Terror in the subway

Don’t pan­ic — I nar­row­ly missed being on one of the trains attacked in the Lon­don bombs yes­ter­day. The only day I decide to ven­ture into Lon­don, just my luck…

So, it’s 9:00am and I’m on the under­ground train from Epping to Liv­er­pool St sta­tion, where I was due to catch anoth­er under­ground on the cir­cle line. Then I hear it’s not stop­ping until two stops lat­er. “Great”, I think — anoth­er british rail dis­as­ter. I get off, mild­ly con­cerned at the num­ber of peo­ple, and make my way along The Strand, towards Buck­ing­ham Palace. I notice a bunch of peo­ple inside an elec­tron­ics store (Dixons), star­ing at a TV. Pret­ty weird, so I walk in to see if it’s relat­ed to my missed stop. That’s when I realise there’s at least two fatal­i­ties, and pos­si­bly a bomb. I con­tin­ue walk­ing, and the ICA (Insti­tute of Con­tem­po­rary Arts) is closed due to a secu­ri­ty scare, so across the road I go to St James’ Park for the Liv­ing Muse­um (yeah, not a big war fan, but the Bletch­ley Park Trust — i.e. cryp­tog­ra­phers dur­ing the war — had a stand). Very bizarre, police with Uzi’s out­side, search­ing every­one. Start to get a bit weird­ed out, but hey — per­haps that’s life in Lon­don.

All the war pro­pa­gan­da was get­ting to me, so I left to see if the Tate muse­um of mod­ern art was open — on the way, stop­ping at the Lon­don Eye (closed), Dali muse­um (dit­to), and by this time get­ting a lit­tle wor­ried. So, into the pub at the Nam­co muse­um (it had a vide­owall), where I felt increas­ing­ly sur­re­al. Looked around to see who I would be strand­ed with if all trans­port was out for the day. Tried for the umpteenth time to get a text mes­sage to my uncle, who was (I thought) the only one who knew I was in Lon­don. Tony is a bit of a wor­ri­er, and had vir­tu­al­ly organ­ised my trip to the last detail — includ­ing the trip on the cir­cle line — and so would be out of his tree with wor­ry. Final­ly man­aged to get a mes­sage through, by this time my broth­er Lee and moth­er (as well as a friend in Ire­land) had seen the news and won­dered if I was ok.

I am.

Spent the next few hours wan­der­ing aim­less­ly around cen­tral Lon­don — it was hon­est­ly like A Qui­et Earth (with Bruno Lawrence) or 28 Days Lat­er — no cars at all, no bus­es — until the ear­ly after­noon not even many peo­ple. When I realised it might take quite a while to get back, I made my way to Fenchurch St sta­tion, where about 2000 peo­ple gath­ered in front of the build­ing — it was going to be hours before I even got inside.

The weird­est thing about the whole expe­ri­ence was the jun­gle grapevine — every­one had cell­phones stuck to their ears, and all you had to do was lis­ten to snip­pets of con­ver­sa­tion and you would be instant­ly updat­ed, with­out even hav­ing to speak. That’s how I learned Liv­er­pool St was still open, so I blind­ly made my way there (half the time walk­ing with the throng, the oth­er half try­ing to go against the flow).

Made my way to Liv­er­pool St, and pret­ty much straight away got on the first train that looked like it was head­ing back towards Epping — which turned out to be a first class express ser­vice. All the trains were free at this stage. Texted my Uncle to pick me up from Har­low, how­ev­er I soon found out there was a secu­ri­ty alert there, so couldn’t get off until Stanst­ed Air­port (more armed police). Final­ly man­aged to meet him at the arrivals ter­mi­nal, where many strand­ed trav­ellers couldn’t get back into Lon­don because all the trains were can­celled.

All in all, a very event­ful day.