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:
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.