Enduring Images In My Mind

On Thursday, speeding back from Wigan to the office in Warrington, the gantries above the road were lit up. Trouble ahead is always the message. Usually it’s traffic or an accident. This time the message read:

“Avoid London. Area Closed. Turn on Radio”

Never have those stark yellow lights above the road conveyed a more serious message. Avoid London. Seeing the sign jolted us into action and we put Radio 4 on to hear what the news was. Never had London seemed so far away.

The second enduring image is the picture of the bus, with its roof sheared off like some kind of ballsed up attempt to use a tin opener on a can of beans. There’s an ad on the side of the bus, it says:

“Outright terror … bold and brilliant”

It is, I think, an ad for the Amityville Horror, re-released this year. But in this context, its presence was surreal. Outright terror indeed, bold for sure. Brilliant? hardly.

I can’t find either of these photos on the web. Perhaps that’s just as well. My mind has them in sharp focus just fine right now.


Never has the North West seemed so far away from London. I’d stepped out of a planned all day strategy meeting in a hotel not far from Wigan and checked my voice mail. It was running very slowly – 3-4 seconds between messages, the same pause after deleting a message. Something was up. The last time that had happened, bad things were afoot in the world. Midway through checking, I got a text from the MD of a software company who said something like “I know you’re incommunicado today, so you’re probably not aware of the bombs in London.”

The bombs? What bombs? I called Mo who was wandering the streets of London, somewhere near the Strand. He’d only heard that there’d been a power surge at Liverpool Street and that the entire tube network was shut. A power surge? All tubes shut down? That didn’t seem likely. I called the office and eventually got hold of someone. Check the news sites. The BBC site wouldn’t load. I knew it was bad then. I tried to reach Mo over and over again but the network was bouncing my calls. More texts started to appear on my phone, plainly the network was suffering – texts were coming through but they were delayed.

Back in the hotel, I found a TV, in the leisure centre of all places, and tuned to the news channel. It didn’t matter, all the channels were showing the same pictures. Bombs in London. Never had the North West seemed so far away.

Another text followed from my MD friend, letting me know that it was worse than he thought. I got hold of Mo, then Chris who updated me with what they knew.

Lots of texts followed for the next few hours – first from the middle East, then from Europe and then from the East coast of the USA, gradually moving to the West coast; all the while interspersed with London friends and family, checking on who was where. I was sending as many texts as I was receiving and everyone checked in. The networks made a mint I suspect; doubtless those who demanded Live8 texts be profit-free for the networks will be silent this week.

I’d been enormously proud of London the previous day as I watched the 2012 announcement on the TV. I’d been prouder still because I’d backed London at 7-1 on betfair.com and had picked up nearly £300 in winnings. On Thurday, 7/7, I was prouder still of London. The speed of response, the resoluteness of the Londoners impacted and those nearby, the rate at which near normality was returned.

It wasn’t until Friday night that I made it back to London. You’d almost never know that there had been an incident. Euston was maybe quieter than usual, but was that just me thinking that? The journey home was about the same time as usual. Today, Saturday, London is pretty much the same. I drove past Kings Cross, diverted from my planned destination because of several road closures, and saw the media circus outside it. Apart from that, London looks to have recovered. I wish I could say the same for those that were in the immediate radius of the bombs – that’s going to take a lot longer, and will be never for some.

Several friends were “near misses” – on the bus just in front, on the street just opposite, or on the tube train just behind. I’m as delighted that they’re ok as I am saddened for those who did not make it, and for their families and friends.

Now we have to catch the people that did it. No easy task I’m sure. London will be on edge for some time, but people will get on with it. Were there to be another attack, I’m not so sure. Catch them we must. There will be others after these for sure, maybe not in London, but somewhere. It’s not about Iraq, or it doesn’t appear to be so to me. The family of the Egyptian diplomat murdered this week will think differently, but that was Arabs killing Arabs, just as was the case in London. Random, malevolent violence targetted at the innocent and the involved, it makes no difference. How many of the London victims marched against the war? Did it matter? Not this time, wrong place, wrong time.

Broadband does everything

After three trains and a delay of 90 mins last Thursday night on the way back to London, I slumped into a taxi seat. In front of me was a Pipex ad saying “If you had a fast broadband connection, you wouldn’t need this taxi.” I was on my way to a restaurant so was a little confused how broadband would help me with basic nutrition, but then technology keeps on moving.

Four hours later, after a meal that was below par, with service slower than slow, in a restaurant where the air conditioning was broken and the temperature seemed to be above 30C, I thought about that ad again. Had the company not been as good as it was, I would probably have taken Pipex up on their offer, used my fast broadband, and stayed at home.