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.