apolla: (Default)
After a nice long bath and a cough-ridden phone conversation with [livejournal.com profile] marquiserachel I feel like I should expand more on what I said earlier about observing the protesters in the City earlier.

Let me set the scene. I got home from work, aerobics (yes, really), the walk home and the supermarket just after seven. I checked the BBC's Live Text reports of the City thing and as it seemed largely OK, I decided to walk over. I left all my stuff except my keys and my phone at home and moseyed on over. I was honestly surprised to see that everything was business as usual in most places: wankers cluttering the pavements outside the pubs on Liverpool Street, forcing me to walk in the road. I could see that there were police vans on Bishopsgate from Wormwood Street so I chose to continue in the direction I'd walked from Liverpool Street, that is down Old Broad Street. For the uninitiated, this street leads to Threadneedle Street... which is where the Bank of England is.

I got momentarily distracted by two guys walking in front of me, because one looked a lot like Dean Winchester from behind and the guy with him was relatively as tall to him as Sam Winchester... and they both had big ol' holdalls which could've just as easily had Demon Fighting Kit inside as gym stuff (my guess as to the real answer). What made this more distracting was the fact that, as I noticed this, I passed by Great Winchester Street. Trufax, as the ONTD kids say.

There was a police cordon on Old Broad Street well away from the ruckus and consequently was very calm and collected. Some poor bastard from a food company had received an order from one of the offices within the cordon and was trying to get past to deliver - those idiot office people should've got food in earlier in the day. Anyway, the police then moved us (a gathering of maybe 20 bystanders) further away, and I watched as they took a few people off in police vans - including one who was yelling very loudly that he was being hurt by them when he you know, wasn't. At that point I thought to myself "well, the sight of a dozen police officers marching forwards like that is pretty spooky', but they moved off well away and we were not moved off any further. Nothing else was going on. At this point, I might have been sensible to turn around, go back down Old Broad Street and walk home the way I came.

Instead, I walked to the east, and without entirely realising, crossed between cordons. I found myself in the upper part of Lombard Street, which I found bizarre - to be that close to the 'action' and not bothered. I got distracted trying to get through one of those infamous City alleys - Change Alley, which took me back to where I'd just been except that the police were preventing us (I was not the only one wandering the streets) moving north/west-ish again, which is where I needed to be to go home.

I assume more than definitely remember that I ended up in Bell Inn Yard, because I don't think I walked all the way up Lombard Street to Gracechurch Street, which I did get to.

Pause to think 'Hmm, wonder what Mr Gardiner would think' because I've, you know, read Pride and Prejudice.

Then I saw that something was happening at an intersection and I walked up past Leadenhall Market, along with people with cameras and video cameras. It was a darker vibe than at Old Broad Street - these were largely protesters, not observers. I didn't realise until I reached the intersection of Cornhill, Bishopsgate and Leadenhall Street that all roads but the one I'd just come up were blocked by the riot police. I paused longer than I should've to look around and then tried to ascertain if Leadenhall Street was definitely blocked - it was not clear with the people around. Drums or something were being bashed, people were shouting. Some people were in masks. Some were drinking. I thought 'worst case, I'll duck up Leadenhall Market'. Someone had set some paper alight in front of the riot police, too.

Unfortunately, the three streets were blocked and as I tried to remove myself back up Gracechurch Street, something happened and the hardcore there took off that way. Riot police moved in - clumsily, I thought, which panicked people, and was messy. I ended up in the space between an office door and the street with a handful of other people (mostly well behaved but lairy) and unable to move because there were riot police behind and in front. These chaps sorted themselves out enough to let us pass through back to Gracechurch Street and, it not being my fight, I resolved to extricate myself from the situation. My thought was not of fear (i never felt truly unsafe, partly because I was firm in the knowledge that I hadn't done anything wrong myself) but 'this is not my fight'.

Police were now blocking off Leadenhall Market too, so I thought to just walk back the way I came. Lots of people around, I used my well-honed commuter dodging skills. Something set some of them off again so I took off in a run to the end of the street. Then I walked up Fenchurch Street (quiet but not deserted) to Aldgate, where I then ducked back down Duke's Place in order to not walk the really long way home. Ducked around a little more and found myself on the corner of Houndsditch and Bishopsgate right near Liverpool Street.

