Despite the byline, this is being posted from London
The train and tube that I caught in to work this morning were significantly less crowded today than is usual – carrying maybe two thirds to three quarters the normal number of passengers. The atmosphere on the trains was pretty serious. People were sitting pretty still on the train with pretty serious faces and eyes even more than normally fixed on newspapers. The British air of “We are going about our business, damn it” stoicism came through pretty strongly. There were more police in London Bridge station than is usual. Advertising placards for the Evening Standard were rather incongrously still proclaiming “London’s Victory: How We Did It” or some such. These had been advertising the Wednesday edition of the paper (or perhaps the earliest Thursday edition) and rather unsurprisingly nobody had been selling the Thursday edition inside the station. They have probably been replaced by now with placards advertising the first Friday edition of the paper.
While standing on the Jubilee Line platform, the announcements were fairly normal, except that the standard, very mechanical sounding “Please make sure that you keep all packages and other personal possessions with you at all times” was replaced by a slightly more human announcement of “Obviously I don’t need to tell you that you should keep all packages and other personal possessions with you at all times”.
The large international bank I work for instituted very tight and very visible security for getting into the building after September 11. It was only two or three months ago that this was relaxed, but I found that the tight and visible security regime had returned this morning. I was required to show my company ID card several times before being able to reach my desk. Upon getting there, I found that about half of the people in the team I work for had come to work – several of the rest have logged into their work computers from home and are working remotely.
However, I hadn’t been at my desk long when an important piece of information flashed around – there was free food in the cafeteria. Management were making a friendly gesture to the employees who had made it in today, or something. I went down to the cafeteria and discovered that the number of people queueing for food and eating in the cafeteria was at least twice as long as it would be on a normal day, despite the number of people at work being much smaller than normal. Many of the people in the queue were no doubt millionaire investment bankers, but the opportunity to have free bacon and eggs was clearly not one to be sneezed at. The queue was long, but people remained in it patiently and good-humouredly. And I didn’t sneeze at it, having a helping of free bacon and eggs myself.
So, the British people have survived this terrorist attack in good shape. They are still stoic, very angry about the people who attacked their city (although it would be bad manners to show it directly), determined to go on with their lives, are still the great queueing culture they always were, and are still also profoundly cheap. I’m not British, but it makes me proud to be a Londoner.