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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dunblane letter

I wrote this to a friend from my time in Dunblane  - we were conversing on Facebook after he had read this piece I wrote on the tenth anniversary of the massacre in the local school thedrink.blog.com/2006/03/13/ten-years-ago-today/.  I've taken out names.  I wanted to place this here as I feel over time, the fragments of my memory of this time should be brought together.

Hi (Friend's name)

I really appreciated your message.  I often think of (child who was shot in Dunblane Massacre and survived) – I met her one day with (another friend) in a wee cafĂ© in Dunblane a few weeks after the murders.  It was a meeting that really effected me.  It is brilliant to know she is happy – she was a really positive wee girl back then.  I remember her telling me that she had met Henrik Larrson and the Celtic team.  She had her Celtic scarf and top on. 

I apologise for the self indulgence of this message in advance, but lots of things have been going over in my mind in the past few days.  

Memories of Dunblane.

My time in Dunblane had a huge effect on me – even though it was a short time.  I worked in the hotel for a year from around September 1995– and lived in LC from December 1995 to August 1996.

It’s a hard one to talk about to people.  I sometimes feel I have an obligation to speak about certain things, like some of the things I witnessed in Northern Ireland and of the horrible events in Dunblane.  I don’t know what this compulsion is – but it happens on anniversaries of these events or when similar tragedies happen.  I suppose I just sometimes need an outlet or I want people to understand something about the realities of these things.  But few people either understand, or want to hear.

Writing about them is my outlet.

Our whole friendship circle at the time was an odd one – though to me a very precious one – intense, wonderful friendships that all seemed to end abruptly.  A time in parenthesis.  And one that bears thinking about and writing about in it’s entirety sometime. 

I look back at us all and think about our stories.  We were all quite “frivolous” on the outside, but all with depths none of us wanted to express or share.  All of us were kind of in hiding.  Damaged in some way (is that fair?) I know this is of no relevance to the horrible events, but I think those events perhaps changed all of us in ways we perhaps won’t fully understand.  I know that the events of 1996 – what happened in the school, my meeting you, (list of friends) and the others and then a family tragedy, pushed me towards the life I have now.  My “escaping” life – running from it – stopped. 

I remember what happened in Dunblane every year.  I am not religious, but I do think of those children and their teacher.  Every one of them a tragic wee story.  A wasted, beautiful life.  It is more than I can sometimes bear to remember some of the stories from that day and over the following few weeks.

I have been back to Dunblane a couple of times, but find it a difficult place to be.  I have never visited the memorials or the graves, though I always feel I should.  I think the short time I spent there must have been some of the happiest – perhaps though over-induced by chemicals- and some of the saddest times I have had.  But definitely a time that will stay with me forever.

I hear what you are saying about the conduct of the press.  At the time, I was absolutely disgusted at the behaviour of the press and the media in general.  I nearly hit a journalist one night. 

I remember this particular journalist had been arrested for trying to take pictures at the funeral of the teacher.  He had also spent his time complaining about service in the hotel and, if I remember rightly, had upset (a friend who was a waiter ) in the cocktail bar.
When he was checking out, I started the computer night audit, which meant he would have to wait for about 20 minutes for a printed bill.  He came with a list of complaints and added this wait on to the end.  The night manager, not (the usual night manager), but a “stand in”  - I can’t remember his name – was afraid to serve him.   I was only too glad to.  He read his list to me, and I remember standing listening, trying to control my temper.  I remember him telling me he had been in warzones all over the world and service had never been so bad.  I let rip.  I told him he was not in a warzone, but a small village in Scotland where a mad man had shot a class or five and six year olds along with their teacher.  I told him everyone in the hotel had some connection to people who were effected.  I told him what I thought of him and his complaints and how he should feel privileged that these people had continued to serve him even after his nastiness.  I remember he then challenged me by saying, “If what you are saying is true, then rip up that list of complaints.”  I did, in front of his face.  After he left, I remember the coward of a night manager said to me, “you were a bit close to the knuckle there, Neil.”  I was really angry with him, but said nothing.  I wrote an article for my local paper after that about the murders and also about how the press treated the people in the village.

My time in Dunblane was on many levels much more of a learning experience – and valuable in every way, than my time in Stirling University.

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