A Lesson On How Not To Dedicate A Memorial To Someone
Some of you may have noticed a photo I posted recently on social media in which I can be seen entertaining the future of Queen of England, so I thought I'd write a quick piece on how this encounter came to pass.
Because, quite frankly, it's ridiculous.
Two days before the photo was taken, on a fairly non-descript Tuesday morning, having just got out of bed, I was pottering about making coffee when I received a phone call from an unknown number. I hesitated before answering as it was still fairly early and my head was feeling somewhat fuzzy. But I summoned the strength to take the call and found myself speaking to a producer from Good Morning Britain.
Here's my version of the call:
"Hi, is that Will Pike?"
"My name's SuchAndSuch and I'm a producer on Good Morning Britain."
"Would it be possible to interview you tomorrow morning about Thursday's opening of the Victims of Terrorism Overseas Memorial?"
"The memorial at the Royal Arboretum."
"The Royal Arbowhat?"
"His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Thingy will be in attendance, as will the Archbishop of Canterbury."
"The Archbishop of What?"
"Hold on, are you telling me that they've built a memorial for Victims of Terrorism Overseas and haven't told me about it?"
"BUT I AM MR VICTIMS OF TERRORISM OVERSEAS!"
"Gosh, I'm terribly sorry, we assumed you would be aware of the event."
"Please, don't apologise. It's not your fault. I need to make a few calls and then perhaps we can speak later."
"Yes, of course."
I hung up the phone and immediately called my dad. He obviously knew nothing about the memorial or the event and was equally gob-smacked by the information. We did some googling and discovered a .gov page from the Department of Media, Culture and Sport, which shed some light on the situation. Apparently this bastard had been in the pipeline since 2016. So I decided to give the DCMS a call.
Here's my version of that call:
"Hello - Department of Media, Culture and Sport."
"Hello. Can I speak to someone about the Victims of Terrorism Overseas memorial?"
"Yes, of course. What can I help you with?"
"My name is Will Pike and I was paralysed during the Mumbai Terror Attack in 2008. I've just had a call from Good Morning Britain asking if they can interview me about the Memorial event on Thursday. I informed them that I knew nothing about the Memorial or the event on Thursday. So now I've called you."
"Err...right...I see...ummm...errr...we're terribly sorry...would you like me to see if I can arrange tickets?"
"Damn right I want tickets. And I want an explanation."
"Of course, Mr.Pike. I'll just need to squirm away to find someone more important than myself."
"Good. And I want two extra tickets. So three in total. Okay?"
"Yes, sir, rightaway, sir."
I had a shower and got dressed and about half an hour later I received a call from another unknown number, but this time I had inkling as to who it would be.
Here's my version of that call:
"Hello is that Will Pike?"
"My name is SomeoneMoreImportant and I'm calling from the DCMS."
"You spoke to my colleague earlier - SomeoneLessImportant - and he informed me of the situation."
"On behalf of the DCMS I would like to convey our most profound apologies for what has happened and can assure you that you were most definitely not not invited."
"What does that mean: not not invited?"
"Well the invitation process has been open to the public since January."
"I didn't know that."
"There was some marketing..."
"I didn't see it."
"No, of course."
"I found out two days before the event via a daytime TV producer."
"Do you not think it's strange to dedicate a memorial to Victims of Terrorism Overseas but not invite Victims of Terrorism Overseas?"
"But you weren't not invited."
"Are you aware of the fact that all future Victims of Terrorism Overseas will receive immediate compensation because of me?"
"Once again, we do apologise and we would be humbled if you could join us on Thursday. As I understand it, you would like three admission passes. Is that correct?"
"Damn right you're humbled. And yes, I would like three passes please"
"Excellent. We will need to conduct a security check before we can grant the invitations, so please could you send me the details of you and your guests."
"Obviously time is against us, so we would need that information fairly promptly."
"Again...our sincerest apologies."
