Sunday, July 10, 2005


After the bomb attacks, after spending the rest of the day in the office watching BBC News 24 and listening to Five Live, after texting furiously to ensure everyone we knew was safe, after pouring over the A To Z wondering how we would be able to walk back to our homes, after realising little actual work was being done, I left early and arrived home with little energy but to wolf down my ultimate comfort food -- a big plate of greasy chips, slathered in salt, malt vinegar and tomato ketchup -- and spent the rest of the evening glued to the TV news, trying to fathom it all out.

The next day, Friday, I was in central London, having taken a bus that was busy, but not packed. The streets were quieter, devoid of suited people but not of tourists. Many offices -- mine included -- had sensibly told their staff to take the day off or work from home. People were shopping, people were eating, people were taking photos, people were riding on the top decks of double-decker buses. I did some banking then went into Borders to read.

Early in the evening, we popped into Chinatown and filled our basket with pak choy, soy sauce, prawn and pork dumplings, noodles, broth, jasmine tea, papaya, cherries, green tea cake and chocolate cake. When we returned home, we prepared a delicious Chinese meal and ate it whilst pouring over the newspapers. After, we laughed at Woody Allen's Hannah And Her Sisters on DVD.

Yesterday, a group of us checked the Transport For London website and worked our various ways on buses and overground trains to St Albans -- a pretty suburban commuter town on London's outskirts. There, we spent the day relaxing outdoors in the sunshine and playing with assorted babies at the house of two friends. We all had stories to tell of being caught up in the events of Thursday, so we shared them early on. Then we spent the rest of the day discussing babies (trying for them, giving birth to them, living with them), relationships (ditto), the G8 Summit, the politics of the Live8 concert (and the UK Government's co-option of it and the entire Make Poverty History campaign), climate change, and the lives of various celebrities as featured in a copy of Heat magazine that was floating around. Much food was scoffed, much wine was quaffed. We didn't return to London until after midnight.

Today, the two of us had a long and leisurely Full English breakfast at Brixton's The Lounge, perused the papers, reading the post-bombing analyses but lingering over other stories from around the world, the cultural reviews and, of course, the Food Monthly magazine (I had always thought people blew the dangers of MSG up out of all proportion!).

After, we sat, as usual, on the top deck of a double-decker and travelled to the Hayward Gallery and the interesting and mixed Rebecca Horn exhibition, then walked across the river in the blazing heat and sunshine to glance across some very bland photos of bored American teenagers at the Photographers Gallery. We juiced ourselves up, at Leon on Carnaby Street, with freshly-squeezed ginger and lemonade, read the papers some more, then took the Tube and bus home.

Many of the people I know were upset and angry, but not puzzled at the events of Thursday morning. We felt there had been a sense of inevitability about it all, after 9/11, after Madrid, after the Iraq war... We knew we would be a target eventually, the question remained when. Some of us recognise that as Londoners, we are angry... and as bombers, so are they. We're also aware that the atrocities of Thursday morning occur on a daily basis across the world, and on far grander, more devastating scales. We are hurt and angry, but... The awareness of the various political and historical complexities around and contexts of the bombings does not nullify, but does moderate our anger somewhat.

"Every time these dreaded events occur, you find yourself disintegrating, one part deep human compassion for the victims and their families, another calling you to the truth that our governments too shed blood for no good reason and create conditions for hate to infect life." Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in The Independent, 08 July 2005.

After Thursday morning, life carries on.

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