Tag Archives: Family

Leeds United’s New Striker, Upstaged by a Baby Girl – by Rob Atkinson

July 7th, 1993 was a very, very special day in my life. On that never-to-be-forgotten Wednesday morning, after a lifetime of waiting and to my immense delight … I heard that Leeds United had signed Brian Deane.

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Kathleen Abigail

No, no, no. Strike that. Just my little joke. The 7th of July 1993 was, of course, actually memorable for an infinitely better reason. Two weeks later than advertised (she never was that punctual, my wife) I became a Dad for the first and, to the best of my knowledge, the only time.

It’s exactly twenty-three years ago now, and whenever I see the beautiful young lady currently making a life for herself with her partner Liam in York, it amazes me how time has flown by since she made her first entrance. And I was there, as modern convention permits – indeed, demands. There were times during that long (especially for poor Tracy) period of labour when, believe me, the craven coward never far below the surface in me envied those yesteryear Dads-to-be. They were complacently uninvolved, able blithely to pace the carpet on the comfortable, clean outside, instead of sharing the hot and foetid atmosphere of a frenetic delivery room.

Kate was a planned baby, a wanted baby, a loved baby. But she probably has no idea, even today, of how she owes her very existence to my lack of precognition. If I’d been able to look ahead, when we decided it was time to present the old folks at home with a grandchild, things may have worked out differently. If I’d been granted a preview of some of the scenes that unfolded in that torture chamber of a birthing suite, I doubt very much whether Kate would ever have been considered, never mind conceived.

Thankfully though, the future is a closed book, and the human race was not to be denied a spectacular addition. So, we made our plans, happily envisaging the crib at home, the cot in the back room, the muddy football boots in the lobby cupboard and the toy goal net in the back garden. Oh, yes – I forgot to mention. Kate was supposed to be David. David Michael Kenneth, in fact; we generously honoured both Grandads in second and third place as well as settling on our favourite boy’s name as the winner. Because we knew, beyond reasonable doubt, that we’d have a boy.

The fact is that the Atkinsons had had a bit of a thin time of it on the distaff side over the previous fifty years. The last girl in the male line had been my Aunt Sheila in the 40’s; after that it had been boys all the way. My Dad sired three of us, despite always aching for a daughter (whom he’d have spoiled silly). My brother collaborated in the production of two more, and the received wisdom was that the Atkinsons could only churn out boys. I secretly wanted a daughter – having grown up as a truculent male teenager myself, I didn’t fancy handling the other side of that situation. But we both happily subscribed to the popular (and sensible) “doesn’t matter what we get as long as it’s healthy” line.

Once the supposedly tricky business of “dropping on” was accomplished – we struck lucky almost immediately, and one of my more irreverent friends dubbed me “one shot, one coconut” – our fever of speculation over what gender we might end up with grew apace. We actually resorted to an old superstition of dangling a wedding ring over the expectant tummy, and seeing which way it rotated, as this was supposed to be a sure-fire indicator one way or the other. We took care to eliminate any draughts which might set our experiment off to a false start, and Tracy lay down while I held the thread with the magic wedding ring attached. I swear on my soul that, with no outside influence at play, the damned thing suddenly jerked and started to rotate slowly clockwise – a sure sign that we were expecting a girl. So that was that particular old wives’ tale exposed as mumbo jumbo…

For the most part, Tracy’s pregnancy proceeded uneventfully. There was that one time when she felt some slight sickness, and fainted prettily on the upper landing, causing me to charge upstairs, snorting with alarm. And she seemed to exist almost entirely on milk and chocolate digestives, which transformed an ethereally-slim and insubstantial girl into a solid mass of obdurate flesh. On previous occasions when we’d collided in our tiny kitchen, I’d always ended up in fits of laughter as little Trace spun away through the door and glowered resentfully at mighty me. Now, it was my turn to bounce off and ricochet against the wall. And I was always getting edged out of bed by this brooding, broody lump of double humanity. It was a strange time.

In the end, Tracy was late delivering the goods – nearly two weeks overdue and showing no real signs of getting on with it. So, the decision was taken to get her into hospital, and “induce” her. This involved bed rest, a cocktail of hormone-based drugs, and subsistence on soup and ice cream. I spent a lot of this time visiting, and trying not to mention my own more interesting diet, for fear of provoking a hungry woman’s rage. When the time finally arrived, we realised that it was going to tick over on to the same day as my Dad’s 66th birthday and we still clung to hopes of presenting him with a grand-daughter – a gift that could never be topped.

