London Still: The day after 7 July 2005

July 7, 2015 at 5:13 pm (Uncategorized)

LondonI decided I’d see how I felt when I walked onto the platform. I was torn about going—although worried about putting my tourist itinerary before the traumatised locals’ feelings, I sensed that the city saw a return to normality as a matter of honour. I smiled when I got to the station. Only London could have polite signs up within 24 hours of being bombed, informing commuters about the alternate timetable ‘following yesterday’s attacks’. My decision was made.

Ticket and newspaper in hand, I caught the tube into Charing Cross. Sitting in the unusually quiet carriage, I was struck by the fact that we were all absorbed in our papers, which, in true British tabloid style, all but shouted lurid headlines about the previous day’s terrorism on the very transport system we were using. The carriage was quiet, the atmosphere slightly tense and the tunnels seemed that little bit more claustrophobic than usual. But the public tears of yesterday had dried. I think I literally saw people stiffening their upper lips.

I disembarked, a little relieved, and found a coffee-shop overlooking Trafalgar Square. Here only two days prior, confetti had swirled amongst the ubiquitous (and never has the word been more appropriate) pigeons, after the 2012 Olympics decision. The city’s hard-bitten exterior had softened to joyful camaraderie after the announcement, but the following day’s events did far more to crack London’s too-busy-to-be-friendly veneer and reveal the city’s occasionally forgotten humanity.

My numerous visits to London had somewhat blinded me to her quiet dignity, as I became jaded with the surface annoyances of bustle and grime. But when a crotchety loved one is suddenly under threat, minor irritations fade into insignificance. I remembered watching the clouds wheel above the breathtaking dome of St Paul’s, relived the mad colour and retail high of Camden’s markets and thought about the city’s infectious energy on those summer days when everyone descends on the parks to greedily absorb the rays, as if they will never appear again.

London turned it on for the tourists that day. It was still, mild and just overcast enough to not seem disrespectful. The galleries were serene and welcoming as I visited Stubbs’ equine masterpieces and an exhibition of the world’s most photographed people. The café in St Martin’s crypt was cosy and staffed with suddenly solicitous waiters. After a perfect day of coffee, culture and cafes, I had the distinct impression that London would soon be snapping and scowling again, like a grumpy aunt who sneaks lollies to the children when no one is looking. And that’s exactly the London we love.

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