Wednesday, 2 June 2010


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The sun is shining serenely outside. I wrote 800 words and sent off two overdue pieces of work. I ate a bacon sandwich, and spoke to a nice woman about a car. I drank slightly too much thick black coffee, but everything was very normal. It was just a perfectly usual day.

Then, about twenty minutes ago, I checked the internet and there was something which said: Cumbria shootings - Liveblog. These words made no sense to me. Was there a Cumbria in Arkansas or Illinois, I thought, at once, because it's in America where shootings hit the headlines. We had Hungerford, and Dunblane, and then they took away all the guns, even those of the Olympic shooting team, and that was that. Anyway, those two were freaks; it's not what happens in quiet old Blighty. And then: why liveblog? Does that mean it is still happening? Is someone just walking about shooting people? My mind could not process any of this, it felt so unreal and wrong. I actually wondered if the news had made a mistake. A man does not just pick up a gun, in a quiet northern village, and go about killing people for no reason anyone can see.

It turns out that a man did. There are bodies lying in the street. The BBC is uncertain how many are dead; they think perhaps five people. There are reports of twenty-five injured. The shooter has been found, lifeless, in the woods, a place described as a local beauty spot. On the news, someone actually said: 'he kept himself to himself'. Somebody else said: 'I saw him last night. He was going to Tesco to get chicken.' How could something so mundane as going to get chicken translate into dead people in the road? I do not understand. This is a sleepy part of Cumbria, which has one of the lowest crime rates in the entire country. What happened?

My old friend Sophie and I go to the Lake District sometimes for our summer holidays. She lives in Santa Monica now, and the country in Cumbria reminds her of everything she loves most about home. We both have incredibly happy memories of the hills and the lakes. When I think of it, I think of this:

Digital photographs 052

Digital photographs 055

Digital photographs 099

Digital photographs 013

Digital photographs 080

I think of vivid colours, and a singing sense of space, and ravishing countryside, and friendly people. I do not think of blood and carnage. It has gone from a lovely, calm, ordinary day to an incredibly sad, shocking one. I think of the people of Whitehaven. I wish I had something else I could say.


  1. It's just hideous news. I always have Radio 5 on at work and have been listening to it all unfold this afternoon with the news getting steadily worse and worse.

    I do wish they'd exercise a bit of editorial control though as there have been some rather gruesomely ott eyewitness accounts and really, I'd rather not know the exact details of it.

  2. Alex - I do agree. I know that the news must be told, but I find the endless questioning of eyewitnesses and neighbours goulish and voyeuristic. The whole thing is so shocking and horrible, it feels somehow wrong that the news feasts on it so.

  3. We've just woken up to this on the news and I am so sorry to hear this sadness.

    When I first visited Cumbria 18 years ago it was at the invitation of some family friends. I'd just arrived in England via Thailand and the Greek islands and I went somewhat reluctantly, really wanting to get stuck into London. To my surprise I fell in love with exactly what your pictures show. Really, a bit of peace and quiet and much beauty after a lot of youthful madness.

    Like you I felt sure it was another Cumbria, somewhere else. I hope peace returns soon to such a gentle piece of countryside.

  4. I am *stunned* by what has still hasn't sunk in. I'm from Cumbria; I grew up near Appleby then latterly Hawkshead; This just *doesn't* happen genuinely is the peaceful idyll people talk about. My mind has been on my home county all day and my thoughts are with all those touched by this tragedy.

  5. One of the things I love most about raising my children in the UK is that 'this kind of thing just doesn't happen.' I guess that's what makes it all the more shocking especially, as you say, in stark contrast to the peaceful surroundings. Why?

  6. The news yesterday was utterly awful. I don't understand what drives people to this and the criminal psychologist on Newsnight didn't seem to either which I found extremely alarming.

    The argument by some people that if people who perpetrate these attrocities didn't have a gun they would use their hands or knives doesn't wash with me I'm afraid- guns make it too easy and are one step removed from physically ending someone with your hands even if it is with a weapon. I don't believe there is any place for them in society but I do accept that there will always be some guns- illegally and through the black market. I don't accept that people need them in their homes. If they want them for sport they should be kept at a range. I perhaps see that farmers need them sometimes but honestly I don't really even like that idea- but then perhaps I'm a soft townie.

    i'm horrified by the whole thing- I am horrified that someone could be pushed this far and I don't believe someone who functioned well in society before just changed chemically, I believe that the world we live in is very very hard sometimes and we don't always see people's pain or trouble well enough or make it easy enough for people to get help.

    I agree about the non stop coverage- except to tell people to stay inside which was obviously necessary while it was going on it was pretty hysterical and horrid.


Your comments give me great delight, so please do leave one.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin