Thursday, July 07, 2005


Well, I've taken my life in my hands and gone out to our local Italian caff to get some lunch. The streetscape is surprisingly normal, perhaps rather quieter than usual but even that could be explained by the rain (the Policeman's Friend in action). People are going about their business, traffic is moving; not very much traffic, though. The pubs seem fuller than usual for a Thursday lunchtime. The Middlesex Hospital, just across the road, has no Accident & Emergency role, so presumably this explains the calm. At the Cafe Verona, there seemed to be more takeaway orders than usual; terrorist bastards forcing us to change our way of life.

As a telecoms type, I should point out that O2 and Vodafone's networks are down for all intents and purposes (and are presumably operating telephone preference control to keep official traffic moving). Orange are up, but were down earlier. T-Mobile scooped the palm, with no apparent interruption of service. Readers in London will surely notice the need to minimise your use of phones and keep the lines clear. Use the internet instead.

This morning, I took my usual train into Waterloo and skipped down to the Bakerloo. The line had just been de-suspended, so there were more people than usual. After pulling out of Waterloo, the driver made an announcement that a major power failure had occurred "in the Baker Street area" and that the Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, and Circle lines were suspended. Baker Street is not that far from the office, and I wondered if there was power there. I decided anyway that if there was going to be a power cut I'd rather be on the surface, so got off at Charing Cross. I phoned my editor's desk phone, but he wasn't in. I then delighted Osama by catching - what else - a bus north towards Oxford Circus. On Oxford Street I got off near a cross street that leads to my office. The driver was listening to a very long message over the bus system Private Mobile Radio (this would have been 0915 or thereabouts).

I learnt of the crisis from the web not long afterwards.

Back at the office, life continues as (un)usual. A couple of minutes ago, an army Lynx helicopter flew over heading north. At midday, everyone broke off to watch Tony Blair's address to the nation. About a quarter of a mile from one of the bus bombs, we all seemed a lot less rattled than he does. He repeatedly broke off, searched for words, and stuttered. Churchill it wasn't.

Update of an Update: To commenters - I agree the title of the last post is pretty strong, but I believed at the time the invasion of Iraq would make terrorism more likely. And I was extremely angry - I still am - about the "power surge" story. I suppose the point was to "avoid panic", but you can't get away from the fact that evacuating the Tube and transferring passengers to buses seems to have played into the terrorists' hands. I wouldn't have got on a bus for thousands had I known. It's also been suggested that the first sign of trouble might have been a power surge, but surely the explosions can't have been that ambiguous. Either they were lying to us or this was a weak spot in the emergency response, which seems to have been outstanding.

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