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7/7 – A Date Londoners Won’t Forget

July 7, 2010

Before I started this blog, my friends would receive my musings and rants by email. Most of it was personal, but sometimes I would comment on a news event. London became big news on the 7th of July 2005, as it faced the wrath of four suicide bombers blowing themselves up on three underground trains and a bus. I wrote the following, the day after what soon became known as 7/7…

London.

It’s been an incredible week here.

It started on Saturday July 2nd with the Live 8 concert, Gay Pride parade, Cricket and Wimbledon. For those of you who managed to get to a Live 8 concert world wide, I hope you enjoyed yourself. I was at Whitehall taking photographs, as I did last year, of the pride parade. It was very good too. I spent most of the day wandering around central London taking in the atmosphere in a way I hadn’t done before, because it was a little quieter due to the main action at Hyde Park where the Live 8 concert was happening.

Then on Wednesday, our City erupted as we heard the news we were to host the Olympics in 2012. I happily put aside my gripes about paying for this gig for the rest of my life, about London paying for it and not the rest of the country (apparently). I even put aside my biggest gripe, which is that the promised improvements will probably not benefit the original residents of Stratford East London and surrounding areas. They have lived in what is considered the arsehole of London for several years and once it becomes shiny, they’ll be pushed aside. If you think I am cynical, I present to you members of the Jury exhibit one: The Docklands. Yes, I was feeling pretty good about being in dirty old London Town.

But then.

On Thursday.

It all changed.

My morning was pretty usual, other than hearing the joy of radio presenters talking positively about the Olympics and this is how I left it when I turned the radio off for an hour from 9am. When I put the radio on again at 10, I heard a different thing altogether. Within five minutes I got a call from a concerned friend who thought I might have been on the way to work (I was not). Then the texts started coming in. I stayed glued to the radio at home and later on at the dentist as the story unfolded about the attack on London. I was due to go out that evening but that clearly wasn’t going to happen as the whole transport system had gone down. The part that disturbed me most was the news of the bus explosion. I use buses a lot and I always go on the top deck at the front like a five year old whenever possible. When I finally saw the first pictures of the bus, I was beside myself. No one could possibly had survived it. That bus was totally finished.

We’re a complaining lot in this country and Londoners have that added ingredient of hardcore cynicism. We complain about the emergency services that we have to wait a century for before we receive attention, the buses and their surly drivers, the tubes not working (again and again), the police spending more time dealing with chasing rogue drivers than protecting our streets etc. ad infinitum. But on this day, they all worked like Trojans in a very calm, professional way, above and beyond duty. The people of London helped each other out, again in a calm professional way. I listened to people calling in on talk shows that were at the scene or had an opinion and there was a growing feeling of bulldog spirit within the sadness. There’s been the bombing in the Second World War, the IRA bombings over 30 years and now this. There was a strong resolution that we will carry on and not be defeated by these people. They will not win.

I am a Londoner, born and bred and I have never been more proud of being a Londoner than I have been this past week, especially now.

My gaff. My Manor. My Town.

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17 comments

  1. Very well said. I remember that week so clearly, it seems impossible to think that it was five years ago already.
    I was lucky enough to win gold circle tickets to see Live 8, so I was still on such a high when the news of the 7/7 bombings happened, it came as such a shock.
    Britain, and London especially, has such a good bulldog or Blitz spirit, its so admirable. And as you say well done to all the emergency services – its times like these that we remember how strong and brave they are.


    • Londoners piss me off a lot of the time, but I also know, as a Londoner myself, that they can be fabulous. That day absolutely proved it.



    • How could I possibly forget this? Whatever you think of Ken Livingstone, he loves this city. Of that, there is little doubt.


  2. One of the few mornings I ventured in to work early. Stuck in an office in canary wharf with colleagues following police instructions not to leave the building until instructed – one brave soul ventured out to Marks and Spencers to buy sandwiches for the office. Sounds ridiculous now, but it was hard not to be a little paranoid. There were (what turned out to be untrue rumours) that a police sniper had shout out a man with a backpack outside one of the office towers. That evening I walked from canary wharf all the way to St Paul’s. Made it into something of a pub crawl with a colleague (ah, the Blitz spirit in action) and then at St Pauls got a bus back to Islington.


  3. The security in Canary Wharf tends to breed a kind of paranoia, so I’m not surprised by it, but I’m glad all was well in the end.

