This is not the time to be disgruntled, not now, not in London. What was incredible about today was that the same city that collapses under an inch of snow rose to the occasion of a real crisis magnificently. I was stuck out in the wilds of West London when it happened and have spent the day alternating between hitting refresh on the BBC news website and checking my email for news of friends and family. My inbox is full of messages asking if everyone is ok. Everything I’ve read and heard so far is that even under the worse provocation, people weren’t panicking, just getting themselves out and evacuated as calmly as possible.
I set off for home not entirely certain if I would ever get there. But by the time we were on the train to Waterloo, the news was coming thick and fast over the tannoy – first the mainline stations were reopening, then the buses were running again. Our plans changed with every new announcement, and I was relieved not to have to make the whole trek home on foot after all. In the end we only needed to walk from Waterloo to Liverpool Street, along with what seemed like half the poplulation of London.
The pavements were full of people and with the sun shining on us there was almost a holiday atmosphere, or at any rate an atmosphere of calm and getting on with it. People flowed along the embankment like a river and all of them seemed to be smiling because they were on their phones hearing the good news about friends and family, or were reassuring them – the word ‘OK’ was repeated over and over in every possible accent all around us.
We got to Liverpool street a little footsore and a little weary and the river of people became a flood as we were channelled down onto the concourse and straight out again onto a train. In all it took us slightly over two hours to get home – I’ve seen worse when the problem was simply overrunning engineering works.
What has brought it home to me has been the pictures of the bus. Had today gone as normal I would have been coming home on a number 30 – which takes me almost to my door. Instead I was looking at news photographs of that familiar red shape blown apart like an opened sardine tin. The front of the bus was twisted and mangled; the back of the bus was just gone. Thirty minutes before it had probably sailed down Dalston lane from Hackney, bomb and bomber on board, within 100 yards of our flat.
Tomorrow the recriminations will start, and the blame, and the moaning at late trains, and the rest of the petty round of daily life. Today I’m just happy to be home.