Tag Archive | Canary Wharf

Tragedy and triumph-all 6’s and 7’s

I love sport. I love sporting events and I have always loved watching the Olympics. Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci were favourites of mine during the 1970’s and more recently our national treasure Steve Redgrave has been inspirational. In the grand build-up to London 2012 however my interest was definitely muted. Strange considering that I still have a box full of Olympic memorabilia in the garage including a 1972 Munich Olympic souvenir book complete with collector cards; a Nadia Comaneci tribute book from 1976 courtesy of the Daily Express and for which I pestered my mum for weeks to collect the tokens and a Misha bear mascot brought back from a trip to Moscow by a school friend. So why the apparent disinterest?

I think that I know now but the penny dropped only after I read an article in a newspaper during the Games. Dr Andrew Hartle was a volunteer medic during London 2012. These were the Games that we found out we’d won on 6 July 2005.  He was also involved in helping victims of the London Bombings on 7 July 2005. Two days of such extremes of emotions that even now, 7 years on it is difficult to comprehend.

I too was in London on 6 July 2005. I remember listening to the radio at lunchtime eagerly awaiting the result of the bid but not believing for one minute that we would get the Games. Being based in Canary Wharf, I couldn’t make it across to Trafalgar Square to hear the announcement and participate in the euphoric ticker-tape frenzy of joy and excitement which followed the good news but my journey home that evening was a precursor to the goodwill and friendliness that the Games have recently demonstrated. Everyone (well, almost everyone) was thrilled to have captured one of the greatest shows on earth and the mood was buoyant. Even the annoying signalling failure couldn’t dampen our spirits and I arrived home already looking forward to London 2012.

Sadly, our joy was short-lived. I too was in London on 7 July 2005, as coincidentally was my sister. This was the dreadful day that 4 bombs shook and shocked London during the morning rush-hour and although I wasn’t directly involved in any of the bombings, I was affected by the aftermath and what I experienced and saw that day clearly took its toll. I was travelling from King’s Cross St Pancras towards Bank Station on the underground at around 9.00am when the first indications that something was wrong was when we sailed past a scheduled stop. I asked the woman standing next to me if I had imagined it, but she hadn’t noticed. My suspicions were confirmed  on arrival at Bank where we arrived to wailing sirens and emergency announcements to evacuate the train and station as quickly as possible. I wasn’t to know at this stage but those sirens and emergency announcements would continue relentlessly all day and would be in my head for days afterwards.

Unlike some, who sat on the train assuming this was a hoax or drill, I wasted no time in getting out of the station. There was some confusion at ground level and the staff were busy redirecting people to local stations. At this stage, we were told that “power surges” were to blame for the disruption but no further information about the delays and reinstating the services was forthcoming. Again I was based in Canary Wharf and I headed down to London Bridge hoping to get the Jubilee Line instead. Things were no better here and no one could give any more details. Not to be thwarted by the trains, I decided that I would catch a boat down the Thames to the Wharf and treat it as an unexpected adventure. Before I could leave London Bridge however, I overheard two policemen talking about “bombs” and “explosions”. I challenged them about the “power surges” and managed to get them to admit that there had been a series of explosions on the tube, and a bus had just blown up near Euston. Clearly they didn’t want to announce this publicly as panic may have ensued but for me based on what I’d just been told survival mode kicked in immediately and I made an instant decision to make my way home.

By this time, the streets were full of emergency vehicles; police cars, ambulances, bomb disposal unit vans, dog handlers and the sirens were ear-piercing and incessant. The buses flew past either full of passengers and unable to stop to pick anyone else up, or with their destination signs showing “out of service”. There were no trains, no taxis and no buses. Shank’s Pony was my only means of getting out of London and so my 10 mile trek Northwards out of London began.

Fortunately, I had my London A-Z with me (although I was to walk so far North that I went off the page in the end) and first made my way up to Islington. Having done some training there many years ago, I knew that there was an M&S where I could get some food and water as I already figured it would be a long day. I took £200 out of the cashpoint, bought some sandwiches and drink than started to walk.

