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Exeat: Day 138/84: President Macron on the streets of Beyrouth-Beirut

To whom can the people of Lebanon turn? The history of their country since post-WWII independence beginning November 1943 has been fraught and the latest apocalyptic disaster simply piles on yet more agony. It was an uplifting gesture for President Macron to travel to Beirut which has not been lost on the world at large in terms of images – the crowds calling France to the rescue – and in extremely harsh words directed at the Lebanese ruling class. History counts. France has a special link to Lebanon and its historic mandated responsibility. By late on Thursday nearly 60,000 people had even signed an online petition demanding the country be placed once again under a French Mandate for the next 10 years. Images and words are one thing however, but what can France or indeed the rest of the world do to help? The loss of life from the explosion of long stored chemicals held on the quayside is seemingly relatively small but the destruction wrought across the capital city to 300,000 homes is beyond understanding. And the entire port which is the principal point of entry for imports is destroyed. Macron has promised he will return September 1st to deliver on his promises to the crowds he encountered on the streets.

It's the 103rd anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. …. which occurred in Halifax Nova Scotia on the morning of 6 December 1917. SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship laden with high explosives collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo in the Narrows, a strait connecting the upper Halifax Harbour to Bedford Basin. The parallels in Lebanon today are striking. The structural survivor below is even a harbinger of Hiroshima [Day137/84].

The sequence was the same as in Beirut. The Norwegian relief vessel, the SS Imo, collides with a French munitions ship laden with explosives, the SS Mont Blanc. For 19 minutes a dazzling display of fireworks captivates onlookers as the Mont Blanc drifts and burns. Then the Mont Blanc blows up with devastating force its 2,600 tons of explosives levelling swaths of Halifax and Dartmouth, raining down shards of white-hot iron, blowing off roofs and shattering glass. Approximately 2,000 people were killed by the blast, debris, fires or collapsed buildings, and an estimated 9,000 others were injured. The blast was the largest man-made explosion at the time releasing the equivalent energy of roughly 2.9 kilotons of TNT. A tsunami created by the blast wiped out the community of the Mi'kmaq First Nation who had lived in the Tufts Cove area for generations.
Zimbabwe always haunts my personal memory. The legacy of France's withdrawal from the Lebanon for which it held the mandate from the League of Nations after WWI after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire brings to mind my fellow student at Reading in 1959/60/61 Joshua Nkomo and the tragedy that befell his tribe and the nation as Mugabe destroyed its imperial legacy and all vestiges of opposition, putting nothing worthy in its place. The agony there continues to this day. Is there nothing our International Development billions each year can do to bring about structural changes and put Zimbabwe back on the path to the grain basket of Africa? My two visits there had been so demoralising and tales from our inspired colleague Bev Bruce at MCB whose family fled to South Africa then to Yorkshire did nothing to reduce the feeling of exasperation. All we hear in the UK today is of campaigns to denigrate and obliterate all memories of Cecil Rhodes who st that country on its path to self sufficiency. Would those campaigns wish to see statues of Mugabe replace Rhodes?
Modest concerns at The Lodge today. As the Ilkley crew drive swiftly to Weymouth to catch the hottest day of the year I was up 6am early to catch the mist on The Dip before the sun came out! And our church tower across The 'Hot' Dip later - not a cloud in the sky. And I've added Avril's bee on the lavender … no sign of honey hereabouts though! I took my Walk to the corner of Barn Lane and returned to prepare for Gill's Friday Coffee Morning Visit with Avril at 11.30. Sylvia and I have been putting together the paperwork for the £8,000 Lottery Emergency Grant we've won and a new request to ELC for £1,750 from its 'Town & Villages Fund to help with Covid19' precautions during our September programme and for HMs Fox in November in Dunbar. Once done I can protect myself from the promised heat of today [37 degrees?] and enjoy re-reading Kate Atkinson's Transcriptions.

P.S. I was wrong about the black bag potatoes yesterday! The last unearthing this afternoon revealed an ideal stock for our cajun salmon steaks ….

Published Date: August 7th 2020


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