The early hours of that July 7th were a riot of readings, tubes, examinations and just about every medical intervention you could imagine. Tracy was in a lot of pain, and I felt a miserable mixture of guilt and helplessness. Every five minutes, so it seemed to me, some new person would stride into the room, stick another wire, tube or implement somewhere about my poor, spread-eagled wife’s person, and bustle out again. Tracy gulped at gas and air in between times, and demanded either an epidural or a section, in increasingly strident tones. The epidural was granted at last, but took two tries to work, amid instructions for me to hold my wife VERY steady, as she’d surely be paralysed if the needle missed its mark. Thanks, Doc.

Then, all of a sudden, it was action stations in earnest. I was hastily retrieved from a waiting-room where I’d tried to catch ten minutes sleep on two pulled-together chairs, and peremptorily ordered to grab a leg, and keep out of the way. I surveyed the scene at the business end, and immediately knew that I was going to do that awful, clichéd thing, and faint. This filled me with horror – I’d be the deserving object of scorn in that overwhelmingly female environment, with my wife stoically suffering away. I’d never live it down. Mumbling an excuse, I dived for the adjacent bathroom, and splashed ice-cold water on my face, gulping massive breaths of air and feeling the muzzy sensation and the hissing and rushing in my ears fade away. I tottered back out into the delivery room, and resumed my station at Tracy’s left ankle, by which time the baby’s head was crowning. I stared again, fascinated now. We two were mere moments away from becoming three, and yet still we didn’t know the single most important fact about our child: boy or girl?

All those doubts seemed to vanish as matters accelerated towards a conclusion. With a courageous, fantastic effort, Trace had managed to deliver herself of a head, and was well on the way to producing a couple of shoulders. I gazed at my child’s mop of raven hair, and then marveled as a muscular upper torso began to emerge. I’d seen that thick black mane before, and those lithe and sinewy shoulders and limbs, oiled with unspeakable secretions and glistening in the harsh light. I’d seen them in Westerns galore, they were unmistakable. We were having an Apache.

The head and shoulders, unsurprisingly, are the hard part. The rest of my offspring fairly hurtled out, and with an exclamation of delight I squeaked at my wife in the high pitch of emotional release, “We’ve got a girl, Trace! And she’s bloody gorgeous!!” (Sensation, and sustained applause)

Now, another new-fangled tradition played itself out, as I was given some scissors and ordered to cut the cord. I ballsed it up, of course, getting three quarters of the way through, the scissors out of control in my shaking hand. But I somehow managed to saw my way past the last bit, and then I had my daughter in my arms for her first ever cuddle. 4:38 am. Welcome to the world, Kathleen Abigail. Happy birthday.

I don’t remember too much after that. The rest of the day was a confused blur of phone calls; my Dad being fooled into thinking it was a boy before we told him he had his grand-daughter, a lift home with my delighted parents while Trace was ushered off to a bath and a well-deserved sleep, and then celebratory bacon sandwiches at our house, courtesy of Mum.  We stopped for a pint of milk and the scum fan who kept the sandwich shop down the road saw me and was taking the mick over Brian Deane.  I told him I’d got a far bigger story, and so it came to pass that one of my earliest congratulations on new fatherhood came from a scummer, forsooth.  He was a good lad though, as it goes.

I do remember later, my Dad saying during the first visit how he was so pleased to have a grand-daughter for his birthday, and Tracy snarling that she “hadn’t done it for him”, as my Mum laughed in the background. And cameras were popping all over the place, everyone but my poor, tired wife lapping up the star treatment. Kate-who-was-supposed-to-be-David slept beautifully through all this, giving an entirely misleading impression of how she would comport herself during her noisy first three months. And then it was back home for us non-combatants, leaving Tracy to feeding lessons, and more blessed, welcome sleep. Kate Atkinson had arrived, and things would never be quite the same again.

