O Say Can You See?


They say that everyone can remember where they were the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22nd 1963, exactly fifty years ago to the day as I write. I can’t. I wasn’t born until November 1967. I’ve come to question even that fact, following the amount of coverage that has been given to this historic event over the last few days. Perhaps I was there? I seem to know so much about it. Was I filming on a shaky colour home-movie camera? I’ve seen so much footage of the President’s head exploding, then imploding, pausing and then exploding again, forward and reverse in frame by bloody frame. I know the layout of Dealey Plaza, how long Oswald had been working at the Texas School Book Depository, the model of the rifle, the angle of the grassy knoll, the name of the club that Jack Ruby ran and I can almost taste the dirt as I hit the ground as the President’s cavalcade makes its pointless dash to Parklands Memorial Hospital. 50 years ago to the minute, as I write.

Of course I wasn’t there. I wasn’t anywhere in 1963. But here, now, today, I seem to be surrounded by conspiracy theorists that the internet has incubated and spawned, insulated from the infection of reasoning, evidence and truth. Bearded weirdies sitting in ill-lit bedsits, attempting to converse with reality by moulding their own.  I generalise, of course, but how else could I use my joke that none of these hairy truth-tainters possess an Occam’s razor between them?!

It’s a natural human phenomenon to wonder what multiple machinations are behind the events that shape all of our lives. Princess Diana could not have been killed in something as stupid as a car crash by a drunken driver, could she? A few young fanatically-deluded and religiously-opposed men could surely not bring the West to a halt by flying airplanes into skyscrapers?  But she was and they did.

We do not process mass bad news very well at all. We look for the most complex and involved theories to explain the most public of tragedies. Contrived dark forces somehow absolve society of any responsibility for any of these events. It wasn’t us that hounded Princess Di to death with our insatiable need for her picture, chased by the ‘paps’ and driven by a drunk. It was dotty old Prince Phillip and the secret service who ordered her death. Dark forces we know nothing about. So much more convenient. America wasn’t penetrated by seriously sick and deluded men  intent on making their mark. It was all George Bush and Bin Laden’s families quest for oil. To imagine 17 men wreaking that much havoc on the strongest country in the world is just too scary for most. You get the idea.

It’s safe to say that there will be plenty more Kennedy programmes this weekend marking his passing. And so there should be. Please share a thought for Officer J.D.Tippitt. No matter what the conspiracy theorists argue about Oswald’s involvement in the Kennedy assassination, Tippitt was shot dead just minutes after Kennedy, by Oswald, as he fled the scene.

It seems that there is no conspiracy theory linking Officer Tippitt’s untimely death. It’s just a coincidence, I’m sure, that his death does not affect a nation nor a world.

Kidcobbler, Grassy Knoll, Dallas, Texas

The only Art Deco swimming pool in England.

I’m just doing a bit of research for my never-ending novel and I came across the wonderful short film celebrating the Mounts Swimming Baths in Northampton Town. The Baths were built in 1936 on the site of the old prison’s recreation ground and are thought to be the only Art Deco baths that are still used in the country.

I’d forgotten all about the giant reliefs of male and female swimmers on the walls to donate the separate changing areas. Some of the detail shown in the film is stunning. We just took it for granted as kids but what a mighty fine place for a swim. And the driving force behind this wonderful project? None other than Basset Locke a local councillor, who’d also had his own home in Derngate remodelled by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a far cry from the self-serving gits that run the local council these days.