One of my first encounters heading up to St Pancras and Archway was with a man in a suit, carrying a briefcase who stopped to talk to me as he went by. He reminded me of the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. He was clearly agitated, and his clothes were splattered with blood. He was telling me not to go to Euston. He had seen a bus blow up and he was late for work. At this stage I was too wrapped up in my battle to get home that I am ashamed to say I didn’t comprehend straightaway what had happened to him. He rushed off before I had chance to think clearly and by the time I realised that he was in shock after witnessing the Tavistock Square bomb blast, he had disappeared.   

I walked for a long time. Sometimes people walked with me, a shared experience with a shared goal. Getting out. The traffic was gridlocked. There were long queues at garages and car-hire kiosks.  No one who was lucky enough to be on wheels was going anywhere anytime soon. A double-decker bus crawled past and came to a stop outside Holloway prison. I will never forget the young man who banged on the door of the bus demanding to be let on. The bus was crammed with people and the driver could take no more. Tempers and frustration were building and this particular man ran round to the drivers window shouting abuse and smashed the glass in fury. The bus driver then had to try to report the incident before moving on. This was impossible as there was no mobile phone signal and everyone was incommunicado.

This was another frustration. The communication channels were down. I couldn’t contact anyone to let them know I was ok. They couldn’t contact me. They knew I was in London; had been at Kings Cross St Pancras but nothing. I knew my sister was somewhere in London but didn’t know where or whether she was ok. Thankfully she got home safely later in the day.

It started to rain but that was the least of my worries. It didn’t seem to matter. The day could hardly get any worse and I had to keep on plodding on. I had in my mind that if I could get up to Golder’s Green, I might be able to catch a National Express coach heading “Up North” somewhere. I wasn’t bothered where exactly, as long as I got to a place where someone could fetch me.

To make sure I was following my A-Z properly, I stopped at a Shell garage to check my directions. When I explained what had happened, a woman approached me and asked if I’d like to borrow her push bike! It was a kind thought, but on the basis that I would not be able to return said bike, I thanked her for her offer and continued walking.

I walked for a long time, and although the traffic started to thin, there were still no buses available. I struck it lucky when I crossed a road and looking to my left, spotted a taxi sign. I walked down the side road and into the shop where a woman in front of me was arranging a taxi to take her to St Alban’s. She too was trying to get home. The cost? A mere £36. I leapt in and asked if I could share her taxi and the cost and was thrilled when she agreed.

My journey home got a lot easier from here as the taxi dropped me off at St Alban’s train station from where I caught a train to Bedford (no ticket required when I explained to the guard where I had come from). By now it was 3.30pm and I had been non-contactable for almost the whole day.It was whilst I was on this train that the mobile phone signal returned and my phone went berserk with incoming text messages and voice mails that had accumulated during the day.  I was able to call everyone and reassure them that I was fine and on my way home albeit I needed someone to pick me up from Bedford.

The local BBC reporter greeted me when I emerged from the station and asked to interview me about my experiences in London that day. Apparently I was one of the first people “out” but I couldn’t oblige. It was too harrowing, I was exhausted and I made my apologies. He understood totally and invited me to share a cup of tea with him and his reporting team whilst I waited for my husband to pick me up. For this I was grateful and for the first time that day, stopped to take stock. I sat in the BBC van, drinking my tea and watching 20+ live TV screens broadcasting out of London. For the first time I saw the carnage that I’d left behind; the casualties and the amazing efforts of the emergency services and volunteers.

I was one of the lucky ones who made it home on 7 July but, subconsciously, like Dr Hartle I too had associated the 2012 Olympic Games with the 7/7 atrocities but it wasn’t until  I read about his experiences that I realised it.

