never raised my head above the parapet to do anything remotely worthwhile with my own career I have admiration for those who have chosen to use their exposure in the press to push forward an agenda that forces us to continue to look beyond trite philosophies spoon fed to us by those in authority. It was what I meant to do, but never really had the balls to follow through on.

It is heartbreaking that anyone would want to see that way of life smashed and silenced by a rain of bullets. That the way such warped thinkers wish to repay a country whose very tolerance is the reason they and their families were able to make a life there is by trying to extinguish it.

Of course I am aware that life is not always easy for immigrants and their descendants in any society, but what I find so confusing is that rather than try to find a way to work within the country that they have made their home, they seek to destroy it and all its values. This surely makes them as guilty as the 'infidels' who they despise so much, as the very reason they hate the West is that it meddles in the affairs of countries that are really none of its business.

While I suspect logic plays no part in it, perhaps we are reaching back in to the medieval way of thinking where an eye is demanded for an eye. But even if can accept this rationale I still cannot understand why the lives of innocent journalists, who almost undoubtedly held no more respect for their political leaders who dragged them into foreign conflicts than they did for religious fanatics who opposed them. These men were not the establishment, they were anything but. They didn't reserve their scorn for one religious or political faction, everyone was fair game and this is as it should be in a country where freedom of speech and of the press is a cornerstone of its society.

I am sure that the ramblings of a half asleep woman waiting for the pills to kick in so I can get some shut eye add not an iota to the debate that will rage about the implications and causes of this atrocity, but perhaps I can find a little peace for having blurted my thoughts out onto the glowing void of the internet.

A good night to you all and may those killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack rest more peacefully than I tonight.