And Brian Deane? Well, he had his moments at centre-forward, and even got Leeds into Europe one year with a virtuoso goal at Spurs. Beyond that though, his main claim to fame is that he arrived in my life on the same day that my only child did; but there, the comparison ends. Kate is now twenty-three, this very day –  and continues to confound, amaze and delight us as she lights up our lives. She doesn’t share her birthday any more, her grandad having passed away early last year. But the stories of her childhood are many and memorable; they’re the treasures we still hold now that she’s making her way in the world.

And, if I live to be a hundred, I’ll never ever forget the day I first met my daughter.  Happy birthday, Kate.  And all our love, as ever.

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Leeds “Fans” Tweet Horrific Silvestri Family Death Threats   –   by Rob Atkinson

United 'keeper Marco Silvestri - targeted by cowards

United ‘keeper Marco Silvestri – targeted by moronic cowards

Football is about the players and it’s also about the supporters; a lot of the appeal of the game is based on the on-field battle between two teams of players – as well as the off-field rivalry, often raucous and profane, between two rabidly opposed sets of fans. 

But there’s also that vexatious relationship between the players of any particular team and the supporters of the club those players turn out for. That’s always been an interesting dynamic to say the least – you often hear players say that their fans’ support is worth an extra man, or a goal start. This has often been the case at Leeds United in particular, where the fervour and volume of support, the sheer intensity of the fans, has traditionally been of legendary proportions.

Nowadays, though, there’s an extra dimension to that fan/player interaction. It used to be about massed chants and acres of swaying scarves on the Kop. The nearest a fan got to any one-to-one repartee was perhaps a supporters’ club function. All that changed with the advent of social media. Now, fans can make their views known to a wide audience via blogs and the ubiquitous Internet forum. Or they can get up close and personal, by tweeting their views directly to their heroes @Twitter. Often, this can be productive and useful, or at least funny and entertaining.

But unfortunately, there’s always the odd one or two that go way too far and cross the line. And that’s happened this week, in the wake of Leeds United’s late surrender of two points at Bristol City

There are those who feel that United ‘keeper Marco Silvestri was not entirely free of blame in at least one of City’s two last-gasp goals. Fair enough, it’s a point of view that I can relate to. And the opportunity is clearly there, in these instant communication times, to get your frustration and annoyance out there. The replacement of Silvestri by Ross Turnbull was strongly mooted. Nothing wrong with that, we all have our opinions. 

But – actual death threats, aimed at Silvestri and his family? Tweeting that you hope the Leeds ‘keeper crashes his car and dies? Really?? What on earth motivates people – even assuming that they’re clueless, attention-seeking kids – what could possibly move any human being deliberately to visit such chilling and malicious filth on another human being – all because something went awry in a game of football? Note the Twitter handles well: @billylufc_ and @akawhatadave – let’s hope they can be shamed as well as named.

Two sick products of two warped minds

Two sick products of two warped minds

And there I shall stop speculating on whatever mental process led up to the publication of such tawdry, irresponsible rubbish. It simply beats me that anyone could even imagine doing such a thing. To try and figure out the motivations behind this perversion is surely a hopeless task. We’re talking about diseased minds here, and profoundly inadequate personalities

The main point, surely, is that the player or players targeted by such evil rubbish should be protected from it in the future. This is not a case of “sticks and stones“. Direct threats in particular have to be taken seriously, lest someone should fall tragically foul of that one in ten thousand case where the sicko actually means it, and acts accordingly. And when players’ families are involved, it’s all the more important to take a very stern line where at all possible. 

Idiots on Twitter have felt the weight of the law in the past, and this should definitely be the aim in the cases highlighted here as well as any similar cases. Leeds United have a responsibility to report the matter, fans’ groups should be seeking to assist in this, and the police should investigate and act without delay. It’s not beyond the wit of man to hold these nasty little people to account, and to leave them in no doubt that they’ve made a serious error of judgement; that such unsavoury behaviour will not be tolerated. 

Sadly, at least one prominent Leeds fans’ publication, The Square Ball, seem very reticent about requests that they should condemn these vicious tweets and assist in the ostracism of those responsible. This blog is at a loss to understand what appears to be a head-in-the-sand stance from such a respected publication. Perhaps they will have second and better thoughts. Please. 

In the meantime, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything calls upon Leeds United AFC, the Football authorities and the police to act with all speed and vigour, in order to ensure there is no repetition of such extreme unpleasantness. All decent fans of Leeds, and indeed of Football and sport in general, will surely wish to condemn the offenders and see them pulled up short. 