At this point, I could've again just gone directly home but I could see that the north point of the protest was nearby (I'd skirted by it at the start of this 'adventure') and I wanted to see. All the way through this, I wanted to see, whether for curiosity or just the plain truth of my own sight, I couldn't tell you straight off.

From there, although the police cordon was wicked tight (vans and people), it felt much more peaceable, more like Glastonbury - but I could only see the top of the hippie banners from where I was. And then in the end, I went back down Wormwood Street, went through Finsbury Circus and saw the thing that made me angriest of all:

Two City types, leaning against the wall of the Circus, pissing. How dare they? Finsbury Circus is such a nice, pretty place and they were just pissing against the wall. Not crusty protesters, guys in suits. Total merchant bankers, I bet.

At this point, I'd like to say that I don't necessarily agree with protests like this anyway. I was firmly on the fence, firmly neutral the whole time. I don't believe direct action is particularly effective and as was seen today, conflicts often with my true and deep belief that only peaceful and nonviolent protest truly works in the short and long term. More than that, as Rachel pointed out, it's rather anti the whole damn point of democracy.

More than that, the constant helicopter drone in the sky is starting to irritate me. Don't they know I'm trying to watch Supernatural?

Other thoughts:
  • If you want to protest something, if you want to stand up and be counted, don't wear a fucking mask. Have the courage of your convictions.
  • If you want to protest something, you surrender the moral high ground when you are violent or allow other protesters to be violent.
  • If you want to protest something, make damn sure that you exhausted all the possible democratic avenues before resorting to such protesting because remember: although you think you're right, other people might not and they have a democratic right to not support you. You don't represent everyone unless everyone has lent you their support.
  • Did I mention the 'don't resort to violence' thing?
I'm still trying to work out why I insisted on going down there. Partly curiosity, I was also somehow... determined to do something. I so often give myself excuses to not do things that I thought "this is on my doorstep, I need to go and see for myself."

That it was on my doorstep mattered to me. I think I needed to see for myself that it wasn't hell on earth or total anarchy or a complete violation of human rights because it was my own doorstep. The north end of the protest, that's a five minute walk from here. This is my home and despite my lack of tidying and regular cleaning, I am fiercely proud and protective of it. You don't get to come and threaten it without me at least finding out how much of a danger you are to me.

Wandering through all that stuff? Not the wisest thing I ever did, but I think I had to. Partly to understand how these things really work for my comic, partly to satisfy myself that my home was safe. What I would've done if my home wasn't safe? Not sure.

I've been reading Che Guevara's works lately - I read Reminiscences last month, pored over Guerilla Warfare and am starting the Bolivian Diaries... and for all I agree in some ways, the methodology just isn't... right. Not for a country that is essentially democratic like this one, although our Prime Minister was only voted for by the people of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, and then only 24,278 of them. But I do have ways and means of objecting to this without putting chairs through windows.

I just can't bring myself to agree with the way in which the protest is being conducted. I think it may be worse tomorrow at ExCel, but that's not my home.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled dead-musicians-blather.
apolla: (Default)
After a nice long bath and a cough-ridden phone conversation with [livejournal.com profile] marquiserachel I feel like I should expand more on what I said earlier about observing the protesters in the City earlier.

Let me set the scene. I got home from work, aerobics (yes, really), the walk home and the supermarket just after seven. I checked the BBC's Live Text reports of the City thing and as it seemed largely OK, I decided to walk over. I left all my stuff except my keys and my phone at home and moseyed on over. I was honestly surprised to see that everything was business as usual in most places: wankers cluttering the pavements outside the pubs on Liverpool Street, forcing me to walk in the road. I could see that there were police vans on Bishopsgate from Wormwood Street so I chose to continue in the direction I'd walked from Liverpool Street, that is down Old Broad Street. For the uninitiated, this street leads to Threadneedle Street... which is where the Bank of England is.

I got momentarily distracted by two guys walking in front of me, because one looked a lot like Dean Winchester from behind and the guy with him was relatively as tall to him as Sam Winchester... and they both had big ol' holdalls which could've just as easily had Demon Fighting Kit inside as gym stuff (my guess as to the real answer). What made this more distracting was the fact that, as I noticed this, I passed by Great Winchester Street. Trufax, as the ONTD kids say.

