Saturday, July 08, 2006

Yesterday was, as most know, the anniversary of last year's bombings in London. That was in my first week living in London - an eventful start to my time here. Friends and relatives urged me to think about returning to Ireland but I resolutely held my ground. The next day I went to work on the tube. I wasn't worried.

Yesterday morning's breakfast TV news coverage of the bombings was widespread, going so far as to show mobile phone video footage from inside one of the carriages. I felt a little nervous, as I went to the tube. I chided myself for being over-anxious, and put on some jaunty Swedish schlager music to cheer myself. Nothing can be wrong in the world when Shirley Clamp's trilling Att Alska Deg.

Yesterday evening, my train was held in Victoria. The driver came over the PA to say there was a problem on the line. He didn't know why. I resumed listening to my music. I could see nervous eyes darting about the carriage. The anxiety was infectious. The driver again came over the PA, he said the line was down between Highbury and Walthamstow. He'd give us "the real reason" as soon as he had it.

Some people rushed off the train. I began to feel nervous, panicky. I realised I could get a bus home, so jumped off the train and out of the station. I saw people running. I wondered why. I saw a policeman talking into his radio. I wondered why. The bus-stop was completely crowded. I wondered why. People rushed across roads. I wondered why. The bus was crowded, so I decided to walk home. I stopped at another tube station along the way. It was closed. I wondered why.

When I got home, I learned that the line was delayed due to a person under a train. Nothing unusual there, but it struck me how I had let terror beat me, scare me. My nerves increased with every noise I heard on my way home. London, a city of opportunity and enjoyment, had become a city of fear.


ShariVari said...

I'm not sure you would have been too reassured to find out that the stoppage at Highbury tube station was apparently caused by a guy pushing a stranger in front of an on-coming train.

You'll get used to it though. Stay here long enough and the fatalism will kick in. About eight months ago i was on the way home at two in the morning and my bus was stopped by another, a hundred feet down the road, on fire. It burned for a bit and then exploded. Out of the eighty or so people on my one, seventy-nine were going "ooh! look at that" or "how annoying, i'm tired and i want to go to bed" and one was having hysterics, screaming at the bus driver that there were probably vast numbers of people burning to death before our eyes. The driver, a tiny woman who looked like a middle-aged Verbalicious, turned round and said "stop being such a fucking pussy". Seventy nine people giggled.

We're quite a sturdy bunch.