becoming real

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

“The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.

from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams; illustration by William Nicholson


Quote #199

Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Wesley, in The Princess Bride by William Goldman


The price of meat

A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.

New Scientist, 18 July 2007


An Open Letter to Omar Deghayes

Omar Deghayes, ISN 727
Camp Delta,
PO Box 160,
Washington, DC 20053

Dear Omar

I am writing to you after hearing your brother speak at a meeting in Sheffield, UK, where I live. I am going to send this letter to Jacqui Smith, our new Home Secretary, and make it public as well, so forgive me if I repeat some things to you – I am aware that you know these things only too well, but I want other people who might see this letter to understand what has happened to you and how important it is that you are brought back to the UK.

Your brother told us about how your family came to Britain in 1987 after your father had been assassinated because of his opposition to Gaddafi’s dictatorship in Libya. He spoke of trips to the UK before that where your father took you to Speaker’s Corner and said “This is what it should be like in Tripoli”. He said how your father pointed to Britain and said “Britain is the most just country in the world”. He told us how it was because of British justice and British fairness that when you fled persecution you came to Britain to seek sanctuary.

You have been detained in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility for nearly five years now, where the American government is making a mockery of ideals of justice which the president tells us he wants to spread around the world. Today, July the 4th, it is two-hundred and thirty-one years since the America Declaration of Independence. That famous phrase must ring hollow for you now: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. It rings hollow for me, hearing how your human rights have been abused: you have been kidnapped, tortured, denied a right to trial, denied even the right to be formally charged, to have evidence presented against you, to even know what the American government believes to be true that they imprison you. It is injustices like these that are listed as accusations against the British King in the Declaration of Independence. That document uses the phrase ‘Arbitrary Government’, and it seems to me that these are the warning signs of a slide towards more ‘Arbitrary government’ and all that that entails.

It is shameful that the British government claims not to be able to represent you because you are officially a citizen of Libya. You are a British resident and the British government should offer you protection from persecution. I know how important it is that when you are released you come back to the UK, to live in safety with your family, rather than be deported to Libya; I heard in the meeting how the Libyan official who visited you in Guantanamo threatened to kill you if you were sent back to Libya. For justice to be justice it must protect everybody.

In Sheffield we have a movement called ‘City of Sanctuary’ which is dedicated to creating an atmosphere of hospitality for asylum seekers and refugees – we want to be a city that takes pride in the welcome it offers to people in need of safety. I sincerely wish that the British government would show some of the same attitude and make representations to the Americans to bring you home. I want to be proud of the British government, and proud of British justice in the same way I am proud of Sheffield as a City of Sanctuary.


Tom Stafford

Save Omar Campaign website:

Documentary about Omar: here

Text of the American Declaration of Independence

City of Sanctuary