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.
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.