What a time…

To be away from your internet connection and your TV.

At 8.50am Thursday morning I was on a train somewhere in mid-Wales on my way to a conference in Oxford on… violence.

Getting into Birmingham just after 10.30, the only clue to what had happened, if I’d known how to interpret it, was that the next London Euston train had been cancelled (but this is not such a rare occurrence as to arouse extraordinary suspicions). But then came the announcement once I was on the Oxford train: We strongly advise you not to travel to London; because of the security situation, there is no public transport running in the city.

And only when I arrived in Oxford and started talking to others attending the conference did I really start to find out what had happened.

But we were there for business, and we got on with it. We stepped into the peculiar social bubble that is an academic conference and we talked about history and violence and politics, and the food and the weather, and academia and gossip and sex, and books and our research obsessions… and all the things academics talk about at conferences.

Occasionally we got reports and numbers from people who’d gone to the TV room to watch the news, and I made it to a computer for a while, but didn’t really try too hard to learn too much; what had happened a few miles away from us was a lurking presence, we were all aware of it, all too aware of it. I think I didn’t want to know more than was absolutely necessary. I certainly didn’t want to start in on the bloggers’ analysis. And most of all, I think I didn’t want to fill in details; I didn’t want to know names and faces, because if I started on that path, what would happen?

We carried on. We kept what was happening out there at a safe distance. And when I finally opened a paper on Saturday afternoon on the train home, I cried. For the deaths, and for the still alive, frantically scouring the city for missing loved ones.

But I was proud too.

Now, I’ve never exactly been in love with London in the way that many people are. And most of the time I consider myself far too cynical to be a patriot. (And, yes, let’s not get it too much out of proportion: this is not the worst thing that’s ever happened to London, where bombs and terror are not new; but it is the worst thing for a very long time.)

But yes, I am proud: of the responses of those who were there and caught up in this horror. Of their calmness and courage through terror and shock and pain. Their generosity and willingness to help each other. Their defiance. Proud of the emergency services and the hospitals and their staff. Proud of those who are even now deep underground facing a little hell on earth.

And proud of the message they’ve sent out by their deeds and words:

Fuck You.

Fuck you, wherever you are, you cringing cowardly little pieces of scum: don’t you know that adversity draws us Brits together as nothing else can? We will argue for the next 7 years and beyond about the bloody Olympics. But on this we stand together. We will mourn and we will remember. When we get you, we will ensure that you have justice; we will give you a fair trial. We won’t even kill you. On both of which counts, we will prove that whatever our faults, we are better than you.

.

PS: We also reserve the right to take the piss.

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9 Responses to What a time…

  1. rob says:

    There’s a great Biff in yesterday’s Guardian about academic conferences. It’s not on the website yet tho :( Did you see it?

  2. Sharon says:

    As I was travelling, I got the Indy.

    It’s not in the Weekend section online is it? (Have checked and the answer seems to be no…)

  3. a spell says:

    Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.
    Oscar Wilde

    I think that sums up much of the British reaction. I don’t know if anyone’s forgiving anybody but I see a lot of people focussing on the root of the problem rather than knee jerk hatred.

  4. Steve says:

    You don’t have to be patriot to be proud. Decent community spirit does still exist (probably something these idiots have never experienced) despite the “progress” of the last 30 odd years. Genuinely something to be proud of. I checked your site early Sunday morning – you had me going for a minute, there!

    Nice to see the (some very) plain-speaking comments of some the oldies on the TV coverage the 60th anniversary celebrations. Not fawning, not angry, just matter-of-fact. A generation for whom the mass media has never dictated responses.

    Anyways – nice post.

  5. Sharon says:

    Yep. We’ve seen (much) worse shit before, we’ll see bad shit again sooner or later.

    And then we’ll go down the pub for a beer, and screw ’em.

    Still, I am not feeling forgiving. I hate them. Which, by the way, is not the same as wanting to take it out on every earthly representative of whichever social group they might belong to, or panting to string ’em up on the nearest tree, OK?

  6. Steve says:

    Agreed. And panting to string people up trees should be reserved for other activities entirely.

  7. Sharon says:

    So, it looks like they were suicide bombers after all.

  8. Ralph Luker says:

    Sharon, I was releaved to see you posting regularly after the bombings. And with a bit more than the usual vinegar. Ralph

  9. Chris Williams says:

    Well, I was at this conference on Tuesday at Leeds University (Britsh Criminology) listening to a paper on security, when the organiser announced that a large chunk of Hyde Park and Burley had been evacuated… That explained the cops with carbines I’d walked past at the railway station, and the circling helicopter, then.

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