It’s not a pleasant subject to write or to read about. But there is no place for squeamishness here, nor for faint hearts, nor elastic principles. The players and their families must be sheltered from the kind of evil inherent in the examples you see above.

That, surely, is something we can all agree on. 

Happy Silver Celebration for a Leeds United Widow – by Rob Atkinson

June 3rd, 1989

Bear with me this once, gentle reader, as I thank my partner in life for twenty-five years of wedded more-or-less bliss – and for the patient tolerance with which she’s borne her status as a Leeds United widow all this time. It’s self-indulgent – but this blog feels the need to pay tribute.

You know you’re fortunate in the ladies that adorn your life, when they share in the joy and sorrow that visit you from time to time as a result of your preoccupation with what is a daft game in general – and one daft club in particular. So it is for me, and that’s why I’m so grateful to have the wife and daughter I have, lasses who will celebrate and commiserate with me as appropriate when really they’re both far more interested in The Great British Bake-Off.

This happy fact is illustrated by a few incidents over the years. When Man City won the Title a couple of seasons back, I was rescued from utter misery as it had looked as though the Pride of Devon were going to nick it in a typically undeserving fashion. So my daughter Kate (not pictured above, for obvious reasons) hurtled downstairs to celebrate with me when that last-gasp Aguero goal went in, knowing exactly how I felt, ready to rejoice in the tragedy that had befallen the scum. My ladies know that the love of Leeds United is closely enmeshed with an absolute hatred of everything concerned with the Theatre of Hollow Myths, and they are prepared to join with me in this, despite a female inability to understand or completely relate to it.

So also, twenty-two years ago, Mrs Rob was “over the moon” for me, as we football types say, when the Real United became the Last Champions. She came out with me to celebrate, dragging through to Leeds City Centre with me on a Sunday morning in those pre-car days when we had to hop a train to get anywhere. She shared the celebration of City Square and the Headrow as the team waved the Championship trophy at us and Eric Cantona told us deceitfully how he loved us.

It was so fitting that she should be there for that moment of achievement, despite her preference for matters less frivolous than football. She’d been the first woman I’d ever taken to Elland Road who hadn’t jinxed the occasion. After a series of relationship-ending defeats in the company of lesser ladies, I took my newish fiancée along for her Leeds debut with some trepidation. What if she let me down as so many others had? I’d shelled out for a ring and everything, after all. But, where several others had failed before her, the future Mrs Rob came through faultlessly. We beat Sheffield United 5-0 and John Pearson even scored a hat-trick. I knew then that she was confirmed beyond doubt as The One.

Much later, on holiday in the South of France, with a seven year old child in tow, Mrs Rob positively insisted that I should abandon them both on their camp-site to take a train to Barcelona and see us hammered 4-0 in the opening match of the Champions League proper, the year we went all the way to the semis. I ended up in 5 star luxury before and after the match, whilst she held the fort – well, the tent. I thought then, that was above and beyond the call of duty.

It was twenty-five years ago today that we tied the knot at St Peters church in Horbury on one of those “four seasons” days when we had a bit of everything weather-wise, but when the sun obediently appeared when the photographer demanded it. Some gave us linen, some gave us crockery, some gave us the traditional kitchen appliances. And some gave us six months. But here we are, a quarter of a century on, ready for another twenty-five years or so of life’s and football’s battles, tragedies and triumphs. Who knows what the future will bring?

That first year of marriage brought a house-move, a change of jobs for us both – and promotion to the top flight for Leeds United. That last thing would do for me this time around, the other two being fortunately off the agenda.

Happy Anniversary, love – and thanks for everything.

Witch-hunt: but Brian McDermott and his Sick Mother Deserve Far Better – by Rob Atkinson

McDermott - under unfair pressure

McDermott – under unfair pressure

The football season is over; Leeds United will not kick another ball in anger until sometime in August, with the obvious priority of pre-season training and friendly warm-up matches coming in July, before the start of the Championship business.  Naturally, the club’s manager/coach/whatever you might call him, will have urgent business over the summer; a raft of important issues to resolve.  But, equally natural is the fact that, when the heat of weekly sporting conflict is off, even a man in McDermott’s stressful position, with the heavy responsibilities he bears – even he should surely be allowed to prioritise family matters – especially when the foremost of those matters is the illness of his mother and his consequent understandable desire to be at his family home in southern England after news of her admission to hospital.

