Word Play: A journey within half a million words.

On a warm, terrific and wicked evening at the Statham Lodge Hotel in Lymm, Gyles Brandreth brought his collection of words. It wasn’t quite the entire Oxford English Dictionary of half a million but included many phrases and anecdotes. Only the Chinese language comes close with French having around 100,000 within it’s vocabulary.  Excitement, a word from Shakespeare himself led to insomnia on my part. Although the anticipation of a few days away in Devon and collecting my first car this week may have contributed.

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After a succint introduction by North West political commentator Jim Hancock, Gyles began his one man show. This gave the first joke of the evening concerning his ‘brief’ career. Although the five years as MP for Chester could be said to have been well spent. Gyles has recently become Chancellor of the University of Chester, from where I graduated in 2012.

Stannah stair lifts, the Queen watching the Full Monty and subtitle discrepancies were almong the evening’s conservation. Gyles may be about to be the face of the first. Prince Philip was quoted as saying “she has seen it all before in Papua New Guinea” regarding the second. The third included the replacement of “a minute’s violence” for silence, and the the “arch bitch” for the archbishop of Canterbury. A huge laugh from the audience resulted from “nipples leading”. This phrase describes dictation and communicating clearly. Other memorable moments were the pronunciation of Llanfair PG by Kevin in the audience and the 22nd most used greeting being “piss off”. Going back to the Queen “an opportunity to tidy” is said to be the royal expression for the delicate matter of visiting the lavatory facilities.

There was an opportunity to buy a copy of the book for the evening. Copies of Word Play and Jack the Ripper: Case Closed were available. Gyles then sat signing copies and spoke to members of the audience on their departure.

We all collect words, stories and poems throughout our life and it creates much discussion and lengthening of our years keeping the mind active. Some are hilarious, blunt, emotive, suggestive and euphemistic. The evening has enhanced my appreciation of words and the frequently overlooked role they play in our world.


We Stand Together

Over the two weeks since the Manchester attack the flowers and tributes continue to grow. Visiting St Ann’s Square in the centre of the city will fill you will sadness, but also hope. The people of Manchester and from a far have come together in solidarity. The response over the last week and a half has been incredible.  Manchester has a spirit and vibrant atmosphere that refuses to be broken. Vigils in the city and beyond along with acts of compassion are shared via social media. The Great Manchester Run went ahead as planned. There was even a pause in general election mud-slinging from all parties for a few days. Praise should also be given to the outstanding work of our emergency services who responded quickly as the event unfolded. This can also be true of the tragic attack on London Bridge over the weekend.
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This isn’t the first time Manchester has been attacked during recent history. In June 1996 the largest bomb in the country since the Second World was detonated by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Warnings were left which meant no fatalities but 200 were injured. The only attacks on a city’s infrastructure being more financially costly are Bishopsgate, London in 1993, and the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11th 2001.  Manchester has since been given much investment and a revitalised city centre. As one of the top most visited UK cities Mancunian’s are proud of their home. The large conurbation in the North of England is notable for its industrial history, architecture, music, sport and many other offerings.
This bombing at the Ariana Grande concert may not have been as large but any deaths within a city bring sadness along with the best of humanity. Manchester bands Oasis and Take That have left messages of support with the latter donating proceeds from their recent Liverpool Concert. A crowd of 50,000 came together for the One Love Manchester concert in aid of the victims on Sunday.  The proceeds of £2 million from the night went to the Red Cross’s Manchester Emergency Fund. This takes the total fund to over £10 million.
Charities and organisations have come together after the dark day two weeks ago through the #WeStandTogether campaign. This has been created and led by the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. The charity based at the Peace Centre in Warrington describes it as “more than just a set of words” and being a “call to action”. It aims to bring together stories that reveal the very best in humanity with individuals pulling together in the face of adversity. Many of the victims of the arena attack are already being supported by the Survivors Assistance Network, which is part of the foundation. The charity itself was set up after the tragic deaths of 12 year old Tim Parry and 3 year old Johnathan Ball from the IRA bombing Warrington experienced in March 1993. The town is 18 miles or a short train ride from the centre of Manchester. Warrington may include “War” within its name but can be considered a town of peace.
The Foundation for Peace (http://foundation4peace.org/) works on many areas:
  • Transforming communities with interventions to bring about change.
  • Offering advocacy to train people to raise difficult issues.
  • Creating a safe and supportive environment where people can share experiences.
  • Opportunities for dialogue between conflicting parties.
  • Encouraging conflict resolution in a non-violent way.
  • Developing leadership skills which people can take back to their own communities.
Colin Parry who set up the charity with his wife Wendy in memory of their son joined BBC Question Time last week. While in Salford, Greater Manchester for the show Mr Parry tweeted: “Facing an intelligent audience asking intelligent questions in tense times is tough but vital if we’re to beat intolerance and hatred”. While speaking on the show Mr Parry described the modern multi-culturalism of Britain where we have to “accept each other” and integrate. The problem is that people do these attacks to “divide the country” and “cause discord and discontent”. Mr Parry himself has been a prominent campaigner for peace in Northern Ireland. Meeting and inviting the late Martin McGuiness of Sinn Fein over to Warrington in the past to talk has split opinion. Personally I commend and feel inspiration from this for putting differences aside even after the tragedy of 1993.
Politicians have also visited the peace centre recently. Home Secretary; Amber Rudd and Liberal Democrat leader; Tim Farron stopped by to witness the work of the foundation. Mr Farron said how “inspirational” the centre was and how it is “a wonderful example for the whole country about we respond by standing together to the unspeakable violence that we saw the other night.” The Lib Dem leader also added in the Warrington Guardian: “You don’t need to be personally in Manchester to be seriously affected by this attack on our children.”
Warrington itself has also held prayers and a minute’s silence by the golden gates of the town hall for the 22 victims, their families and those injured at the arena. Nick Taylor, chief executive of the foundation also added in Warrington Worldwide: “It’s important that #WeStandTogether in the light of Monday’s horrific events.”
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The threat of terrorism may be on a different scale today when looking back to the troubles of Northern Ireland. The media is constantly filled with stories of attacks not just here but across the world. The values and purposes behind organisations like the foundation for peace can still play a major part in making a big difference. Anyone is welcome at the peace centre whatever their beliefs or experiences. Sides are not taken here as justice and truth is for the Police, courts and government to deal with. Pausing at these tragic moments to understand how peace can be achieved is the way we can all move forward. Hatred and violence can be avoided by standing together and remembering our similarities are stronger than our differences.