This may help to explain why, having spent so many years and months being outwardly unenthusiastic about the games, I became an emotional wreck from the moment back in May when I saw the Flame arrive at Culdrose. I watched the plane approach and I started to cry.  I cried when a local hero carried the torch through my village of Lubenham on 2 July in the pouring rain. I cried at the opening ceremony; the 5 Olympic rings appearing out of the molten metal “factory” as they soared into the night sky made me sob and I thought I would never stop crying when I thought that Sir Steve Redgrave was going to light the Olympic flame as befits a 5-times Olympic gold medallist. But that was nothing compared to the beauty and inspirational lighting of the cauldron performed by 7 young people. The hope of a nation. “Inspire a generation” was the motto. They did and I cried some more.

In the end, the Games were a massive triumph of goodwill and support and will represent the start of an amazing legacy for a whole new generation. I am now able to separate the two incidents of 6 and 7 July 2005 and I enjoyed the sporting feast without ever losing sight of those who lost their lives or were injured on 7/7.

Finally, I was able to bring the both events together one day in July. We went to Hyde Park to watch the Olympic action on the live screens and watched Tom Daley qualify for the 10m diving final. The canoeists also won gold that morning and we enjoyed a couple of hours in the sunshine with fellow revellers before leaving for the theatre.

Then, on the way out of the park, we stopped at the 7/7 memorial to the 52 victims of the bombings to pay our respects and for me, to say goodbye to the demons.

I will never forget that tragic day in London, 7 July 2005, when 52 people lost their lives but equally I will always remember that fabulous day in London, 6 July 2005 when we learned that the biggest sports show on earth was to be entrusted to London in 2012.

I think we owed it to all those people to do it right in their memory.

I think we did just that.

and….moving on to the Paralympics. How about this for inspiration.

Martine Wright-GB Sitting Volleyball team. Good luck! 

File:7 July Memorial - Hyde Park.jpg

Challenges

The past two days have thrown up an number of challenges some of which I predicted and some which I definitely did not see coming my way. Overall, sitting at home on Friday evening after a sometimes difficult 48 hours, I think that those personal challenges have been mostly met head on and resolved to my satisfaction albeit only with the help, strength and support of those friends who are closest to me. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to help my friends as much as they helped me but I’m working on it.

My personal challenges may be different from those of my fellow tribesmen, but they are no less or no more debilitating. Just different and I thank those who provided the comforting words of encouragement for helping me conquer some of my fears and anxieties. Andrew, Leanne, Rupert, Emer and Abigail. Thank you.

I have started to think about my very organised and forward-thinking coping strategies to the extent that I may rethink my theory that forewarned is forearmed. You can be too prepared and fall victim to imagining all sorts of disasters that will never happen. Catastrophising can become addictive and certainly doesn’t help with low mood or anxiety issues.

For example. Yesterday I was invited to attend a meeting at Citi based in Canary Wharf. I am claustrophobic and don’t like heights so that flying, travelling in lifts and in the back of cars with only 2 doors can be problematic for me. Busy, busy, busy, I stumbled from meeting to meeting so that when we finally arrived at Citi at 4pm, I signed in and in typical sheep-fashion followed my colleagues towards the lift. Still catching up I watched Glen reach towards the button -36th floor.

Now if I had made the connection between Citi=tallest building in Canary Wharf, I would have checked beforehand where the meeting would be held and “persuaded” Glen to hold our gathering lower down. However, no such connections were made and before I knew it I was being whisked up to the 36th floor, my ears popping twice. . I had only made 17 floors in a lift before and I had more than doubled that in one trip.

I felt pleased with myself. But I also felt a little silly. What was all the fuss about? I was safe. The lift engineering hadn’t failed half way up. And the doors opened at the top. I wasn’t trapped. I didn’t have to be rescued in mid-air. All thoughts which I would have chewed over for weeks had I known in advance that I would need to go to the 36th Floor. There was no way I would have done that if I’d had time to think about it but the surprise element worked. My friends were fabulous. They encoraged and reassured me and I made it to the top.