There was a police cordon on Old Broad Street well away from the ruckus and consequently was very calm and collected. Some poor bastard from a food company had received an order from one of the offices within the cordon and was trying to get past to deliver - those idiot office people should've got food in earlier in the day. Anyway, the police then moved us (a gathering of maybe 20 bystanders) further away, and I watched as they took a few people off in police vans - including one who was yelling very loudly that he was being hurt by them when he you know, wasn't. At that point I thought to myself "well, the sight of a dozen police officers marching forwards like that is pretty spooky', but they moved off well away and we were not moved off any further. Nothing else was going on. At this point, I might have been sensible to turn around, go back down Old Broad Street and walk home the way I came.

Instead, I walked to the east, and without entirely realising, crossed between cordons. I found myself in the upper part of Lombard Street, which I found bizarre - to be that close to the 'action' and not bothered. I got distracted trying to get through one of those infamous City alleys - Change Alley, which took me back to where I'd just been except that the police were preventing us (I was not the only one wandering the streets) moving north/west-ish again, which is where I needed to be to go home.

I assume more than definitely remember that I ended up in Bell Inn Yard, because I don't think I walked all the way up Lombard Street to Gracechurch Street, which I did get to.

Pause to think 'Hmm, wonder what Mr Gardiner would think' because I've, you know, read Pride and Prejudice.

Then I saw that something was happening at an intersection and I walked up past Leadenhall Market, along with people with cameras and video cameras. It was a darker vibe than at Old Broad Street - these were largely protesters, not observers. I didn't realise until I reached the intersection of Cornhill, Bishopsgate and Leadenhall Street that all roads but the one I'd just come up were blocked by the riot police. I paused longer than I should've to look around and then tried to ascertain if Leadenhall Street was definitely blocked - it was not clear with the people around. Drums or something were being bashed, people were shouting. Some people were in masks. Some were drinking. I thought 'worst case, I'll duck up Leadenhall Market'. Someone had set some paper alight in front of the riot police, too.

Unfortunately, the three streets were blocked and as I tried to remove myself back up Gracechurch Street, something happened and the hardcore there took off that way. Riot police moved in - clumsily, I thought, which panicked people, and was messy. I ended up in the space between an office door and the street with a handful of other people (mostly well behaved but lairy) and unable to move because there were riot police behind and in front. These chaps sorted themselves out enough to let us pass through back to Gracechurch Street and, it not being my fight, I resolved to extricate myself from the situation. My thought was not of fear (i never felt truly unsafe, partly because I was firm in the knowledge that I hadn't done anything wrong myself) but 'this is not my fight'.

Police were now blocking off Leadenhall Market too, so I thought to just walk back the way I came. Lots of people around, I used my well-honed commuter dodging skills. Something set some of them off again so I took off in a run to the end of the street. Then I walked up Fenchurch Street (quiet but not deserted) to Aldgate, where I then ducked back down Duke's Place in order to not walk the really long way home. Ducked around a little more and found myself on the corner of Houndsditch and Bishopsgate right near Liverpool Street.

At this point, I could've again just gone directly home but I could see that the north point of the protest was nearby (I'd skirted by it at the start of this 'adventure') and I wanted to see. All the way through this, I wanted to see, whether for curiosity or just the plain truth of my own sight, I couldn't tell you straight off.

From there, although the police cordon was wicked tight (vans and people), it felt much more peaceable, more like Glastonbury - but I could only see the top of the hippie banners from where I was. And then in the end, I went back down Wormwood Street, went through Finsbury Circus and saw the thing that made me angriest of all:

Two City types, leaning against the wall of the Circus, pissing. How dare they? Finsbury Circus is such a nice, pretty place and they were just pissing against the wall. Not crusty protesters, guys in suits. Total merchant bankers, I bet.

At this point, I'd like to say that I don't necessarily agree with protests like this anyway. I was firmly on the fence, firmly neutral the whole time. I don't believe direct action is particularly effective and as was seen today, conflicts often with my true and deep belief that only peaceful and nonviolent protest truly works in the short and long term. More than that, as Rachel pointed out, it's rather anti the whole damn point of democracy.

More than that, the constant helicopter drone in the sky is starting to irritate me. Don't they know I'm trying to watch Supernatural?

