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Soup of This Day #248: The Hope That Starts The Broken Hearts

September 25, 2012

River Don At Hillsborough Stadium
The River Don winds its way through the Southern Yorkshire city of Sheffield in England. There, it flows under the Leppings Lane Bridge. That way derived its name from the ‘leaping’ stones once used to cross the river – ‘Leaping’ becoming ‘Lepping’. From there it curves snugly around the Southern Stand of Hillsborough Stadium. On the eastern side of that football ground the Don flows past the Spion Kop stand, named for a hill on which a battle was fought in the Boer War. There are several other ‘Kop’ stands in England, most noteably at Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC – Photo: Mick Knapton, 2008. Mick Knapton is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

In this post I’m going to write about the Duchess of Cambridge’s breasts and a football tragedy of immeasurable consequence.

This is a risky post then. For a start, I’m writing about breasts and I’m a guy. There is a real danger that this could end up reading like the author is sniggering every time he writes the word ‘breast’. This is not a post to snigger at.

I do have a technique for avoiding this juvenile reaction.

When I was 12 I was dragged along to a sex education class by a teacher who I will call Mrs T. It was a mandatory class, with a video showing us… Well, I can’t remember. This lack of recall might seem strange – 12 year old boys tend to remember every detail of sex education films – Particularly the parts involving breasts, which I do remember I quite liked the look of, even at 12.

The problem for this particular class was that Mrs T was convinced that we’d all watch this video while sniggering uncontrollably, which to be fair to her is pretty much what we were going to do. We were 12 – Sniggering at breasts was pretty much our default mode of operation and we were about to be shown breasts via a state-sanctioned filming. That’s sniggering-bloody-tastic.

Mrs T though had come up with a plan to avoid the sniggering, allowing us to fully direct our concentration to the important lessons to be learned about sex.

She made us wear horse blinkers.

For the uninitiated, horse blinkers are opaque screens fitted to the sides of the head so that a horse running in a race can look straight ahead only. This means that the horse will not be distracted by other horses running alongside it.

The plan was admittedly brilliant, albeit in an unintended way. Mrs T gave us a full hour and creative freedom to make our horse blinkers, threatening anyone who had insufficient screening with a ban from watching the film.

This was a lot of pressure – Find a way to mount a paper screen on either side of your head or you miss out on seeing breasts that the rest of the class would be discussing for weeks.

The pressure got to me early and my 1st attempts were disasters. Eventually though, with scant seconds to spare, I cut 2 matching slits in sheets of A4 paper before jamming my ears through the openings. For extra security I tied a piece of red cord around my head, like some sort of weird headband.

I looked like an idiot.

I wasn’t alone.

When I got to the makeshift theatre I beheld a class of idiots – All with weird headware, largely comprised of paper, cardboard and cord. Some had decorated their attempts. There was at least 1 Princess Leia model.

The upshot of all of this is that I do not remember the film.

This then is what I’m asking of you the reader today. Make yourself some metaphorical horse blinkers and settle down for a snigger-free attempt to discuss the breasts of the Duchess of Cambridge.

The good Duchess is otherwise known as Catherine and is married to Prince William, the 2nd in line to the throne of the United Kingdom. They were married last year and had themselves a honeymoon in France. They stayed at a secluded villa and the whole thing was very private.

Or so they thought.

1 photographer used a long-range lens to capture a series of photos of Catherine sun bathing in a bikini. As some women do she decided at some point that she didn’t want tan lines and so took off the upper half of the bikini, applied sunscreen with the help of her new husband and enjoyed the rays.

And therein lies the problem. The photos of the breasts of the Duchess have now been published in France, Italy, Ireland and Denmark.

And the Internet, where you can find them quite easily, although they are quite grainy and of poor resolution.

Yep, I’ve seen them.

Curiosity got the better of me.

Principally because the Royal Family issued a statement describing the publication as a ‘grotesque invasion of privacy’. I noted the word ‘grotesque’ and had to look. I hear that word and breasts in the same frame of reference and instantly I’m thinking of the movie Total Recall, which featured a minor character – A mutant prostitute with 3 breasts. That movie came out when I was 15. I really had developed a like of breasts by then and the concept of 3 of them, being 50% better than the regular 2, was pretty exciting.

Even if they were clearly a costume enhancement apparently made of play-dough.

So I looked at a grainy photo of the Duchess of Cambridge topless and I have to report the following: Her (2 only) breasts look normal to me. In fact the pictures look staggeringly normal – They are a young couple on their honeymoon and she is sunbathing.

Good for them.

Although I would caution that sunbathing is not really cool any more. Mostly because a fraction too much of it and you could be increasing your risk of getting skin cancer. The message in Australia is slip, slop and slap – Slip on some clothing, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat. Catherine does ace the sunscreen bit but is missing a hat and she gets an epic fail on the slipping on clothing. It was this last bit that jumps out from the photos. Had she been merely hatless there’d be no fuss.

I’m not linking to the photos – There is no doubt that their privacy has been violated and I feel guilty just looking at them. If someone used a camera to take a photo of me in the buff and then published it for the world to see I’d feel pretty horrible – Somebody should get sued.

It isn’t however, to my way of thinking, grotesque.

On the 15th of April in 1989, many thousands of football fans descended upon Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England for a match of some significance – An FA Cup semi-final. The venue was neutral with Liverpool set to play Nottingham Forest. The supporters of the 2 clubs were allocated alternate areas of the ground, with the Liverpool faithful concentrated at the Leppings Lane End. On paper all of this is normal and ok – It looked to be a good day out at the football.

It wasn’t to be.

There was a fair mass of supporters at the turnstiles and police made the decision to open gates allowing that mass to pass straight through and into a tunnel that fed into a penned area that was designed for significantly less people than were now being funnelled into it. A barrier collapsed and a crush was precipitated. Some fans were able to escape by climbing fences or were hoisted to safety by those in the upper level. Those actions saved lives but even that priceless gesture could only limit the horror that unfolded.

94 Liverpool fans were crushed to death on the day. A 95th died some 4 days later and the 96th died almost 4 years after the event. 96 people, ranging in age from 10 to 67, who went to a football match and never got to go home.

In the immediate aftermath there were many attempts to paint the fans as the source of the disaster. Police statements were altered and senior officers avoided giving testimony before the official inquiry. The truth was suppressed, blame was diverted and closure was denied.

Not any more.

After 23 years of campaigning by the families of the victims, their friends and their community, a recent inquiry has shone a light into the darkness that descended that day. It’s the 1st step in providing justice for the 96 who died and those left behind and damaged. Apologies have been made, most notably by the current British Prime Minister David Cameron, and forgiveness will surely be sought. For some it might be hard to give, particularly when it comes to the newspaper The Sun.

Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid printed a giant header the morning after the horrible events – ‘The Truth’. Underneath it were 3 subheadings:

‘Some fans picked pockets of victims’

‘Some fans urinated on the brave cops’

‘Some fans beat up PC giving kiss of life’

None of that was remotely true. It was based on scurrilous lies and a failure to bother to check those untruths before printing a sensationalist smear. They put on some metaphorical horse blinkers and blocked out the truth.

That is what I call grotesque.

You’ll Never Walk Alone – Justice For The 96.

The Hope That Starts The Broken Hearts

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