Sunday, November 18, 2007

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part XXXIV: Rachel North

(Rachel North)
Rachel North, 36 lives in North London with her husband and cat. Originally an advertising strategy director, her account of surviving 7/7 started her writing on a daily basis and became a blog Rachel From North London, chronicling the personal and political fallout after surviving a terrorist attack. Rachel is now a full-time writer; her memoir Out of the Tunnel was published in summer 2007 by The Friday Project.

What made you decide to start blogging?

I started blogging on blogspot a fortnight after 7 July 2005: my original internet message board account on urban 75 was picked up by the BBC who asked me to keep a week-long survivor diary. After the week ended, I decided to carry on writing

What is your best blogging experience?

There have been loads: the fact that my original diary was read by other 7/7 survivors who contacted me, and that was how the support group King's Cross United started. Blogging has led to me making many new friends and sharing ideas with people from all over the world. And it feels great when bloggers come together over an issue, whether that's lobbying for at-risk Iraqi employees who've helped the UK to be given asylum, the anti-SOCPA lone mass demonstrations and illegal carol services, or helping police catch my absconded stalker. Oh, and having my blog lead to a publishing agent and book contract

And your worst?

The 400+ days of harassment from said stalker, who was later sentenced to the maximum 6 months for her abuse of me. Numerous other victims are now also protected from her by an ASBO which is a relief.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

'90 days and 90 nights' was written in a furious rush in fifteen minutes during my lunch hour at the height of the original debate about extending detention without charge. It went on to be voted Post of the Year in several blog awards, and, I was told by a mole, was printed out and passed about the back benchers of Parliament shortly before the vote, in which Tony Blair's proposals were defeated. It touched a nerve and caught a mood, which was a rush, although I don't think it's my best-written entry.

Favourite blogs?

Too many to mention, and if I try to list them all, there will be someone who feels left out! I try to read as widely as possible, not just bloggers who have similar opinions to my own. Personal blogs as well as political blogs: I am fascinated by people and I love good writing. If I was to say one blog that I always find consistently excellent, it's Chicken Yoghurt. I'm also very pleased about the launch of Liberal Conspiracy.

Have your experiences in the past two years significantly changed any political views you may have held?

Not significantly changed, rather sharpened and honed, and made accountable politics and my support for the democratic process even more important in my life than it was before. Over the last five years, the political became the personal, so to speak. Having unwittingly got caught up in the huge debate about freedom and security because of my chance proximity to a major terrorist incident, I have tried since then to learn as much as possible and to speak out for what I believe in. I didn't step onto this platform by choice, but doing what I do has become my way of trying to stand up for liberty against fearfulness and terrorism. It became part of my recovery from PTSD, which is characterised by a debilitating fear reaction, and it has become a huge passion in my life: there have been times when being able to speak out and blogging has been a lifeline that kept me from going under at times.

Do you think, as a prominent blogger, that blogs are becoming more powerful in the UK as a media tool?

Oh yeah. Communication is a powerful tool, probably the most important tool we have as a species. Blogs are an important way of democratising the debate and letting different voices be heard. They are also a quick way for journalists and politicians to research opinion without having to leave their offices and talk to people. Which probably helps with their prominence in today's media and political debate.

What positive moves can the government make in tackling terrorism and improve relations between the various communities in the UK?

Big question. Stop overstating the threat, stop eroding ancient liberties in the spurious name of security, have a proper inquiry into the 7/7 bombings and accept that mistakes were made in judgment - both political and from the police/security services, take a long hard look at foreign policy and be accountable and honest about blowback, stop politicising intelligence and security matters and criminalising whole communities, lay off the legislation-frenzy and listen to what people are saying. And calm down.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

San Fransisco, and about 4000 tropical islands

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?

Turtle Nest Inn in Grand Cayman where my husband and I honeymooned.

Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

Queen Elizabeth I

Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Ordinary people who care enough to make a difference. Having principles that aren't backed up by action is just having opinions.

Favourite Bond movie?

The Daniel Craig one, particularly the wandering out of the sea in small blue pants scene.

Favourite Doctor Who?

Tom Baker is the daddy

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

I don't really like sweet things so I will say mint tea, which I drink pints of every day.

Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?

The Who and Chuck Berry at the Albert Hall in 1969 straight after the Rolling Stones Hyde park free concert.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?

I have never been to Barsby, Leics. so if its delights can be explained to me I'd give it a whirl

Favourite national newspaper?

I had better say the Sunday Times as I write for them. I've read the Guardian since I was about twelve, and probably always will read it but it really annoys me at times. I have favourite columnists: Matthew Norman is the reason I buy the Independent: he is a joy. Matthew Parris in the Times is my other addiction.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Writing is both work and a hobby, which is great. Reading compulsively. Drinking wine with friends and curling up with my husband. Cooking. Gardening. Laughing at the antics of my immensely greedy fat cat, Miff. Poledancing. And I'm about to start learning to tango.

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

Gimme Shelter, Rolling StonesVarious Mozart and Puccini arias.Ode to Joy, Beethoven
Books, argh. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham, and Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jrerome always cheer me up. Too many novels to start so I'd probably go for a Nigel Slater cookbook. The 30 Minute Cook is covered with splodges and is in almost-daily use.


Andre said...

It is so inspirational to read about people who have gone through such a huge ordeal and who use that experience to give support to others and to campaign for such issues.

Absolutely brilliant.

Rachel said...

Interesting interview!