Belfast Telegraph

Tunisia attack: Nothing more spineless than shooting OAPs on sun loungers

By Grace Dent

Like many people at this present time, with regard to the events in Sousse, I am a mixture of heartbroken and fixated. As the photographs have begun to trickle out of other people's mothers, I've succumbed to the urge to call my own mother simply to hear her voice.

If I was a bit less British I would tell her that photos of women like grandmothers Lisa Burbidge and Claire Windass hammer home to me that these were just women like her who had popped off on a June break.

And that I am horrified to live in a world where grans on sunloungers at midday wearing sun-costumes are now fair game as "infidels".

If I was a bit less British and a lot less working-class, I would flood her with just how much I love her.

Instead, we communicate our love via a sideways language of tuts, mutual concern over whether the other is eating enough fibre and a trip down memory lane about the time - around 15 years ago - we went on a lovely mother-daughter holiday to Sousse. Because, until last week, Sousse was exactly the kind of place your mam would love.

It was relaxed, unpretentious and wonderfully negligent in the nightlife category. And, as it turned out, my awful French and lack of Tunisian Arabic didn't matter as the locals, on first view of my porridge-like skin, would determinedly chuck any English they could muster at me with an earnest and indomitable zeal.

Sousse's people wanted so badly to make tourism work and they were so proud of their country and their lovely new hotels. I've thought of them frequently since last Friday.

I find reports that resort workers risked their lives forming human shields around foreign tourists unsurprising. Or that they risked their lives chasing the gunman and throwing bottles of olive oil and rocks.

The killer, Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani, may have attacked what he sees as the "infidel", but he has also attempted to kill the Tunisian people's livelihoods and their national pride.

And what security measures did the brave soldier circumnavigate? He didn't swim up to a heavily guarded luxury yacht ferrying VIPs just off Port El Kantaoui and risk having his head blasted 100 metres off his shoulders. Nor did he "target" any beach favoured by scores of muscular youthful men who had a fighting chance of stopping him.

In fact, I am struggling to find anything less spineless than killing pensioners dressed in Lycra swimsuits, but I'm aware that even frittering time trying to make sense of Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani is a lesson in futility. Isis also described the Imperial Hotel as "a bordel" (a brothel).

If this is their idea of antagonistic debauchery, then I surmise that their plan is to phase out holidays for everyone, everywhere. Nasty business anyway, all that relaxing, smiling and laughing. Paddling with your children and watching sunsets. I can see why they want it prohibited.

Our choice, it seems, going forward is to be terrorised into never leaving our homes in fear that any beach or hotel is the next target. Or we can - as several holidaymakers in Tunisia are doing right now - carry on sunbathing regardless.

Clearly, the public here are in deep shock at present, but at a deeper level we have an inherent love of sunshine, downtime, family life and summertime silliness. We love daft Noddy trains with funny horns and sunburn on the first day and hotel cabaret honking its way through Four Tops hits.

We all have the absolute right - like the victims of Sousse did - for a week or two each year to lie on a beach and feel absolutely free.

I offered my mother a trip somewhere "foreign" to cheer her up, but she says she'd prefer Blackpool right now. Considering the gravity of the situation, I am happy to start small.

Belfast Telegraph


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