God, I haven't had a mood swing that violent since I was a teenager and mainlining hormones, The Smiths and Merrydown cider in large quantities. From unexpected elation and hope following the Olympic decision to fear and anger.
Thanks for all the messages you left after the last post. It was nice to surreptitiously log on to LJ while at work and read them.
* * *
Are you really a terrorist if the people you're trying to cow aren't particularly terrorised?
Upset, shaky, furious, a bit prone to skittish panic -- and in about 700 cases, grief-stricken and hurt -- but not terrorised?
There's a dark glamour surrounding terrorism for the terrorists. They seem to claim for themselves, in incredibly extravagant language, the role of the pure outlaw, cleansing the city of its nastiness and punishing those to blame for whatever the hell these people are pissed off about. Iraq. Israel. The US. Bad lyrics on the new Coldplay album. Uppity women with opinions and too many pairs of trousers. Who the hell knows. They just seem to be for themselves and against people who are not exactly like them.
I don' t think they should be allowed to don that mantle.
(1) We're not terrorised.
(2) They're not pure outlaws. They're mass-murdering gobshites with a big chemistry set and all the moral acuity of a cowpat.
The Secret Organisation Group of al-Qaida of Jihad Organisation in Europe? What are you, *five*? Next time do you get to be the Super Sekrit Organisation of al-Qaida in Europe? Do you get a special spy pen and guidelines to being a murderous *twat* if you join? Pfeh. (At least the IRA kept it simple. Ish. Well, there was that whole Provisional IRA/ Continuity IRA/ Real IRA thing to confuse people...)
In the website claiming responsibility, the Britain is now burning with fear, terror and panic in its northern, southern, eastern, and western quarters
Well, no. The only time we burn with fear in our southern quarters is after too much Vindaloo and tiger beer at the local Indian restaurant.
And there are not 81 virgins waiting for you in paradise, sunshine, because you don't get to hang out at the Great Party In The Sky when you die. That's only for human beings. You don't qualify.
* * *
I don't want to suggest that there are not legitimate grievances and terrible problems with UK foreign policy that need to be addressed and addressed swiftly.
It's just that I think that even if we caved to every single incoherent demand of the jihadis, they would not think any better of us. This little gang are in love with death and draw power from their hate. We have to work out a way to marginalise them out of existence.
* * *
It only took about 12 hours for ITV to start playing footage of 1940s Londoners taking the Blitz in their stride and declaring that they wouldn't be letting Johnny Foreigner/the Hun/ Old Narsty stop them from going about their everyday business. I take this as a measure of the shock that people were in, because usually it only takes about 20 minutes to start talking about the Second World War.
But I think that it does apply in some ways. Once they were over the initial shock, those only on the periphery were pretty calm. Too soon to say whether this will last but the humour was thick and black yesterday.
When I set out this morning, my sang was not particularly froid. In fact, I am not ashamed to say that if I had been anywhere near those tube trains, I would have been cacking a brick.
I managed to catch a bus from the end of my road into the city. It was packed with people. The bus driver told us there had been several bomb blasts in the tube. Near me, a young chap said "Shit, I didn't know the French were that pissed off," and was pleased when people tittered a bit.
But you could tell that some of the phone calls people were getting from friends were giving bad news about the gravity of the situation. The mood changed. Darkened. The fellow sitting next to me said "I've got to get into Old Street, I've got an exam." I told him that they would probably let him off but he seemed bizarrely determined, as if this was all his mind could cope with at that time.
As we approached Mile End tube station, where the bus was terminating, the noise of sirens increased. Every minute or so there would be another police car or ambulance hurtling down Mile End road towards the city. I decided to walk the remaining distance, four miles (the whole journey took two and a half hours so it's a good job I set off an hour early)
I had to strike north first, so I could avoid Liverpool Street and Aldgate, which were cordoned off. It was a strange journey. Even that early the roads were quieter than usual and passersby were sombre. Cabs kept passing by but their lights were seldom on and it seemed as though the drivers were heading home.
I started texting friends to see how they were but once I passed Bethnal Green, my phone refused to work. I would call a number and the connection would drop immediately so I put it away and concentrated on working out my route. I had my antediluvian transistor hanging out of one pocket, listening to the marvellous Radio 5, which had superb and chilling coverage. I kept passing people who were walking home or gazing hopefully into the distance, wishing a bus would emerge and whisk them home. Most seemed to be trying to get service on their mobiles (good luck with that if you were on Orange or Vodaphone) and all the time there were more and more sirens around and the streets were becoming less and less crowded.
I felt my legs jellying and my heart thumped in my ears. I wasn't scared at all but only my brain appeared to be aware of this. For the first 15 minutes I was in work, my fingers wouldn't type properly. 'The' became 'teh' with absolutely no ironic intention. It was aggravating but it passed pretty quickly.
I think it was the pictures that did it. For the first four hours of the day, I had no visual input to match the descriptions on the radio. Then when I got into work, there it all was.
Most chilling of all was that double decker bus, its top ripped off like the lid from a sardine can, huge blood spatters high on the smooth stone walls of the BMA building. Then there were the people in their smart workday suits, looking like every other London worker until you saw that their faces were like charcoal drawings. They were covered in smuts as though some cruel Victorian gangmaster had suddenly shoved them up a chimney and ordered them to get sweeping.
Work was noxious. Upsetting subject matter and more people than was useful. I spent seven hours wishing devoutly to be in my bed with a large bag of Maltesers and some Terry Pratchett.
By the time we were done with 14 pages of death and destruction, the world outside was far more normal. The Turkish cafe over the road was closed, annoyingly, prompting joking about how if you couldn't get a kebab, the terrorists had won, but most of the rest of the cafes, bars and pubs were open. I think a fair few people had decided to stay in town to eat until the transport links reopened further.
I suspect many just wanted to talk and talk about it until it felt slightly better. I don't think that point will come for a while.
Me, I couldn't face bus-wrangling, so I sucked it up and drew 30 quid out of the bank and took a cab home. The transport links are going to be rubbish for me for a while. One bomb went off along my usual route to work and the secondary route, the central line, is knackered. (it shouldn't be, but the rumour mill says it's severe disruption tomorrow)
And that is all. Life goes on -- not in the trite greetings card way, but rather because it has to. There will be pro-am Whining and Moaning, inappropriate jokes and a twinge of fear every time someone leaves a bag around the underground again. We'd almost forgotten what that was like, now that the IRA have been quiet for a while.
But there will definitely be no terror. A tiny bunch of gobshites can't be allowed to stop us from enjoying life in one of the most wonderful and infuriating cities on Earth. No terror here, ladies and gentlemen, please move right down inside the cars.