    I’d like to know what the general mood was in the pubs you visited. How did you manage to get a bus home? I thought the transport system was on total shutdown.


    • The mood in the pubs seemed to be, not good per se, but there was a sort of collective feeling of “what the fuck happened today? let’s have a drink”. I do remember it being a beautiful evening and just walking alongside the Thames for mile after mile was a moving experience.

      I’ve checked wiki, the buses only came back on at 4pm. They were free if you got on in zone 1. I remember an arguement with the driver and someone who got on in north London once we were in zone 2 as he wouldn’t let him on for free. I remember a few of us argued with the driver about this. It was odd in that once the bus was in a more mundane spot like Islington or Stoke Newington and wasn’t as crowded the collective paranoia in the bus seemed to lift. But when I caught a bus outside St Paul’s the atmosphere was tense. You could see people checking each other out. I remember sitting near a pretty girl about my age who was reading a paperback. There was something about the mundanity of her reading that I found really comforting on the bus.

      Gee, a lot of memories coming back. Really mundane stuff I’d thought I’d forgotten. I can even remember what I ate that night – warmed up lamb pasta bake. I had my brother staying with me as he’d come to London for a conference that day. I seemed to spend most of the day trying to get through to him as he only had a mobile and the networks seemed down.


      • I don’t remember what I ate, but I do remember I had tickets for a TV recording of Jack Dee at the London Apollo. Needless to say, I didn’t make it that night.


  4. Three years before, we had spent two weeks residing at a B&B at Cartwright Square. We took buses from the very stop where one was blown up. It was odd to experience much more of an emotional reaction upon hearing this than I had when New York was hit – because I had never been to that area of NYC.


    • I know what you mean, Mikey. Watching the events of 9/11 on TV was a surreal experience, but even as we visited ground zero on my first trip to NY three years later (my friend had been before), I felt slightly detached because I didn’t get a chance to experience the twin towers before the terrorists brought them down.


  5. Great post. I can clearly remember watching the all day news footage and just recognising how vulnerable we all are when the perpetrators have no value for their own lives.
    It felt like the IRA bombings – only a thousand times worse.
    I commuted into Liverpool Street for some years and regularly used buses wherever possible as always felt so much safer after the Kings Cross Fire.


    • Hello Lady Goodwood and welcome to my blog.

      You’re right about it being worse than the IRA bombings. At least they gave warnings most of the time and they valued their lives just enough to cause damage at a distance from themselves. These misguided people felt it was a worthy sacrifice to get stuck right in.

      Thanks for reminding me of the Kings Cross fire. That was in 1988 wasn’t it? The escalators were changed from wooden to metal ones and smoking was banned throughout the system, once they established that was the cause of the fire.


  6. Reblogged this on Pie and Biscuits and commented:

    Thinking of London today. I posted this in 2010, but originally wrote it, before I had a blog, in 2005. It was the day after July 7th. I thought it was worth publishing again.


  7. That was such a strange day – I was driving in South London on my way to work when I realized there was a dead body on the pedestrian crossing that all the traffic before me hadn’t noticed . . . a hit and run. Then my son, who was working near Russell Sq, texted me to say he was OK but why I had no idea but he heard the bus blow up nearby. I spent the morning in a taped-off crime zone, not allowed to get out of the car until finally I was able to turn around, go back home and learn about the day’s more gruesome details but I will never forget just how quiet it was that day . . .

    All best to you Pie!


    • That’s pretty freaky, Patti. How horrible to come across a hit and run and how horrible it must’ve been for your son. A tube train being blown up at one corner and a bus being blown up on the other. He must’ve wondered if it was the end of days.

      Even though I was at home for most of the day, I felt the ripples of what was an unnerving 24 hours. I think the silence spoke volumes…


  8. Pie,
    May right always triumph over wrong, good always always triumph over evil and peace loving people always triumph over terrorists.

    We live in a complex and sometimes dark world, but let us also never forget that for every evil person in it there are ten thousand good ones from every race and walk of life who rise to the occasion and put others before themselves whenever terrible atrocities or natural disasters occur.

    R.I.P. to all of the innocent lives lost, Courage for all who were maimed, and Thank You to all of the good people who proved on that day that human beings can be amazingly good people even when some are amazingly bad.

    I remember this being on the News… being spellbound and speechless. London and Londoners you stood up and were counted when it was needed most and restored the faith in humanity that the terrorists tried to take away.

    Bravo.


    • Thank you!



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