Friday, July 08, 2005

London belongs to me

Transpontine crew all believed safe and sound after yesterday's madness, though Skitster apparently went through Edgware Road station not long before the blast. Met somebody this morning who had been on the top of the bus that got blown up - after the explosion she looked round and most the seats behind her had disappeared along with the people on them. So it was no surprize when they said today that 13 had died on the bus, rather than the 2 originally announced. Miraculously she got away with perforated ear drums and shock. Some of the people on the bus had earlier been caught up in the bomb at Edgware Road a full hour before. This in itself calls into question the story of the super-efficient emergency operation swinging seamlessly into action, though who can say if any course of action would have made any difference by that stage.

Lots of schmaltz on the radio about indominatable London pulling together, spirit of the Blitz etc. Some of this a bit bogus, judging by the actions of hotels putting up their prices to take advantage of captive customers unable to travel home. Nevertheless there was obviously lots of mutual aid, and its interesting that in times like these people affirm their connection to the place we live in rather to than the imagined community of the nation - London not England.

It's over-dramatizing things to compare the situation today to the Second World War when millions were slaughtered on all sides, but it is notable that London was appreciated in similar ways in the 1940s. I recently picked up an old copy, from a Walworth Road charity shop, of HV Morton's 'London', a series of sketches of pre-war London life published in 1940. It has a touching hand written message in the front saying 'Another war time birthday. Here are happy memories of our beloved London. Just Chubb 11.6.41'. The book itself is full of London pride: 'London, once so aloof and so vast a mystery, has, in the anxiety of these times, become comprehensible in her danger, and Londoners by the thousands have ceased to be merely lodgers in London, and have found a new importance as helpers of London'. Similar sentiments can be found in Norman Collins' 'London belongs to me' (1945) and Noel Coward's London Pride: 'Ghosts beside our starlit Thames, Who lived and loved and died, Keep throughout the ages London Pride'.

Too soon for me to write much about the politics and to be honest I've found some of the internet comment a bit irritating with people trying to slot events into their favourite conspiracy theory (including usual anti-semitic crap) without waiting for even the basic facts to become clear. Suffice it to say that mass murder in London is no more, but equally no less tragic that mass murder in Iraq, whether carried out by Islamo-fascists or Imperial armies. Neither justifies, or even explains, the other - we need a world without both.

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1 comment:

Richard said...

Excellent post, Neil.