We Are Human: My Night in Paris

 

Ida takes a sip of tea, “I feel lucky” she tells me, her face reliving the memories of her night in Paris.

19-year-old Ida Wehberg was in the French capital during the Islamic State attacks on Friday 13th November 2015. A concert hall, restaurants and even a stadium were targets for the attackers. A year and a half on, Ida recalls the memories that haunt her today and how she dealt with her emotions through her love of music.

Ida took a gap year before going to University and was working in a local café in her native town of Oslo. “Everyone had gone to university we just needed a break from the boring life,” so, joined by her best friend booked a long weekend trip to France.

On the Friday of the attack, Ida’s shopping spree took longer than expected. Instead of going clubbing which she and her friend intended to do, they chose to visit a nearby Italian restaurant. Asking her about the atmosphere before the attack she said: “it was good, there were many French locals and really good vibes!”

 

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Paris – credits to Moyan Brenn creative commons license

Then it started. At first, a friend from Norway texts her, then a flooding of information on their social media. “First we couldn’t quite understand it, this is OK nobody is reacting, but then my friend from London called me and I realised something more was happening.” Ida told me she “felt trapped” and had many questions on her mind. Should we go outside? Should we stay where we are? She said people in the restaurant were slow to react. Ida asked the manager of the restaurant if he had any idea what was going on. Laughing in reply, he said ‘I make pizza that’s all I know’. Ida felt nervous, uncomfortable and didn’t know what was going on, so decided to leave the restaurant.

Upon returning to the hotel she ‘wanted to cry but I didn’t know if I could because I was so shocked.” My mum and dad were tense because I was in Paris, and “had lit a candle for me” hoping that I would be safe. It was only until later I understood how much it affected my family and friends.

“You never expect it to happen when you are there.”

A terrorist attack was the “last thing” on Ida’s mind when she booked flights to the capital. That same year 7th January 2015, Islamist gunmen forced their way into the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo and opened fire, killing 12 people. She was aware of the attack earlier that year on satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo but Ida did not expect anything to happen when they were there. It was the last thing on Ida’s mind, she tells me she is a nervous flyer and was more worried about the flights than a terrorist attack.

Ida, although not directly involved, was greatly affected by what happened. “It was a 15-minute walk away, it’s hard with the distance you think it’s far away but its closer when you look on a map.” She was re-considering going to University in London after the attack, “what happened stuck with me.’ She still gets scared of minor things in her day to day life that mentally take her back to that night. “I still get scared if the tube stands still in the tunnel. I went to the women’s march and I was scared about that because I was scared they would take advantage of the huge crowds.” She looks into my eyes and tells me, “I try not to let it stop me,” and I believe her. She still decided to come to London to study and writing the song ‘We are human” was a way of her trying to take control of the situation. Although it is not published, it was something she created for herself personally to understand in her mind what happened.

When asking her about the attacks that have happened recently, like the Berlin Christmas markets she said it “makes her go back to that time,” in Paris you could feel everything in the city and there was so much tension. “It was a ghost town.”

In disbelief she tells me it was central Paris, pre-Christmas spirit, yet nobody was outside, “literally no one” and if they were, they were in cars, but there was no traffic. She understood what the city of Berlin was going through, that it is not just the people who are attacked but the city itself, and you feel more deeply with people and the city when you go through a similar experience.

Ida leans in a little, telling me she is better expressing herself through song or lyrics. In Paris “I’d seen these posters saying ‘we are human’, and it just stuck with me.” The moment Ida was back in her home in Oslo, the melody came instantaneously and she wrote the entire song “We are human” there and then. The song is remarkably powerful “I saw the lights go dark in a broken town … with our love and strength we fight for those who didn’t get to come back home tonight.” It creates such a profound effect on the listener and gives insight into what Ida experienced, the desolate Paris that she herself witnessed the day after. Ida tells me the song helped her to deal with her emotions and made her question why those people did what they did.

“What happened to the child you have inside?”

“Do they every cry?”

– If you have been affected by situations like this and feel you need to talk to someone contact, samaritans.org who are happy to listen. – 

 

 

 

Harrods, Kensington Palace and Covent Garden, London.

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Photo: Sarah Jardine

The weather in London today was beautiful. It felt like the first day of spring, and I could not wait to go into the city and explore with Ida.

We literally got onto the Circle line, the doors closed and then we looked at each other. Where are we going? The trip was that spontaneous but it made it soo much better!! We decided on going to Covent Garden, I haven’t been there in over a year so it was great to visit again. I love taking days out to be a tourist in London.

We walked around the market stalls and even eyed-up some very tasty looking strawberries dipped in chocolate. I did not dare look at the price. Covent Garden was lovely as always, and the atmosphere was great when walking around. Everyone was so happy. It is amazing what a little sun can do!

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Photo: Sarah Jardine

Then we left and were on our way to Knightsbridge and Harrods. I have visited Harrods once before as a child, and I remembered seeing the Diana memorial and how grand the place was, but it was great to see it again with older eyes. It is mesmerizing in Harrods, every item of clothing, every perfume, is perfect.

