Nina Bawden: At last, an apology. But no mention of the loved ones we lost

MY WEEK

Share
Related Topics

The novelist, whose husband was killed in the Potters Bar rail crash two years ago, describes the week in which the rail companies admit liability and apologise

The novelist, whose husband was killed in the Potters Bar rail crash two years ago, describes the week in which the rail companies admit liability and apologise

Monday. Ten o'clock. Two nice young men and a delightful girl from Phoenix Television (Chinese news and entertainment) come to interview me about the Potters Bar catastrophe. My vitriolic views on the character and competence of the railway industry and the Government will be broadcast to the whole of China. Arrival at lunch time of my old friend Annie who, after 20 years of retirement in Greece, has decided to relocate to Australia, where she was born. She spent her working life in London, where she ran the Merchant Navy programme for the BBC World Service and so, inevitably, is known as Tugboat Annie. A merry evening at the Aquilina Bar in Camden Passage.

Tuesday. Breaking news. Call from sister-in-law. Their post has come early, bringing a letter from Network Rail to say that they and Jarvis are - at last! - admitting liability for the derailment of the train in which my husband, Austen Kark, was killed. We had been told an announcement was expected, but not what it was. Jubilation slightly muted by the weasel words in which the admission is couched, trying to suggest that although they are liable and sorry, they are not really to blame. With Tugboat Annie await the usual telephone calls from the media. Louise Christian, our marvellous, battling solicitor, is enraged that her clients were informed before her but takes the brunt of these calls. Since I have invited some eminent retired BBC pundits for the evening, I turn down requests for interviews but am door-stepped by Sky News before I can even comb my hair. Luckily, calls stop by dinner time, and the Bush House reunion with Tugboat Annie is moderately tranquil.

Wednesday. All the morning newspapers carry the story. Rush out to buy them. While the railways and the Government ignored the bereaved and injured of Potters Bar, the support of the media has been a huge comfort and encouragement throughout the long months since the accident. Spend most of the day catching items on radio and television. More telephone calls. Both Tugboat and I siesta for an hour and wake fresh for another BBC dinner, this time at the Oriental Club in Stratford Place, the prettiest house in London.

Thursday. Annie leaves for her next visit to her past. The post arrives, bearing a letter from Jarvis. A fairly fulsome apology for the "hurt and anger" we have suffered, though no mention made of seven dead and 70 injured due to their lousy maintenance of the railway track, or for their initial peddling of false tales of "sabotage". Visit to the physiotherapist, who attempts to deal with what I think of as "my old war wounds"; the damage done to my skeleton during the crash. Walk out of his office a little more upright and return home to daughter, Perdita, who has found a strange, dusty safe behind some dusty volumes in the bookshelf. Happy evening at a neighbouring friend's birthday party.

Friday. A call from Phoenix Television to say the programme it made on Monday has gone out to China, but that most of the sequence that involved me was to do with the injuries I have suffered; the thrust of the programme being about the plight of one of its anchor women, who had been on the train and was pronounced brain-dead in London. After months in hospital in Beijing, she is walking and talking - but only a little. She has heard nothing from Network Rail or Jarvis: no apology, no compensation. Spend the rest of the day trying to get on with my book about the accident, which I am writing in the form of a letter to Austen. Another birthday supper - this time at Lola's in Camden Passage.

Saturday. Pack small bag to go to Bath for the weekend. Go through - though not, alas, deal with - the post. Take steak out of the freezer for old friend, playwright Steve Wakelam, who is to keep me company this evening. Since the accident I am afraid to be alone in the house at night. Hear from daughter that none of her criminal associates can open the safe. Afternoon: to the theatre with daughter and granddaughter. A lovely production of All's Well That Ends Well. As good a way to end the week as any.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there