Normally, Clare works in Oxfordshire, but yesterday she had a training session, so she travelled into work with me. I work in central London.
The trip in was slow, but uneventful. On the tube, there were delays due to a defective train at Picadilly Circus, so we got off at Regent’s Park. Handy for Clare, but I had a long walk down Great Portland St. I arrived into work in Soho at 8:50, just as the first bomb went off.
An email from our MD at about 9:30 talked about power surges on the tube shutting the network down, and that we should not be surprised if collegues are late in. By then, I was already getting text alerts about a bomb going off on a bus in Tavistock Square, and the tone of the mail seemed suddenly absurd. Events were moving far too quickly.
The morning was a blur as I tried to carry on with some work, while being constantly drawn back to the TV in the kitchen for news updates. The reports were fluid, the situation ever-changing. At one point there were seven bombs. There were troops on the streets in Covent Garden. Luke in VT started talking about martial law and curfews.
The phones were up. The phones were down. The word got out to my family, Clare’s family, my friends. Everyone but Clare. But I dropped her off pretty much at the door. Surely, surely…
Finally, a text at about 11. Check your email. I did. Nothing. Then, with a flash of inspiration, I checked the .Mac account. Bingo. From one of her mates at work. I’m fine. Mail me back to let me know you’re OK. Come and get me later, and we’ll work out how to get home. LuvU.
The day blurred past, Lunch with Dom, where we hunkered in a Pret and tried and failed to talk about normal things. In and out of the kitchen, where the jokes were already forming. Man in blue and white striped jumper and beret seen leaving scene trailing onions. The news tickers described the bus in Tavistock Square as “formally a double decker.” The same footage, cycling on a loop. The death and injured toll, ever-rising.
I left at 5, giving up on work for the day. Soho was eerily quiet. Most of the shops and pubs were shut. Many of them had signs on the windows beginning “due to the current circumstances…” There were hardly any cars on the roads. But pedestrians were everywhere, marching intently towards train stations, or just resigning themselves to a long walk home.
I met Clare at Park Crescent, and we started our own long walk towards Paddington. At one point, she’d been offered a hotel room for the night, initially taken it, then turned it down when she’d heard the mainline stations were open. She just wanted to go home. Her and me both.
We held hands pretty much the whole way to the station.
Walking past Edgeware Road, there was no obvious signs of damage, but police cordons were everywhere. No traffic on Praed St, but the pubs were heaving. Punters fortifying themselves for the journey ahead.
At Paddington, against all reports, a normal service was running. We got my usual train back to Reading. We had no problems getting a seat.
Home by half seven. Me and Clare swap the phones, checking in on people, including my mate Chris in Norfolk, who’d caught the news late and left a worried answerphone message. Clare caught up on the news reports. Tony Blair in his earlier conference had looked grey-faced and shocked. Ken Livingstone had came across as positively Churchillian. Then we just crashed. In bed by half ten, and I have to do the whole journey again. Clare’s back in Harwell, lucky thing. There’s a normal train service running today into London. I wonder how busy it’ll be.

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Rob

Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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