Visiting Harrods definitely gave me new motivation to work hard at university, I’ll tell you that.

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Photo: Sarah Jardine

Later, we arrived at Kensington Gardens. We sat on the hill and finally ate some food. There was such a nice vibe in the area, everyone was picnicking or relaxing while the sun was beaming down. If you visit London you have to take time out to visit some of these places.

It was such a lovely day, and you can even watch it here on my youtube channel!

Weekend away in Canterbury, Kent

Moving down to London for a university is somewhat strange coming from York. If you are from York you go to Newcastle or Sheffield, or just primarily stay in the northern parts of England when it comes to picking universities. However, somehow I ended up in London. A lot of my friends from back home are busy with their courses and we haven’t gotten a chance to visit each other.

Luckily for me, Zaire, a close friend from college is studying at the University of Kent and asked me over to visit. Perhaps stupidly of me, I didn’t realise when I’d hopped on the train at St Pancras, that I was going further south again. Actually, thinking about it, I think this is perhaps the most south place I’ve been to yet.

Arriving in Canterbury was at first quite a shock for me. Not only was I surprised at how quiet it was, but I was also surprised at how acclimatised to London I had become. Canterbury is actually very similar to my hometown of York.

Zaire took me on a trip around the city centre, showcasing the city off in the best way he could. There were beautiful streams, greenery and ancient buildings.

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Canterbury city centre

This photo reminds me greatly of the cobbled streets of The Shambles in York. Canterbury definitely made me feel at home.

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Beautiful houses near the city centre

I even managed to get on of those ‘tourist photos’. I couldn’t help myself.

 

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It’s a yes from me

 

The photos speak for themselves. Canterbury is very beautiful. The atmosphere is relaxing and there are many cafes’s and trinket shops to go and visit. For me, it is probably too small to live there for a long time, however, it is definitely a place you should consider visiting. From London, it’s a 56-minute train journey and will cost you around £18 for a return. There really is no excuse not to visit, especially with summer just around the corner.

‘A Global Britain’: Theresa May states her plans in Brexit speech

Prime Minister Theresa May gave a speech earlier this month outlining her and the government’s plans for leaving the EU. She confirmed again she is planning to trigger Article 50 (which then starts the process of leaving the EU) by 31st March 2017. This process can take up to two years and suggests some uncertainty for the coming few years. Nobody can guess what will happen, even May herself, telling the public the road ahead will be ‘uncertain’ at times.

The PM spoke of the 52% of leave voters who ‘voted for change’ and seemed to take great care in addressing leave voters, showing that she is taking into account their vote. Theresa May argues Britain will be “stronger, fairer, more united and more outward looking than ever before” after leaving the EU. However this is up for debate and personal opinion, much of the country is divided on the matter.  Theresa May also stated that we cannot remain a member of the single market. That would mean we (Britain) do not have specific trade deals within the European Union. May argues we must be able to strike deals outside of the EU, and in turn, we would not contribute to the EU budget.

May’s argument was very much this. Leaving the EU does not mean Britain can not be an inclusive member and have poor trade. Quite the opposite, Britain can choose its trade deals and become a ‘global Britain’ free to trade with countries they choose. May tries to convey Britain is open for business, that after leaving the EU, we ‘call the shots.’

Unsurprisingly, this speech did make an impact. It gave a certainty of some kind to the public and businesses in the UK of what direction things would happen. There was a surge in the GBP currency, suggesting that many took reassurance from what the PM said.

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, spoke on LBC radio calling May’s speech ‘strong, clear, new, decisive, I loved it.’ Farage, a strong campaigner for leave and Brexit agreed that “we are going global”. He stated he was “reasonably encouraged by things she has said” and that he had said things like this for years and now the PM was saying those things. A milestone in his opinion and could be interpreted as a far shift to the right for the Conservative government.

A different opinion came from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who before has come under fire about where his loyalties lie regarding the European Union. The leader of the opposition states the prime minister has made clear she will use Brexit to turn Britain into a ‘bargain basement tax haven.’ He later adds, “she talks about Brexit restoring parliamentary sovereignty but, once again, she is determined to avoid real scrutiny of her plans.”

Laurenne Farber, a french student at City University of London told me her worries about Britain leaving the EU. “The process of getting out of the EU hasn’t started yet but since the result of the referendum, Brexit has been a source of anxiety because I didn’t know if I was still entitled to the same loans and grants.” This is for many EU students studying at University in the UK a worrying prospect. Laurenne told me it would be a loss for the UK if the number of EU students decreased.  When asked for her opinion on May’s speech, her reply seemed reminiscent of many remain campaigners “To me May’s approach of Brexit feels nationalist. The irony is that since the referendum, the UK seems more divided than ever.”

 

Theresa May image: Donkey Hotey  Creative Commons licence

 

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