It’s the kind of situation that will make anyone re-think their priorities – but the state of affairs at Leeds appears to be such that it’s thought fair play in certain quarters to throw mud at McDermott, even in these sensitive circumstances. That’s bad enough when it’s just club officials doing it, or when the new owner is angling to get the manager out – but it’s even worse when ill-informed Leeds United fans are thus inveigled into joining in what seems likely to end up as a witch-hunt.

Sources close to McDermott claim that he has an eye on Leeds United business and that he has been contactable since heading home.  Leeds United spokespersons appear to differ on those matters.  But it’s a tawdry and disgusting state of affairs when a campaign against a man with his mother’s health on his mind should be carried out by those at the club who clearly have their own agenda, and who seem unwilling to let a small matter like a sick mum dissuade them from launching their insidious and – there’s no other word for it – snide attacks.

This does not show Leeds United in a good light.  It reflects poorly upon the men in charge, who appear to be neglecting sensitivity and compassion for a full measure of malice and vindictiveness.  McDermott evidently has enough on his plate, without penny-pinching executives attempting to lever him out of his job – and at the same time avoid the inconvenient necessity of paying him off.  It might even be counter-productive as a tactic – constructive dismissal cases have been founded upon far flimsier bases.  As a Leeds United fan, somebody whose regard and love for the club will always transcend and out-last the presence of any individual employee, I nevertheless find myself rooting for Brian – and hoping that his seemingly inevitable departure from the club can be managed with dignity, without any further rancour or ill taste – and with McDermott receiving everything that he is due to under his contract.  That’s only fair.

The current situation at Leeds United stinks.  That’s not Cellino’s fault – blame has to be laid at the door of the incompetent and self-serving people who have apparently been running a great club into the ground over the last couple of years – and of course there’s Bates before that.  But Cellino, if he is to appear as the saviour of the Whites, must avoid sinking to the level of those whose mess he’s now trying to clear up.  If McDermott is doing his best to fulfil his duties as best he can, whilst also fulfilling his obligations to his family and specifically his ailing mother – then he should either be left to get on with it, or – if that’s the way the wind is blowing – replaced properly.  Not by a campaign of smear and innuendo, when the truth of the matter appears fully to support Brian’s current actions.

This blog would ask any Leeds United fan inclined to jump on a Cellino-sponsored anti-McDermott bandwagon to think very seriously about what they would do in Brian’s position.  Let’s face it – you’d hasten to your Mum’s bedside, wouldn’t you – having made what provision you could for any obligations under your professional contract.  Anyone would.  You’d worry far more about the man who wouldn’t – the man who’d coldly proceed with business, without a thought for his mother.  Would you want a man like that in charge at Leeds United??

Brian McDermott deserves the sympathy and support of the Leeds United fans in his current thankless situation, even though he has not asked for it. Instead, he’s copping for loads of abuse on social media from supporters of the club who seem inclined unquestioningly to believe everything they’re being told by Leeds United.  Well, if you’ve read this blog, or the YP article linked above – now you’re informed. We may well be notorious football nutters – but we’re human beings first – aren’t we?? Of course we are.

So, for God’s sake, let’s start to act like it.

Shaker Aamer: Prisoner 239 and the Ongoing Scandal of Guantánamo Bay

Shaker Aamer's children in 2009

Shaker Aamer’s children in 2009

On 14th February 2002 Shaker Aamer became a father for the fourth time, his British wife Zin Siddique bearing him a son, Faris. On the same day, Aamer was incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay detention camp, where he has remained ever since. He has never met his youngest son, now aged 11. There has been no trial. He has never been convicted of, nor even charged with, any crime.

Shaker Aamer had been working for an Islamic charity in Afghanistan in 2001 when he was captured in Jalalabad and handed over to US officials. He was interrogated and then transported to Guantánamo Bay. Based on the evidence of a fellow detainee, Aamer was believed to have been working as a “recruiter, financier, and facilitator” for al-Qaeda. He has consistently denied all such allegations, and it was argued on his behalf by Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve that the evidence against him was unsafe, being inherently incredible and the product of false promises and even torture.

