Thursday, July 05, 2007


After more than 110 days in captivity, my colleague Alan Johnston is finally free.

Yesterday was one of the greatest days I've ever spent in the BBC newsroom. Even the most grizzled hack had a smile on his or her face.

Yesterday evening, we celebrated Alan's release at the Amnesty International Media Awards, where his parents Graham and Margaret received a standing ovation.

And after thinking long and hard about it, I've decided to use Alan's release as an opportunity to draw this blog to a close....for the moment at least.

The sad fact is that with the demands of my beautiful baby, work and assorted other projects, I just haven't had the time or energy I'd like to devote to this blog recently.

I don't like doing things by half measures, so I'd rather stop completely than continue half-heartedly.

Although I haven't decided yet, I'm tempted to continue podcasting and would be interested to hear about any projects which might be of interest to a cynical, one-legged hack.

It's been a fascinating, stimulating, if at times tragic four years.

Thanks to everyone who's followed the journey.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

For info, my contribution to "Listening Post" will air on Al Jazeera English this Friday at 1530BST.

You can watch it on Sky channel 514.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The view from my office window...

I'm probably hopelessly behind the curve on this one, but James Hider's piece in today's Times alerted me to the most outstanding example of citizen journalism I've ever seen.

Hometown Baghdad is a series of short video diaries posted on You Tube which chronicles the lives of three twentysomethings living in the Iraqi capital.

All three seem destined for million dollar US TV contracts and a primetime series.

You'll learn more about Iraq from one of their video diaries than you will from a month of network TV news.

I've blogged about it before, but I can't help but sing the praises of the modern marvel that is Freecycle.

We're getting our loft converted in a few months and have been clearing out all the unwanted crap that's been sitting up there for years.

But one man's trash is another man's treasure.

I put a whole host of items up on Freecycle -- stereo equipment, shelves, bits of furniture -- and within a few hours most were snapped up.

They would have ended up in landfill, but instead they've been given a whole new lease of life somewhere in West London.

Maybe they'll just end up on eBay, but if someone can make a profit from my old junk, good on them.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The BBC's Gaza Correspondent Alan Johnston has now been held for eight weeks, and as my colleague Matthew Price reports, his ordeal is adding to the sense of deep pessimism in the Gaza Strip.

I was contacted last week by a producer from Listening Post, Al Jazeera English's weekly media review.

They asked me to contribute a videoblog about Alan. The vlog should appear on next week's show, but in the meantime you can watch it below.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The sweetest words I've read on the wires today came from the Press Association:
"Tickets for Barbra Streisand's first UK gig in 13 years sold out in just 20 minutes today - despite their hefty price tag."
My trigger finger was twitching at 08:59:30 this morning and I snapped up a pair of £200 tickets for the show within seconds of them going on sale.

If anyone wants to make me an offer for a pair of seats in Block 404.....
I've uploaded Mike Wooldridge's report on the Alan Johnston service at St Bride's yesterday. Watch it below.

Start your Bank Holiday Weekend with a smile in the form of a very cute picture of Billy Bob.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A special thanks to the New Yorkers at Streetsblog for the link back here following my recent comments about cycling in the capital.

Seems we have a lot in common.

Streetsblog is a new discovery for me -- but is one I'll be visiting regularly from now on.
I can't let today go by without mentioning the fact that it's World Press Freedom Day.

Those of us who are campaigning for Alan Johnston's release having been using the day as a means of keeping Alan's plight in the public eye.

There have been events worldwide -- most notably at the UN -- and Alan's situation has been even more uppermost in our minds today.

For my part, I dashed over to Fleet Street at lunchtime for a special service for Alan and all journalists who are under threat at St Bride's Church -- the spiritual home of journalists.

St Bride's has an altar set aside for journalists and every time I go there I'm struck by its poignancy. The altar seems ever more crammed with memorial nameplates for friends and colleagues I've worked with and who have been killed in the course of their work -- Kaveh Golestan, Kate Peyton, Simon Cumbers....

Sadly, the list keeps growing.

A rare foray into the corporate world today -- but for a very good reason.

For the last few months I've been working with MAG and the No More Landmines Trust on the launch of a scultpture exhibition by the Canadian artist Blake.

This morning, amid the magnificent surroundings of Haberdashers Hall near Smithfield Market, we launched Blake's new collection Fragments. I was on hand to speak about my personal experience of landmines and the importance of donating to mine clearance work.

We're aiming first at corporate clients as they have the deepest pockets. The profits from every sale will go towards landmine clearance and Blake is hoping to raise £1.2m for the cause.

It's an ambitious target, but a very worthy one.

Read more about what Blake's trying to achieve by downloading the exhibition prospectus here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Maybe it's the prospect of this Summer's Grand Depart, maybe it's the boom in the number of cyclists in the capital, but the London Evening Standard -- bible of the city's tube-bound strap hangers -- has gone cycling crazy.

The Standard is pushing a 12 point charter to bring about nothing short of a London Cycling Revolution. (The charter isn't available online but I've uploaded it here.)

Why they've suddenly started crusading for us dedicated pedallers is the subject of much debate. Is it just because Associated Newspapers hate Ken Livingstone and see the cycling issue as a stick with which to beat the Mayor? Is the paper trying to court a new market of readers because more cyclists = fewer strap hangers = fewer sales of the Standard at tube stations?

Resonance FM's Bike Show chews over the Standard's proposals in a podcast, which is worth a listen.

I hope the plans are noted by one Mr Williams of Acton, the owner of the black Peugeot 407 that hit me yesterday morning after making a blatantly illegal manouevre, sending me flying over his front quarter.

Send me the cheque for the repairs to my beloved Specialized Tricross, Mr Williams, and we'll take it no further.