Thursday, July 28, 2005

Fortress London

  • Blitz spirit, yeah
  • Dunkirk, yeah
  • Resolve, ok
  • Bulldog, bloody-mindedness...alright

Well, we have it, but it isn't 'fun' anymore. I was sick, sick, sick with nerves and suspicion of my fellow Londoners during my tube rides today. We awoke to the news that nine arrests had been made this morning under the Terrorism Act very near my house.

I walked past the thicket of police and reporters and took the Northern line (line of failed bombing at Oval and shooting over mistaken identity at Stockwell). This line is usually very full of people, but today it was nearly empty. People were nervous, people were clearly afraid. Many people were clearly wary enough to stay off the Underground (not me, I'm stupid.) There were very few men of "Asian appearance" on the train today, I guess they're tired of the looks.
There were cops everywhere. Not just your friendly bobby, but people carrying sub-machine guns. Some, I regret to say, don't look like they've had weapons training in a while, don't look like they could run to catch a terrorist (or a bus), and don't really make me feel any better knowing they're walking around packing. But maybe that's the Met's cunning plan to lull the terrorists into a false sense of security. Actually, to be fair, they're out in such numbers that a Deputy Fife type is usually accompanied by a Buford Pusser type who looks like he means bidness.

There were cops everywhere. They're all wearing high visibility jackets. Apparently all police leave has been cancelled and they must be working overtime. When I left the local train station (I decided not to take the Underground home, I'd had enough) I counted six cops, on the platform, the ticket office, standing around outside - I'd never even seen any in the vicinity before. There were cops all over the station near my work including one with a sub-machine gun who stood in a position where he could spray bullets over every platform, should he feel he needed to. I know that's meant to reassure, but I'm not sure it's working.

After last week's shooting of Jean Charles de Menenzes a Brazilian electrician and not a terrorist, it's difficult to know what to think. I still support a shoot to kill policy for suicide bombers, but sadly I realise that they might shoot the wrong person, I just don't know what else we can do. However, people are advising each other not to run in the underground and a photo of this temporary Underground message board supposedly at Notting Hill tube station has been circulating office emails.

I have to admit my nerves are frazzled, but I'll get used to it, I guess. After our neighborhood has been all over the news due to the arrests or extradition hearings of suspected terrorists, I don't know if this is the best time to sell our house. I was also thinking of giving up smoking, but don't know if this is the best time for that either.

I tell you though, since we're in it for the long haul, and since my neighborhood now seems a little dodgy, I'm gonna make a better effort to get to know my neighbours. I had a good start today around quarter to seven on my way home. At the end of my street there are several households with young children and they're often out playing on the sidewalk. We usually don't have much interaction, but today one of them stopped and spoke to me out of the blue - our entire conversation is recorded below:

Kid: Is it evening?
Me: (Shrug) Yeah...(start to look at watch, but realise I don't have an evening hand) sure, it's evening
Kid: Well, Good evening
Me: (Smile) Good evening to you.

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