Life There's not much that can be said about Friday night's attack which hasn't already by far more articulate people than me and with much closer involvement but since this is what it is and even though in the past few years I've tended to ignore events such as this in order to concentrate on posting some links to something you've probably already read or a video of three people on a stage discussing a film you've probably never seen, I want to record this.
Paris is the only city I've visited abroad and even though it was for just three days in 2002, just after I began writing this blog so you can read something about the visit here, yet it's somewhere I feel like I know. I can still smell it, especially the cafe I stopped at on the Seine, and see it, mostly the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower. There have been many days since and yet those three days I spent in Paris remain vivid.
There was a time when this kind of story broke when I'd immediately turn on a news channel and be transfixed. But in more recent years I've decided that unless I'm directly involved it's best to leave well alone until the facts make themselves known, especially when it's an ongoing event. Before live television, news would often take hours even days to reach us and at a certain point I decided that it's best to wait until rather than hearing what's possibly happened to hear what has.
On Friday night that led me to sticking with Children In Need while the horrors in Paris unfolded across Tweetdeck. The effect was, as you can imagine, surreal. On television, Nadine from Girls Aloud was being crammed into a telephone box with Bernie Clifton and Wayne Sleep whilst my timeline was filled with breaking news about explosions and death tolls and a general sense of shock amid some obvious autotweets often badly timed.
As a television event, Children in Need isn't what it once was. Like Comic Relief earlier in the year, it's clear that the budget has been shaved so there's less variety in the special film material, a greater reliance on the live show expositing on donations made, a larger number of appeal films. This was the first time I'd watched in years, at least until after midnight, usually having bailed more recently once the Doctor Who scene had been shown. Star Wars superceded this year.
Some people moaned online about the BBC sticking with the charity event instead of dropping it in favour of coverage of Paris. Pre-Freeview this might have made sense as not everyone had access to the BBC News Channel and if it had been a night of pre-recorded programmes, perhaps. But what good would it have done to have stopped broadcasting from that studio, sending all the presenters,entertainers and audience members home and ending the appeal?
Instead they continued even as they must have known what was happening elsewhere. Some of the jollity in the Children in Need studio did feel forced. Every now and then there'd be a micro-expression from a presenter or entertainer which suggested they were wondering what they were still doing there, but they continued knowing full well that if they stopped it be giving in to the terrorist's demands to fracture normality, or what normality there was in watching Wayne Sleep dance.
Eventually I went to bed at 1am, waking the following morning to hear some of the aftermath on the Today programme. But I didn't really understand the timeline until seeing John Sweeney's superb report on tonight's rare live episode of Panorama which explained just how the atrocities were carried out and potentially by whom. As to the detail, I have few words. I don't understand why humanity as a species can be capable of so much love and yet all of this hatred too.