What a view across London. The O2 Arena, London flood barrier, City airport, London eye, the Thames, etc etc and I took in the panorama from a safe place with my back against an internal wall!

Perhaps next time, I’ll be brave enough to approach the window and take a photo.

Small steps.

Lifting the lid on depression-my personal story

“Lifting the lid on depression” was an event put on jointly by KPMG and Citigroup in Canary Wharf last Thursday. As the title suggests, the aim of the evening was to raise the issue of depression as a topic that can be discussed openly and to provide a forum of support and information for anyone touched by this illness.

The event was well attended, we had to close the registration process 2 days before the seminar, and was a huge success. I will publish a write up of the evening and it’s content, format and impact soon as other organisations may wish to follow suit and provide this sort of evening for their employees and management. In the meantime, here is a short version of my speech, my personal story, which I know from emails I have already received resonated with so many and encouraged them to take their first steps to recovery.

I could have said a lot more about how I actually deal with my depression on a day to day basis now, the meds I take, the impact it has on friends and family but I wanted to focus on the more positive aspects of my experience. That doesn’t mean that I am not open to questions.

Lifting the lid on depression 10 March 2011-My personal story

Here we are today 150 of us lifting the lid on depression.

This is fantastic and I hope that with your help and more importantly with your participation this afternoon we do just that for everyone here. Whether you have depression yourself, have a friend or relative with depression or have to manage and support someone at work let’s deal with this illness.

Before I go any further I just want to say a few words about my depression and how I feel today.

This time last week I wasn’t bouncing around like Tigger on speed which can often be the case but life was OK.

This week however it’s a very different story. Low mood and despair hit me like a train at the weekend and now I feel more like Eeyore; Glum and pessimistic at best and downright miserable at worst. Monday morning I went into meltdown. I withdrew from my family and colleagues and it was only with the support provided by my best buddy that I was able to carry on and get through the day. He deserves a 10/10 for effort, persistence and the encouragement that he gave me. Thank you. I wouldn’t be here today without it.

But that’s what depression does to a person and today, instead of feeling confident and assured I am finding this experience quite overwhelming and worrying. At times like this, I can get tearful and a little shaky so if I have to stop for a while and take a few deep breaths to compose myself please bear with me.

I’m happy to be here talking about my experiences and hope that I will get through the next 5 minutes or so without the tears. But if it happens, it happens. That’s just how it is and I imagine that many of you out there will know how it feels.

Up until last year I made sure that I kept my depression well and truly hidden. I did this for thirty years.

Why did I do this?

Mainly because I was ashamed of myself and the perceived weakness associated with this illness and because of the stigma and discrimination I thought would adversely affect my career. That has all changed for me now, but I will come on to that later.

I grew up as a young child in a household where depression was a beast. My mother was a depressive and was admitted as in-patient to a local psychiatric hospital. I’m sure that some of you here today are wondering how to deal with depression and what, when and how to tell children about it.

I can only say from my experience as a mature and intelligent child that I believe that more honesty and openness would have helped me cope much better with the implications of depressive illness not just as a child but as a teenager and adult. That said, I also appreciate the difficulties that need to be considered and every case will be different.

Like much about depression, it’s debatable.

Roll-back to last year and lifting the lid on my depression.

I was fed up, tired and totally drained after 30 years of pretending everything was “Ok”, “Fine” and “Hunky Dory”  when I decided that the time was right to lift the lid on my depression and admit to my family, friends and colleagues that I have repeated and often very debilitating bouts of depression.

Most people were totally unaware of my continued battle against this illness and that depression was the reason behind frequent and sometimes prolonged absences from work. You could regularly find me camping out in my bedroom with only my TV, kettle and toaster for company weeks on end. I waited to do my shopping until the middle of the night at the 24 hour Tesco round the corner to make sure I didn’t meet anyone who might talk to me and even now I can find myself full of envy for grizzly bears that can hibernate without recrimination for months on end. How lovely that must be.