Other thoughts:
  • If you want to protest something, if you want to stand up and be counted, don't wear a fucking mask. Have the courage of your convictions.
  • If you want to protest something, you surrender the moral high ground when you are violent or allow other protesters to be violent.
  • If you want to protest something, make damn sure that you exhausted all the possible democratic avenues before resorting to such protesting because remember: although you think you're right, other people might not and they have a democratic right to not support you. You don't represent everyone unless everyone has lent you their support.
  • Did I mention the 'don't resort to violence' thing?
I'm still trying to work out why I insisted on going down there. Partly curiosity, I was also somehow... determined to do something. I so often give myself excuses to not do things that I thought "this is on my doorstep, I need to go and see for myself."

That it was on my doorstep mattered to me. I think I needed to see for myself that it wasn't hell on earth or total anarchy or a complete violation of human rights because it was my own doorstep. The north end of the protest, that's a five minute walk from here. This is my home and despite my lack of tidying and regular cleaning, I am fiercely proud and protective of it. You don't get to come and threaten it without me at least finding out how much of a danger you are to me.

Wandering through all that stuff? Not the wisest thing I ever did, but I think I had to. Partly to understand how these things really work for my comic, partly to satisfy myself that my home was safe. What I would've done if my home wasn't safe? Not sure.

I've been reading Che Guevara's works lately - I read Reminiscences last month, pored over Guerilla Warfare and am starting the Bolivian Diaries... and for all I agree in some ways, the methodology just isn't... right. Not for a country that is essentially democratic like this one, although our Prime Minister was only voted for by the people of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, and then only 24,278 of them. But I do have ways and means of objecting to this without putting chairs through windows.

I just can't bring myself to agree with the way in which the protest is being conducted. I think it may be worse tomorrow at ExCel, but that's not my home.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled dead-musicians-blather.
apolla: (Queen Maeve)

Hello.

This is Clare (to prove it: I love Errol Flynn. And Philip Lynott, and that Morrison bloke. And the dude with the tight jeans and big blond hair.)

I am OK. I am now home. Am off to Lancaster tomorrow (not today as Mikey thought) so I wanted to post now. I want also to say that I'm genuinely moved and all that by the emails and stuff I've received. I'm sorry I couldn't respond, but I haven't been anywhere near the internet since I left home on Thursday, which now seems quite a few weeks ago.

I was in Central London yesterday. Had I tried to get into London from home on the morning of my interview, there is a genuine chance that I'd have been on a train involved at King's Cross or at the very least, had everything turned upside down. Fortunately, I have a Grandad who lives right on the outskirts of the City of London (the Square Mile) and who insists on me being up early and getting places ridiculously early so I missed whatever happened at Moorgate. As it happens, I had a minor hitch because I was on a tube when it all happened, but not one of the tubes. I got to my test/interview thing with time to spare. Time in which I got to watch a TV and discover that my hitch on the tube wasn't a cock-up of any kind. This is how it happened for me:

I was on a tube train travelling on the District Line when stuff started to happen. We thought there had been a power cut at the stations, because the lights were all out on the platforms at Mansion House and the next few stops, but the train could still go. At Embankment, we were told that the train wouldn't be stopping until Victoria, so I got off and walked from there all the way to my test at Westminster. By the time I got there, the TV in the common room we were told to wait in was reporting 'power surges'.

I was personally immediately suspicious. I will make jokes about the incompetence of the London Underground, but there's no way power surges happen at four different places on the same day. As we were about to go in for the aptitude tests, we heard about the bus on Sky News.

I failed my tests and therefore do not go through to the next stage. I can try again in six months without having to apply again. I don't know if I failed because I'm no good with numbers (or, it transpires apparently, shapes), but I do know I was sat there worrying about my Grandad. He lives two minutes away from Old Street, two minutes away from Moorgate and about five/ten minutes away from Liverpool Street. So when I was told I'd failed my tests but I was welcome to stay in the lobby because the advice was to stay put, I put on my iPod and started walking.

