Autobiographical: Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award

The teenage Lucy Louise is like the Lulu song Shout. Alan Partridge was big then, a tragi-comic character whose finished TV career sends him into a tailspin. The lads at school loved Partridge and we enjoyed joking about Alan’s music taste.

My Dad, with the same initials, coincidentally was going through a similar Alan Partridge experience. Dad worked in London, and would be away Monday to Friday. He worked for an international steel trader, I think it was called Léopold Lazarus.

His office was in Docklands, London and it was bombed by the IRA in 1996. They phoned it in and it was on a Saturday, so fewer casualties. I remember going into school on the Monday and telling the class that luckily there was only one casualty, and I was duly admonished by a supply teacher of the Ba’hai faith. I have never felt so ashamed.

When the steel industry started to go belly up in the 90s, dad was let go after more than 20 years’ loyal service and as far as I am aware, zero time off sick. We were privately devastated, although I laughed along with the Alan Partridge jokes publically. These days I vibe with Alan’s music collection, especially ELO and “Best of the Beatles.”

When I was 15 I did the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award at school, where you complete a series of activities over time to earn the award. I had started wearing flares outside of school and was having guitar lessons on a road called Abbey Street. I was hiking with my group in DoveDale when a bomb went off in Manchester 1996. My sister was living in Manchester at the time, at University. Again, the IRA. 

We were eating snacks by a shop when we heard it on the radio of a nearby parked van. There were no mobile phones back then, so we carried on the hike but took a detour to a public phone box so I could phone my mum. Four years later, I would go to University in Manchester, and found that the city had been attractively rebuilt and heavily invested in, but the old battle lines remained in many places, and I was a target in my flares, not to the IRA, but to people who don’t and won’t give peace a chance, in more respects than one.

Today, on the day the Duke of Edinburgh died, I remember my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award, and I’m grateful for how far the peace process has progressed since those dark times, and I’m grateful to the Duke of Edinburgh for helping me to grow up a bit.

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From tiny acorns mighty oaks grow.

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