Tuesday, July 12, 2005

How Many Times Have I Been Lost For Words?

It doesn't happen often, but I just have not been able to hit "publish post" since Saturday. I have re-written and deleted and edited posts and words have been frail, pretentious, partial and pointless, and I just switched off the computer and walked away. I have been very busy. That is no excuse actually, since I often write when busy. Even on the mornings when I have no time, give me 10 minutes, and something will generally arrive, sometimes a fleeting comet indicating a possible trajectory, sometimes as I sit and wait by the verbal roadside for a bus, laden with sweaty London thoughts on their way to work.

There has been such a lot written since last Thursday about the bombs, by eye-witnesses, by the bereaved, by people in authority, by people in my local cafe, and by every journalist under the sun, that although I felt the need to put down my experience, I was disinclined to do so.

My pause was amplified by the need to move apartments for the second time in six months. I came back home. Bizarrely, I am now sitting in what was my bedroom and is now my study. I prefer it this way. I was never coming back here. Here I am. Why did I come back? Because it made sense to do so. There is more room here. I am no longer living on my own.

My gorgeous girlfriend takes the tube to work Monday to Friday, and she just called me to say that she can't get on this morning because of a "security alert" at Euston, two stops down the Victoria line.

Now we will be suffering the indignities of "security alerts" on a regular basis.

How much of a sense of tragedy and shock is there here? Not much. Not round here anyway. Just the odd, "Isn't it awful?" We hear of the odd outburst of xenophobia, anti-Islam vandalism, out in the sticks, but in these great sprawling streets the same old values apply, which is basically, "do as you would be done by". London exists for commerce, we urbanites are here for the money, for the chance to lift ourselves and our families out of the mire.

What of our famously tolerant inhabitants? My neighbours are muslims who enjoy cognac, hindus who eat beef sandwiches, jews who love bacon-flavour crisps, non-smoking Rastafarians, and pagans who attend Sunday church, and the great unwashed chavtastic ungodly mongrel mess of the rest of us, who try not to shit on our own doorsteps, complain about everything, and do little to change anything. I don't know if it is tolerance, or just the acceptance that the struggle to survive this place is more important than the tribalism, which certainly exists.

Those of us who were thinking that bombs were something happening far away on the other side of the television, perhaps they will be scared now. But did we really believe that we would remain unscathed, with politicians regularly telling us to expect the worst, after 9-11 and Madrid? Those of us who believe the bombs are connected with Iraq, well, 2 million of us marched against the war in the greatest peacetime demonstration ever seen. What more can pacifists do?

What of this "indomitable London spirit" we are all supposed to have and for which we are now praised far and wide? Giuliani talked of us surviving the blitz in 1941, how this inspired him, but this is irrelevant to modern Londoners. Far more present in living memory is the IRA, who bombed many civilian targets over 25 years, killing and maiming innocents just the same. Most of their funding came from Irish-American sources. For years, British diplomats asked successive US administrations to stop the funding, but not until Clinton was anything done. Following current American logic, we should have invaded New York after the Brighton bomb. Now all UK-based US military have been banned from entering London while everyone else says "business as usual". So much for shoulder to shoulder. Thanks for all the kind comments, dear american friends, but this has to be said.

I just got a text from GGF: "I got on a 30" - she means a number 30 bus, like the one pictured above, plus roof, minus human mincemeat. She'll get to work eventually.

It's too easy to convince yourself that you are safe here, even without the bombs. This entire elegant stinking urban edifice is here to support only itself, and don't be fooled, you are welcome only so long as you prop it up. The complex horrors and hangovers of the 20th century will be with us for the rest of our lives, and London, like any city, can expect to see its share of those as the traumas work their way through the system.

I started writing a song last week and the chorus goes: "I am on the wrong bus, but I'm enjoying the ride." Now I need to finish it, I've a gig on Sunday.

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At 12:44 PM, Blogger transience quoth...

thank you for writing that, deek. very heartfelt and edifying. and good luck on the song. i'm singing unknown parts of it in my head.

At 4:57 PM, Blogger I.:.S.:. quoth...

text message 02.07.05
from: Deek
to: Mike H
"on the wrong bus, but enjoying the ride."

Which bus was it? Not the 30? Cause that would have been the right bus for you that day, come to think of it... Is that where you came up with the song?

I take the 30 quite often. I prefer buses to tubes infinitely, and I've been saying since 9-11: avoid the Tube, avoid the City, avoid Whitehall and Canary Wharf... Ka-blam... That bomb was meant for the tube too, though...

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Blog ho quoth...

i'd like to live in london.


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