I walked down past the Houses of Parliament and then walked the length of Victoria Embankment along the Thames until I reached Blackfriars Bridge, then up past St Pauls towards Moorgate. Avoided actual Moorgate because it was mostly unnecessary. Basically, I walked 3.5miles in the rain. In new boots. When I reached my grandad's, I couldn't have been wetter if I'd jumped in the bloody river. I have a massive blister on the side of my right foot and I've had a genuinely horrific headache since getting back to Grandad's. I ended up having to take some of his paracetamols. I've missed work today because I only just now got home (train pulled into my town just after midday) and I'm in the clothes I put on on Wednesday afternoon- the trousers of my suit and a Guinness rugby style shirt I wore to preserve my white shirt for the tests.

Incidentally, despite having been told to stay indoors, there were an awful lot of people around as I walked down the embankment. Even during a massive terrorist action, a lot of London kept on going for a few hours, until it came time to try and go home. It was only as I got closer to Moorgate that things quietened down. There were hardly any cars anywhere, and certainly no buses, as I walked, but there were a fair number of people. Perhaps they were like me and refused to stay put if there was somewhere better for them to be. I don't know, but even during, the great spirit of London (of which more in a minute) was not entirely crushed.

I had no real hope of getting home yesterday, and I didn't need to, because like I said, my grandad lives right near the Barbican. My afternoon yesterday, once I was dry and fed, was spent watching very old RKO Astaire/Rogers movies.

You have no fucking idea how lucky I feel. You have no idea what it was like to arrive back in my own suburban little town today to find everything exactly as normal after leaving a place trying very hard to feel like it was normal. You probably don't have any idea what it was like waiting for a return text from Richard, the oldest of my friends after I realised that he works somewhere in central London but not knowing where. The feeling of getting that return text was a little better.

Suffice to say it was very strange getting on the train this morning. I've taken the train out of Moorgate hundreds of times at all times of the day, and it's never been like this. I've been there when it's quiet, but it was never this eerie before. There was never the tense feeling of 'er, hope it's all OK down here' because at Moorgate, even the mainline, regular trains start out underground until it emerges into daylight at Drayton Park.

You have no idea how it felt this morning to be told by my mum on the phone (rentals are on holiday) that I always seem to be around these things (I was in LA when 9/11 happened and in California for the months of aftermath). She meant it as a joke, but I find it so hard to find amusing. Maybe it's my fatalistic attitude.

But don't get me wrong: if you think for one tiny second that this is really going to change my beloved London, you're under some deep misapprehensions about that place. The people of London have been facing, fending off and living with attacks against them since the beginning of it all. I bet that when the survivor guy from Troy arrived with his rock thing (weird old legend thing), there were attacks then.

In terms of living with fear, well, our town lived through both World Wars. I walked past Paternoster Square on my way back yesterday. This chunk of London, right near St Pauls, was the centre of publishing before the Second World War and was flattened by a bomb. So Paternoster Row became Paternoster Square. The museum mile down near Hyde Park bears the scars of bombings. So do the nasty estates that sprang up after the war to replace thousands of homes.

But more than that, we find it a perverse blessing that we lived with twenty five years of the IRA. It's true that our emergency services are incredibly good at this sort of thing because they've dealt with it on different scales before. Our bomb experts are some of the best in the world because we've done it before. We put the Lockerbie plane back together so succesfully that the tape deck was tracked down and the bombers discovered.

But that's not really the nasty blessing I'm talking about. Anyone who's lived or worked in London for more than ten years will certainly remember bombings. The blockades and checkpoints in many streets into the City of London (I remember asking my dad about that stuff when I was very small). The continuing absence of rubbish bins in almost any train station in the country because that's where some bombs got put. I've myself been caught up in a bomb scare at Kings Cross- we had to find a different way home.

Yes, this is different. There seems, to me at least, to be an added level of barbarity about this- the IRA used to send warnings, albeit coded, before bombings or threatened bombings. It was less about killing than disruption. And you know what? I didn't accept it then. If I won't accept this from the Irish, I certainly won't accept it from anyone else. Nor will anyone else in this town.

You see, we've done this before. Do you know how many Romans it took to subdue England? And I don't want to keep invoking the war, but I will say this: if Adolf Hitler's constant bombing of London didn't take us down, do you think this nasty, underhanded 'war' will?

I don't think so. I suggest to all would-be bombers that you just don't try. You took out our tube for a day and caused a bit of chaos. It's running again today. Wasted your time, didn't you?

