Being a civilian at this time of international tension isn't easy.
You know that you should be more careful, you know that you should adjust your thinking somewhat, but well, life goes on, doesn't it?
Back during the Second World War, the Luftwaffe dropped a bomb in our back garden. It didn't go off and in the morning, my Grandfather, who had served in the first great conflict, went out to examine it. He eyed the bomb as it lay there, then kicked it, muttered something about second rate manufacture and went back in for breakfast. The bomb exploded thirty minutes later, killing no one, but shattering all the windows in the village. Of course he should have been more careful, but you really don't think it'll happen to you.
An uncle who'd served in the navy kept a shell on his mantelpiece as a reminder of his days at sea. He used to strike a match against it before lighting his pipe. A few days after he died, we cleared the house out and… you've guessed it, the shell blew up.
And I learned the lesson myself a few years ago. When the IRA bombing campaign in London was at its height, I carelessly left my briefcase on a park bench and the Police destroyed it as a potential terrorist bomb. My sandwiches went everywhere.
Now Kiri Te Kanawa, one of the world's greatest sopranos and a Dame of The British Empire no less, has nearly come unstuck. She arrived at a Holiday Inn in Scotland all tooled up to go hunting. And when I say tooled up, I mean, the Diva produced two shotguns and asked the hotel manager to put them in the gun store. Now, I can only speculate, but given the high level of security awareness at the moment, I suspect that the colour drained from the hotel manager's face. The Police were called and Dame Kiri was taken to a Police Station used in the past to hold terrorists. In the end, the whole affair was sorted out amicably, and she got to go out onto the moors shooting, but along with the armed Police mingling with this year's Christmas shoppers here in London, Dame Kiri's experience is another small indication of the way our world is changing.
Wherever you are, I wish you all a very Happy Christmas, and let's hope for a peaceful New Year.
By Simon Bates