Tuesday, 7 July 2009


as in fact the Americans never called it, was four years ago today. We had left Reading, following the Conservative victory in Reading East worked for so hard by David Sutton, Martin Salter and Stuart Singleton-White, and had moved into our place in London. I had a job interview in Peterborough on 7th July, and left our home in Kennington at about 0830. There was an (unrelated) closure of the southern part of the Northern Line because of a defective train, meaning that there were no trains from our local tube station, Oval. So I got a bus to Charing Cross, thinking I would pick up a Tube train there to Kings Cross. Just as I got to Embankment station the doors closed and the man at the door would not tell me anything. I saw dark blue "Emergency Response" vehicles speedng by, vehicles I had never seen before or since. Unlike anyone who was at work or at home with access to TV or radio I had no idea what had happened. Including when I got a bus, which tipped all its passengers off almost immediately, at Aldwych. Someone said a bus had been blown up. Then the mobile network went down and I saw businessmen queueing at phone boxes, something I had not seen for at least 20 years. I was about 10 minutes behind each incident, so Tube stations were closing as I approached them, and ambulances had just taken away the victims as I got there. I am glad to say. As I walked back along the Strand after failing (obviously) to reach Kings Cross and my train to Peterborough and my job interview, someone gave me a free Evening Standard and I watched all the banks close their doors one afer another. The pubs didn't close though. Many of them were full to the doors with people talking and laughing too loudly, drunk on adrenalin or alcohol or both in the middle of the day, some of them with sooty black marks on their faces. I walked back to Kennington, which is a long way from Kings Cross, especially in the kind of shoes you wear to a job interview. An Italian cafe in Waterloo was full, and I asked if I could use their loo and get a glass of water. They immediately put a jug of water and a glass on a small table they dragged out from the back somewhere and said kindly that I could sit there and rest my feet. And of course use their loo.

Both my children and my niece live and work in London, and did then, and might well have been on one of the trains, but I didn't think to worry about them. I was sure they were all right. Idiotically, probably.

Someone once said you have only really lived when you have experienced love, poverty and war. I experienced war that day. Because at last I understood my mother's stories - she worked in central London as a girl during the Blitz - and I understood at last that war is when people who don't know you want to kill you. What I saw on the faces of Londoners that day was not fear but defiance. And bravado. And sometimes pride. And that was before I knew what was going on. And someone said in the street, only perhaps half an hour after the last bomb, "I knew the French were pissed off about not getting the Olympics, but did they have to blow London up?"


dreamingspire said...

That is the best report of 7/7 that I have seen. In the last couple of years I have several times walked past the place where the bus bomb went off, looked at the buildings and thought: these stones should speak to us, because there is nothing visible there as testimony to the response to the outrage.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dreamingspire, a poignant & beautifully written account