Terrorism, as Sam Seaborn said in the special post-9/11 West Wing, has a 100% failure rate. If you try it with London, you'll find that number actually goes up.

Adolf didn't manage it.

The Irish Republican Nutters didn't manage it.

These people won't either.

Take heart my dears, for London is greater than anything. Like Ancient Rome once was, London is a state of mind. It is a greater thing than bricks, mortar, tarmac, congestion charges, great cathedrals or palaces. It is a greater thing than a few people. It is the sum of its parts plus thousands of years of history and a hundred other things.

We won't fight you on the beaches this time, we will fight you in our own hearts, minds and streets. And you know what? We'll win.

So, who's up for some Olympics now? I am.

apolla: (Queen Maeve)

Hello.

This is Clare (to prove it: I love Errol Flynn. And Philip Lynott, and that Morrison bloke. And the dude with the tight jeans and big blond hair.)

I am OK. I am now home. Am off to Lancaster tomorrow (not today as Mikey thought) so I wanted to post now. I want also to say that I'm genuinely moved and all that by the emails and stuff I've received. I'm sorry I couldn't respond, but I haven't been anywhere near the internet since I left home on Thursday, which now seems quite a few weeks ago.

I was in Central London yesterday. Had I tried to get into London from home on the morning of my interview, there is a genuine chance that I'd have been on a train involved at King's Cross or at the very least, had everything turned upside down. Fortunately, I have a Grandad who lives right on the outskirts of the City of London (the Square Mile) and who insists on me being up early and getting places ridiculously early so I missed whatever happened at Moorgate. As it happens, I had a minor hitch because I was on a tube when it all happened, but not one of the tubes. I got to my test/interview thing with time to spare. Time in which I got to watch a TV and discover that my hitch on the tube wasn't a cock-up of any kind. This is how it happened for me:

I was on a tube train travelling on the District Line when stuff started to happen. We thought there had been a power cut at the stations, because the lights were all out on the platforms at Mansion House and the next few stops, but the train could still go. At Embankment, we were told that the train wouldn't be stopping until Victoria, so I got off and walked from there all the way to my test at Westminster. By the time I got there, the TV in the common room we were told to wait in was reporting 'power surges'.

I was personally immediately suspicious. I will make jokes about the incompetence of the London Underground, but there's no way power surges happen at four different places on the same day. As we were about to go in for the aptitude tests, we heard about the bus on Sky News.

I failed my tests and therefore do not go through to the next stage. I can try again in six months without having to apply again. I don't know if I failed because I'm no good with numbers (or, it transpires apparently, shapes), but I do know I was sat there worrying about my Grandad. He lives two minutes away from Old Street, two minutes away from Moorgate and about five/ten minutes away from Liverpool Street. So when I was told I'd failed my tests but I was welcome to stay in the lobby because the advice was to stay put, I put on my iPod and started walking.

I walked down past the Houses of Parliament and then walked the length of Victoria Embankment along the Thames until I reached Blackfriars Bridge, then up past St Pauls towards Moorgate. Avoided actual Moorgate because it was mostly unnecessary. Basically, I walked 3.5miles in the rain. In new boots. When I reached my grandad's, I couldn't have been wetter if I'd jumped in the bloody river. I have a massive blister on the side of my right foot and I've had a genuinely horrific headache since getting back to Grandad's. I ended up having to take some of his paracetamols. I've missed work today because I only just now got home (train pulled into my town just after midday) and I'm in the clothes I put on on Wednesday afternoon- the trousers of my suit and a Guinness rugby style shirt I wore to preserve my white shirt for the tests.

Incidentally, despite having been told to stay indoors, there were an awful lot of people around as I walked down the embankment. Even during a massive terrorist action, a lot of London kept on going for a few hours, until it came time to try and go home. It was only as I got closer to Moorgate that things quietened down. There were hardly any cars anywhere, and certainly no buses, as I walked, but there were a fair number of people. Perhaps they were like me and refused to stay put if there was somewhere better for them to be. I don't know, but even during, the great spirit of London (of which more in a minute) was not entirely crushed.

I had no real hope of getting home yesterday, and I didn't need to, because like I said, my grandad lives right near the Barbican. My afternoon yesterday, once I was dry and fed, was spent watching very old RKO Astaire/Rogers movies.