I was determined to put an end to the pretence and deception I felt I was inflicting on myself and others and so on the 26th May 2010 I sent what was to become a bombshell of an email to 30 of my friends and colleagues telling them my story.

This was not a spur of the moment action. It was a considered decision on my part and it felt the right thing to do at the time.

I was fully prepared for the consequences.

Or so I thought.

I actually got it very wrong. I completely misjudged the reaction of every single person. Whereas I had in fact geared myself up for negative responses and reproach what I received instead without exception were many words of support, understanding and kindness.

This very positive response took me completely by surprise and I found it totally overwhelming. These are just a few of the comments I received that day.

A very brave step indeed to publicly ‘out’ yourself, but well done for doing so.  If no ones does, there will be no improvements!

I think depression is hugely misunderstood and I think its great that it gets a no-nonsense representative like you!

Well done Caroline, what an incredibly positive thing you are doing xx”

Your insight and honesty is going to resonate with so many and give them comfort :-)

It’s my pleasure to support the fight against the stigma towards mental illness

It’s like Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world” so with more people like you around we’ll get there.”

The Depression Alliance’s motto is “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. I think that my own personal journey began with a giant leap into the unknown but I have no regrets so far.

What followed on from my email has been nothing short of astonishing and my day to day life has changed dramatically as a result. These are just a few of the things that I have been involved in.

June 2010- I was featured in the Financial Times article called No Room for Gloom written by Clive Cookson.

I was invited to sit on the KPMG Disability Steering group as champion for mental health and I am now in a position to help and advise KPMG on a number of initiatives which will benefit our employees.

Emer from the Depression Alliance who is here today  kindly invited me to the House of Commons launch of the report Depression, Disability and Employment compiled jointly by the Depression Alliance & RADAR and sponsored by the Priory Clinics.

Professor Chris Thompson from The Priory is here on our panel today. Together with Jonathan from Stand to Reason, these people are at the cutting edge of depression and its impact upon individuals, friends and family. Try and get to speak with them if you can. You will learn a lot.

I am a registered Rethink activist and Time to Change campaigner.

I also write a daily Blog which provides others with my personal insight on living with depression, and includes handy tips and importantly acts as a forum for others struggling with depression to come together and feel they are not alone with this illness.

What is in store for 2011 and beyond?

My focus for this year centres very much on the stigma associated with depression and issues like;

Why should people with mental illness and depression be pilloried and discriminated against because of their illness?

Why are there still so many un-busted myths about depression and anxiety?

What can we all do to help eradicate the stigma?

I’m no longer ashamed of my illness. It is part of me and who I am and I believe that I am a better person for the experience. One of the most humbling lessons in life that having depression has taught me is to never judge a person. There is a saying.

“To write a person off as worthless is an act of great violence-Don’t do it.”

2011-My Mission

This year I am on a mission and my aim is to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and depression in particular.

Because?

Because everyone deserves a chance.

Why should you and I care?

You and I should care because depression is non-discriminatory and unpredictable. Tomorrow it could descend on you or someone you care about.

To help me in my quest I have a call to action for you:

Going away from here today I would like everyone here to start talking openly and honestly about mental health issues and your experiences of depression. Only in this way will we effect change.

I’m not saying its going to be easy but I am telling you it will be worth it.

Thank you for listening.

Canary Wharf

Red caterpillars
Rumbling down the DLR
Go, round corners-stop 

Stock Exchange latest
Black-suited figures, small ants
Scurry to work. Banks. 

Grey, black, white towers
Looming over the city
Big boy’s Lego toys. 

Smooth dome arena
LondonEye, Tower Bridge
Malls
Churches, Monuments 

Cranes, new-builds, mosques, wharfs
Skyline pierced with stacks and
Spires
Stretching, touching clouds 

Planes soar high above
Londonbetween twin-towers
Crazy illusion 

Boats moored under trees
Waterways, tracks, highways
Fused
City in City.