In fairness to the woman I had just spoken to, I did feel as if they - or at least, she - was genuinely sorry for the turn of events, especially the fact I was informed about the memorial by ITbloodyV. Anyway, I was now tasked with scurrying around for stupid personal information, like: 'what hospital was everyone born in?' I clustered the deets into an email and sent it off to SomeoneMoreImportant. She acknowledged receipt of the email and in return, sent me some more information about the day's order of play while we unanxiously awaited security clearance.
The thing that stood out to me was the 10.30am start time. This would mean setting off at around 7.30am for a two and half hour car journey up the M1 in order to arrive at the Royal Arboretum. For those of you who haven't got a clue what an Arboretum is, join the fucking club. The only thing I needed to know at this point was that it was located somewhere in the sunny climbs of Staffordshire. What a nonsense. I've gone from getting up and having coffee, to contemplating a day of five hours driving. Not my idea of fun.
There was also another sub-plot developing that was really beginning to irk me. On doing a bit of research, we learnt that the political conductor behind the whole project was a certain Tobias Elwood. Tobias is a Tory. But that's not what irked me. (On this occasion.) The reason why Tobias irked me is because he irked my dad. And the reason why he irked my dad was because Tobias mugged him off. That's right, Tobias Elwood mugged off my dad. And that deserves some serious irking. But when I tell you in what context my dad was mugged off, you too will be irked. Like, majorly irked.
So, you remember when my dad and I changed the law to ensure that Victims of Terrorism Overseas received compensation? Well, during that process, my dad embarked on an epic battle to lobby relevant MPs. This included the wonderful Tessa Jowell, the useful Ken Clarke, the compassionate Nick Boles, the evasive Crispin Blunt, and of course, the elusive Tobias Elwood. Tobias' brother had been in killed in the 2002 Bali bombings, hence his vested interest in the issue and role as memorial conductor. When we embarked upon our campaign, the Tories were not in government. As such, Tobias was a bundle of good intentions and approachability. But the moment those blue-bloods got into power his door slammed shut.
Picture the scene: It's May 2010. We'd been making good headway with Tessa Jowell after she heard my interview on the Victoria Derbyshire radio show. Then, boom! General election. All change, please. Issue caught in political no-man's-land. Tessa, powerless. Tories, motionless. Our best hope was Tobias Elwood. After all, he had suffered a direct loss at the hands of this issue. Surely he would be forthcoming. Nope. In fact, not only was Tobias not forthcoming, he was downright rude. Check it: After much correspondence, my dad had finally been granted an audience with Mr.Elwood, so made his way down to the House of Commons at the agreed time. He waited. And waited. And waited. Then, after he had waited some more, Mr.Elwood's secretary appeared. She informed my dad that, unfortunately, Mr.Elwood would not be able to meet with him today because it was imperative for Mr.Elwood to visit the dentist.
Are. You. Fucking. Shitting. Me.
I had forgotten all about this crap. And as my dad finished reciting the anecdote my blood began to boil. So lemme just get this straight. Not only are the people who are responsible for genuinely helping victims of terrorism overseas not invited to the event for victims of terrorism overseas, but now we know that the politician presiding over the whole operation is the same man who refused to meet my dad because of a fucking toothache.
I was raging.
But not only that, I was upset. This year will be ten years since Mumbai. Ten fucking years. And will there be any official recognition of this? No fucking way. There wasn't any official recognition when I returned home from India. No word from the Prime Minister. No word from the Foreign Secretary. No word from the Royal Family. Nothing. I'm not for one second suggesting that I was pining for a note from the Queen while I was lying doped up on Morphine in my hospital bed. What I'm saying is that I found it strange that no one was really interested in the fact that I had just survived a terrorist attack. No one seemed to care. And this was before we knew I was ineligible for compensation. So now, ten years later, in the anniversary year of that attack, those emotions are stirring. And all because they didn't invite me to some poxy memorial. Bastards.
At this point in time, I was seriously considering not attending the event. However, the wise words of my girlf urged me to ask the question: Would I choose to go if they hadn't screwed up the invitation process? The answer would be yes. I would have to attend. As I said before: I am Mr.Victims of Terrorism Overseas.
No way I'm not attending my own goddam memorial party.
No matter how much they don't not want me there.