The most remarkable thing about London today is how unremarkable it is. Though trains and buses were less busy than usual for a Friday morning, London appears more or less back to normal as people go about their business.
One could have expected this after the calm, stoic and polite manner of London commuters yesterday. People just got on with it, patiently, with precious little hysteria or panic. The police and emergency services were calm and efficient, Parliament continued to sit, and financial markets to trade. The Bank of England kept rates unchanged for the eleventh month.
In my office yesterday quite a few people were clustered around the TV for a while, but drifted back to their desks as the coverage started to get repetitive. Not quite 'just another day in the office', but not too far from it.
Of course, The Independent reminds us today, this is not the first time London has been targeted by bombing campaigns. The resilience of Londoners to the Blitz, and the spate of IRA bombings during the 1970s and 1980s, is well known. That is why yesterday's rather hysterical statement by the alleged perpetrators, the Qaeda't al-Jihad in Europe, was so ill-judged:
And this is Britain now burning from fear and panic from the north to the south, from the east to the west.
Sorry guys, not much fear and panic here. Tim Worstall's riposte is worth repeating:
And it goes on. You know, I’m not sure that these people have quite understood us. We’ve just spent 30 years being bombed by a bunch of terrorist nutters. Whatever your views on Irish nationalism, Eire, the rights of the IRA and so on, it is an inescapable truth that there were a series of bombings "on the mainland" and no, it didn’t spread "fear and panic from the north to the south."
That's why Ian McEwan's short piece in today's Guardian jars. After some nicely wrought accounts of what it was like to be in London yesterday, he concludes with this:
It is unlikely that London will claim to have been transformed in an instant... But once we have counted up our dead, and the numbness turns to anger and grief, we will see that our lives here will be difficult. We have been savagely woken from a pleasant dream. The city will not recover Wednesday's confidence and joy in a very long time. Who will want to travel on the tube, once it has been cleared? How will we sit at our ease in a restaurant, cinema or theatre?
Nice line in rhetoric, Ian. But as analysis this is utter tosh. We already are traveling the tube again, and eating out. Most of last night's gigs and theatres were cancelled, but the West End should reopen tonight. As Richard Pulford, chief executive of the Society of London theatre, said today:
We expect to be fully operational unless the police advise otherwise. Theatre people are a pretty hardy bunch. The show must go on.
Londoners are a pretty hardy bunch too. This won't stop us.
UPDATE 1: Patrick Bishop, writing in Friday's Daily Telegraph (registration required), reminds us to remember that normality is the only civilised response. And Samizdata, blogging from London, agrees the British retain their national characteristics in adversity:
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.
Hat tip to Tim Worstall.
UPDATE 2: Sp!ked has several pieces on the London bombing that are worth reading. For example, Josie Appleton gives a great account of what it was like on Thursday afternoon as people made their way home. In London rises again she says the mood on the streets was "grim, but determined":
Yesterday afternoon outside London's King's Cross station, the streets were orderly and quiet. Normally tetchy commuters waited in line outside the two buses that looked as if they might be going somewhere soon. People shared A to Zs, and swapped advice on the best way of getting home. The instinct was not to panic or think only of number one, but to show some civic spirit. 'Whichever is easiest for you', one man told another; 'nice talking to you', a woman smiled at me.
It looked something like the exodus, with rivers of Londoners setting out to walk home. Some had a couple of hours' trek ahead of them, but were generally unfazed. A narrow alley near King's Cross offered the only route by which people heading north could skirt the cordoned area, and it quickly became a bottleneck. There was no need for official instructions, though: 'single file!', a young woman shouted down the line, and the crowd funnelled obediently.
Mick Hume, writing in Friday's Times, called it a real display of human solidarity:
If many were proud of London for winning the Olympics on Wednesday, I was much more so yesterday. There was no panic on the streets amid all of the confusion, no sense of despair despite the chaos. People were getting on with it, walking to work or back towards home, on the mobile making arrangements for their children and checking that everybody else was all right.
It was the sort of resilience that gives you renewed faith in humanity and reveals that, despite all the fashionable worries about trauma and damage in our therapeutic society, we do have the inner strength to face adversity. After the many rather artificial and staged displays of human solidarity we have witnessed over the past week, London yesterday showcased the real thing.