The Bush administration acknowledged that it had no evidence against Aamer and cleared him for release in 2007. The Obama administration cleared him for release in 2009. Four years on and Shaker Aamer continues to languish in the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, no charges preferred against him, no apparent bar to his release, his physical and mental health declining as he maintains a hunger strike – a glaring example of the most scandalous abuse of natural justice it is possible to imagine.

It has been speculated that Aamer “knows too much” about the goings-on inside the detention camp; allegations of torture have been made over the years, and Aamer himself has referred to instances where he has had his head beaten against a wall, and on one occasion waking from a severe beating to find a pistol on the table in his cell. It may be felt by some that it is the potential embarrassment to the authorities, consequent upon Aamer being free to speak out, that is the reason behind his continuing imprisonment – not any outstanding issue of national security.

Aamer is a charismatic and eloquent man, sometimes described as the “unofficial spokesman of the detainees”, so it may well be that there is something for some people to fear in what he might have to say when he is fully at liberty to speak. Clive Stafford Smith again: “I have known Shaker for some time; because he is so eloquent and outspoken about the injustices of Guantánamo he is very definitely viewed as a threat by the US. Not in the sense of being an extremist but in the sense of being someone who can rather eloquently criticise the nightmare that happened there.” Whatever the reason, there can be no excuse. The governments of the UK and the US agree that Aamer should be released: there is no charge against him; there is no evidence against him. And yet there he remains having already served longer, and in the harshest of prison regimes, than many a convicted murderer.

The US stands accused in the light of this scandalous situation of behaviour it would roundly condemn if perpetrated by a regime in a third-world country. The UK in its ineffectual stance over efforts to release Aamer, stands complicit in such a charge. Neither country emerges with any credit intact over such a blatant injustice, maintained over such a long period of time. The situation demeans both nations, and casts into a dubious light their mantra of “freedom over fundamentalism, democracy over dictatorship”. In allowing the incarceration of Shaker Aamer to continue, along with that of his fellow detainees who are also imprisoned without charge or trial, the leading lights of the western world are in danger of having their credibility shredded by their failure to act where the dictates of justice and the principles of democracy clearly indicate that urgent action is required.

The viewpoint of some of the public in this country, hearing of Shaker Aamed’s plight on national radio, is perhaps predictable in the climate since 9/11 and particularly this past week since the Woolwich atrocity. But it is nevertheless cause for head-shaking despair at the ease with which people are hoodwinked into ignorant bigotry. “Why are you running this item?” demanded one irate texter. “I am white, British and proud.” Others cited pearls of wisdom such as: “no smoke without fire”, or “well he’s not even a British citizen.” Yet this is a human being, acknowledged by successive political leaders of the nation that has deprived him of liberty and family life for eleven years as “clear to be freed”. That has been his status for the last five years. And yet still he rots away in his prison cell, subjected to daily humiliation and ill-treatment, missing his family growing up. It’s difficult to imagine a more appalling Human Rights abuse, and yet this is being condoned and allowed to continue by the self-styled “Leader of the Free World”. And there are people who applaud this, and recoil in apparent disgust at attempts to stand up for the rights of those detained without trial. It’s almost too depressing for words.

It’s not just the US either. Up to 90 Afghans are held without charge at Camp Bastion by UK forces, allegedly “for their own safety”. This has been described as a “mini Guantánamo Bay” – and when the name of a detention camp is used as a byword for all that is wrong with the legal process and principles behind such imprisonment, you know that there is something fundamentally wrong. Guantánamo Bay may not have the genocidally evil resonance of Auschwitz, Dachau or Belsen, but the metaphorical application is not a million miles away.

Shaker Aamer’s family now live in Battersea in South London. His wife has been ill since he was incarcerated eleven years ago; she has suffered from depression and other episodes of mental health disorder. Aamer himself is worried about how things will be when he finally is released, a prospect he views with touching confidence that it will actually happen; yet with some trepidation too. “I may find it difficult to respond to being called Dad,” he says. “Maybe my kids will have to call me Prisoner 239”. In January 2010, his 12-year-old daughter Johina wrote a letter to then UK Premier Gordon Brown asking for his release. This was three years after President Bush cleared him for freedom and one year after Obama did the same thing. In 2011, Aamer’s father-in-law Saeed Siddique commented, “When he was captured, Shaker offered to let my daughter divorce him, but she said, ‘No, I will wait for you.’ She is still waiting.”