I haven’t felt quite ready to return to the cut and thrust of the blogging world quite yet, but events have this nasty habit of coming along and disturbing all your best-laid plans, don’t they?
Apologies, then, if these thoughts seem rather jumbled and disconnected, but that’s because my mind is rather jumbled and disconnected. It’s been quite a day, a two hour journey home via a selection of unknown bus routes didn’t help matters, besides which I’ve just watched nearly three hours of news coverage.
It’s an odd sensation — an almost queasy sensation — seeing streets and sights you know looking so alien. Debris, injured people, emergency services scampering everywhere, even spattered blood.
I’m already feeling bad about my first reaction when the news started coming in this morning, at a time when we were all still under the impression that the incidents had been caused by a ‘power surge’ on the tube. I think I probably uttered some cynical, well-rehearsed but terribly tired comments about the tube system grinding to a halt, creaking infrastructure, blah blah blah.
Of course, as the morning developed, my heart sank. I shivered.
I feel the need to repeat that — I shivered. Sitting at my desk, discussing the events with colleagues with an increasing sense of alarm, and I was shivering.
Paranoia and lack of self-confidence went out of the window, as I picked up my mobile phone and instantly texted people. An act that would normally take me half an hour of mental preparation and worrying was done without a second thought. I needed to know that the people I cared about were safe, and any of my little screw-ups about ‘bothering’ people who didn’t want to be bothered were the last thing on my mind.
I knew that one friend was very likely to be using Edgware Road station. Fortunately, I heard from her very quickly. She had forgotten to go to M&S to buy herself a sandwich for lunch, so she nipped back to get it. If she hadn’t, she might well have been at the station, possibly even on the train, at the exact moment the explosion happened. As it was, by the time she turned up, Edgware Road was closed and the area was being cleared.
Another friend — well, I was a little worried that she might have been in the King’s Cross/Russell Square area, but I couldn’t get through to her mobile. Landline calls were made between various mutual friends and acquaintances. Had anyone heard from her? Did anyone know where she was? No and no.
It wasn’t until about four o’clock this afternoon that I received any news. Details are still a little sketchy, but it seems that she had been standing on the Piccadilly Line platform at King’s Cross waiting for a train — the train on which the second of today’s explosions happened — when she heard an almighty bang from inside the tunnel. Apparently, she sustained a few small cuts and bruises, the latter caused mainly by the rush to get out of the station, but otherwise she’s OK. Shaken but safe.
Two near misses. Two lucky escapes. People I know. People whom I’m fortunate enough to call friends. Another one of those shivers has just gone through me.
“They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don’t want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail” — Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London
I’m terribly cynical at times. Horribly cynical. You’ll have noticed that by now, no doubt. A speech like the one given earlier today by Ken Livingstone would normally have me snorting with derision. Not today, though. Today, this city that I sometimes can’t abide, this city that I’ve called home since 1989 but have frequently dreamt of getting the hell out of, this city that has sometimes seemed like the loneliest and most unfriendly place in the world, this city with all its incessant noise and fumes and litter and crime and, oh, you know, all that annoying urban stuff — well, today this is my city, and I’m proud of it.
If anything, I’ve got an even higher regard for London after today’s tragic events than I had yesterday, when the success of the city’s 2012 Olympic bid was announced. The people behind that event seemed to me like distant society figures, no matter how much they talked about this being “our success” and “our Olympics”. But today has been all about how the people of London — and in that I include the superb professionalism and calming authority of the emergency services — reacted remarkably to a series of unpredictable and shockingly violent events.