Published by The Guardian May 19 2015 On August 16 2012, South African police opened fire on a large crowd of men who had walked out on strike from a platinum mine at Marikana, about 80 miles north of Johannesburg. They shot down 112 of them, killing 34. In any country, this would have been […]
Stories categorized “Human stories”:
Just over four years ago, on the afternoon of Monday June 13 1994, a 13-year-old American boy named Nicholas Barclay vanished on his way home from playing basketball near his home in San Antonio, Texas.
He was obviously an idiot. In the summer of 1991, most national newspapers carried a short story about a man they called “Yorkshire’s answer to Captain Haddock” who lived in Whitby and owned an ancient boat and, for some bizarre reason, had decided to sail all the way to the Arctic with a bunch of friends, thus threatening chaos, confusion and the imminent loss of life.
Lewes is the kind of old English town that tourists like on postcards, with a flag
fluttering over a Norman castle and good old pubs in twisting streets of antique
homes and churches. It is an island of colour and calm, protected from the rolling
green waves of the Sussex Downs by a tall white cliff of battered chalk which
strikes out southwards from its eastern flank like a gigantic breakwater.
It was from the summit of this soaring cliff, shortly after noon on Wednesday April
17 last year, that a young man tumbled 300 feet to his death.
When Archie Roach was a small child in the early 1950s, he lived in a place called Framlingham, a short row of tin shacks and little brick houses which stood on a dusty, dry plateau near the edge of a gorge about 300 miles west of Melbourne. Once, his family had lived by a riverbank, where they could hunt and catch fresh fish, but the white people had come and ordered all of them – Archie and his six brothers and sisters and their parents – to move into this bleak place. They said it was for their own good, so they could teach them how to read and write and pray.
There is something about climbing that lends itself to symbolism – the struggle towards the highest peak, the search for footholds on the future – and so naturally, it is tempting to take one look at Sid Thompson and Cliff Sandham, clinging to a rock tower in the Lake District like two gnats on a knitting needle, and see them as a metaphor for the conquest of old age.
Jamie Petrolini sits alone in his prison cell. Last year, he was a schoolboy cramming for his A levels at a sixth form college in Oxford, striding around in baggy purple jeans and a big white tee-shirt with No Fear scrawled across the front. Now, he is a notorious killer, aged 19, serving life for murder in a young offenders institution outside Doncaster.
Theobald Mathew died early one Sunday morning in July 1983, as he lay in his sister’s arms in his villa in Le Treyas on the French Riviera. He was only 44 and his death was sudden but he had written a detailed will and appointed his lawyer and his favourite brother, Tom, as executors to carry out his wishes. His body would be shipped to England for burial and his estate would be settled very simply. Not at all.
When John Cunliffe sat down in the back bedroom of his home in the Lake District 15 years ago and started to write a story about a postman called Pat, something very strange began to happen. Cunliffe was not aware of it at the time. He was writing, as he always did, for the fun of it, for the change it gave him from teaching at the local primary school, and it was only years later that he could look back and begin to see the outline of what was really going on.
It didn’t take long for Jeremy Whaley to realise something was wrong. It was four in the morning, he was alone in his cottage near Petworth in the shadows of the West Sussex Downs, his dogs were asleep and all was quiet. First the phone rang, and then stopped. He was used to that happening and he might simply have turned over and gone back to sleep if his senses had not been sharpened by his years of bitter experience. There was something moving outside.