Saturday, 26 December 2009

A close thing

It gave me quite a frisson when I realised that the alleged perpetrator of yesterday's attempted terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines flight 253 as it descended towards Detroit Metropolitan Airport might very well have been a close friend of mine, if the incident had taken place much earlier.

The man currently under arrest had been a student reading Mechanical Engineering at University College London, as I had been fifty-nine years previously, and my Nigerian friend at that time, Charles Ogunsina, could have been involved; he was just the sort of chap who would burn his leg trying to mix two liquids together in the hope that they would explode. I always had a certain affection for him because he was the only student of our year whose technical drawings were more contemptible than mine and, in addition, always had dirty fingermarks all over them. Sadly, we lost touch after we both failed Part 1 of the BSc course and went our separate ways, he back to Lagos and I to National Service.

So it was with some excitement that I followed BBC Television News reporting on the developments at lunchtime today. Well, actually, 'developments' is not quite the right word because the reporter on the spot, broadcasting live, made several desperate and totally unsuccessful attempts to rack up the tension when in fact he had no idea what, if anything, was happening inside the premises in London where the student may have stayed earlier. He constantly announced new 'flurries' of activity consisting of policemen going into the building carrying packages and coming out, sometimes empty-handed and sometimes carrying the same packages, or possibly different ones. On one occasion the sharp-eyed observer spotted that some new arrivals were dressed quite differently from earlier ones and were wearing boots, but made no attempt to explain the significance of this. It was at that point that I guessed that nothing much would happen that afternoon, and switched off.

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