Thursday July 21, 2005
Driving back home across the country roads early this afternoon there came over the radio news of what was reported as being ‘a number of incidents’ on London’s underground transport system. Oh dear. I turned up the volume and listened to the story break. From ‘incident’ it mutated into ‘possible hoax’. Then to ‘failed attempt’. A bus was added to the list of three tube locations. More breaking news: ‘small explosions’ no fatalities, one non-fatal injury, possibly related.
During the course of the day more and more detail was added until it became clear that this was a failed terrorist attack by another four young men with warped minds. They’ll be caught. Hundreds of eye witnesses saw them as they ran away. Some tried to intervene, to catch them, without success so far as we know, though there is an open report that the police have arrested two young men. The CCTV tapes are being examined. They’ll catch the blighters.
This isn’t funny. London was brought to a halt, again. People were frightened and distressed, again. It’ll take a while for things to settle but it was clear by the end of the day as the story unfolded that most Londoners, while shaken, are getting down to the business of their days once more. It’s a pattern through which we’ve lived before, repeatedly.
There is an upside, quite apart from the great good fortune that no-one was seriously hurt in any physical way. These misguided criminals are groomed for success, not failure, and they expected to die. When they are interviewed, they will be a goldmine of information, as is the forensic information from the failed devices.
Hey ho. It’s not over yet.
Towards the very end of the day came one eye witness account that I found funny. I suspect there’s a strong element of the Londoner in me still, with a Londoner’s sense of humour, tempered in the fire of the Blitz and the IRA bombings, so it’s the kind of funny other people may not find amusing.
It seems this little old lady, on one of the tube trains affected, witnessed a young man switch his backpack to his front, fling himself to the floor, and lay there spread-eagled over it, shouting something she couldn’t understand. There was a small puff of smoke. The young man lay there dazed. The lady, bless her, went over to him and asked: “Are you alright, duck?”
I’m sorry. I found myself chuckling over that, and then laughing heartily. To me, it has all the elements of a Whitehall Farce, or the short comedies from Abbott and Costello. I don’t know whether I ought to react like that. Perhaps not. But then, us Londoners, as my dad used to say, would laugh to see a pudding crawl.