You have no fucking idea how lucky I feel. You have no idea what it was like to arrive back in my own suburban little town today to find everything exactly as normal after leaving a place trying very hard to feel like it was normal. You probably don't have any idea what it was like waiting for a return text from Richard, the oldest of my friends after I realised that he works somewhere in central London but not knowing where. The feeling of getting that return text was a little better.

Suffice to say it was very strange getting on the train this morning. I've taken the train out of Moorgate hundreds of times at all times of the day, and it's never been like this. I've been there when it's quiet, but it was never this eerie before. There was never the tense feeling of 'er, hope it's all OK down here' because at Moorgate, even the mainline, regular trains start out underground until it emerges into daylight at Drayton Park.

You have no idea how it felt this morning to be told by my mum on the phone (rentals are on holiday) that I always seem to be around these things (I was in LA when 9/11 happened and in California for the months of aftermath). She meant it as a joke, but I find it so hard to find amusing. Maybe it's my fatalistic attitude.

But don't get me wrong: if you think for one tiny second that this is really going to change my beloved London, you're under some deep misapprehensions about that place. The people of London have been facing, fending off and living with attacks against them since the beginning of it all. I bet that when the survivor guy from Troy arrived with his rock thing (weird old legend thing), there were attacks then.

In terms of living with fear, well, our town lived through both World Wars. I walked past Paternoster Square on my way back yesterday. This chunk of London, right near St Pauls, was the centre of publishing before the Second World War and was flattened by a bomb. So Paternoster Row became Paternoster Square. The museum mile down near Hyde Park bears the scars of bombings. So do the nasty estates that sprang up after the war to replace thousands of homes.

But more than that, we find it a perverse blessing that we lived with twenty five years of the IRA. It's true that our emergency services are incredibly good at this sort of thing because they've dealt with it on different scales before. Our bomb experts are some of the best in the world because we've done it before. We put the Lockerbie plane back together so succesfully that the tape deck was tracked down and the bombers discovered.

But that's not really the nasty blessing I'm talking about. Anyone who's lived or worked in London for more than ten years will certainly remember bombings. The blockades and checkpoints in many streets into the City of London (I remember asking my dad about that stuff when I was very small). The continuing absence of rubbish bins in almost any train station in the country because that's where some bombs got put. I've myself been caught up in a bomb scare at Kings Cross- we had to find a different way home.

Yes, this is different. There seems, to me at least, to be an added level of barbarity about this- the IRA used to send warnings, albeit coded, before bombings or threatened bombings. It was less about killing than disruption. And you know what? I didn't accept it then. If I won't accept this from the Irish, I certainly won't accept it from anyone else. Nor will anyone else in this town.

You see, we've done this before. Do you know how many Romans it took to subdue England? And I don't want to keep invoking the war, but I will say this: if Adolf Hitler's constant bombing of London didn't take us down, do you think this nasty, underhanded 'war' will?

I don't think so. I suggest to all would-be bombers that you just don't try. You took out our tube for a day and caused a bit of chaos. It's running again today. Wasted your time, didn't you?

Terrorism, as Sam Seaborn said in the special post-9/11 West Wing, has a 100% failure rate. If you try it with London, you'll find that number actually goes up.

Adolf didn't manage it.

The Irish Republican Nutters didn't manage it.

These people won't either.

Take heart my dears, for London is greater than anything. Like Ancient Rome once was, London is a state of mind. It is a greater thing than bricks, mortar, tarmac, congestion charges, great cathedrals or palaces. It is a greater thing than a few people. It is the sum of its parts plus thousands of years of history and a hundred other things.

We won't fight you on the beaches this time, we will fight you in our own hearts, minds and streets. And you know what? We'll win.

So, who's up for some Olympics now? I am.

apolla: (Default)

I am posting on my sister clare's behath that she is ok and that she was not effected by yesterdays events although she was close to the area. She is in London staying at her grandads and will be continuing her trip up to lancaster university today.

Michael x X x

apolla: (Default)

I am posting on my sister clare's behath that she is ok and that she was not effected by yesterdays events although she was close to the area. She is in London staying at her grandads and will be continuing her trip up to lancaster university today.

Michael x X x

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