A slightly delayed editorial this week, thanks largely to a surprise birthday party thrown for me by my girlfriend, which will be fully reported on here next time, and marked the start of an excellent (if rather self-indulgent!) weekend, in which the updating of this web site played no part at all.
The theme of said party was James Bond, which turned out to be somewhat appropriate, given my narrow brush with death on Saturday. Well, allowing for literary hyperbole anyway; the Brixton nail-bomb attack took place within spitting distance of the stop where I’d catch the bus back to Tulse Hill, which is uncomfortably close for comfort. Indeed, I was up in town at the time, and wondered why all the TV cameras were outside King’s College hospital when we went past a bit later.
The (slightly) more worrying thing is that it’s not all that unusual. In the past decade or so, I’ve come mildly close to such incidents a number of times, without ever getting directly involved. If some obscure form of terrorist group (an extremist splinter group of the National Viewers and Listeners Association perhaps?) are stalking my foot-steps, they are proving somewhat inept. This all seemed to start with the Clapham rail crash, back when I was commuting up from Farnborough: one of the trains involved had stopped there, but I didn’t get to the station until after it had gone. Ouch.
Next up, the Baltic Exchange bomb, which knocked the building where I’m typing this three inches off its foundations. The device was on the street I walked up most evenings on my way back to London Bridge, and succeeded in taking out my bank and my opticians. Fortunately, that evening, I was in the Scala cinema — a favourite venue for escaping historical events, I was also in there the day of the Poll Tax Riot. The IRA also bombed London Bridge, while I was on a train heading straight for it.
Is this normal, just an inevitable result of living in a bustling and multi-cultural metropolis? What’s strange is how FOCUSSED it all seems; I’ve never been in a car wreck or been felled by an industrial accident, and there have been no close calls involving natural phenomena of any sort. Save the rail crash, it’s been all terrorism.
The weird thing about the Brixton incident is, at the time I write this, no-one really knows who’s to blame; there have been no claims of responsibility, which you would expect any coherent terrorists to come up with — unless it was some paramilitary group of Trappist monks. Current favourites appear to be either Serbs or racists, which is really two different flavours of the same coin [Welcome to Outrageous Metaphor Mixing 1.0.1] However, my money is on one of three options: some kid who downloaded instructions off the Internet, only to discover, having made the bomb, that there was no info on how to defuse it, a highly confused NATO pilot, mistaking Brixton market for a Serb convoy, or somebody REALLY doesn’t like Iceland fish-fingers.
It is, of course, important to retain a suitably blase outlook, something at which we South Londeners are past masters. Bomb North London, and they squeal, demanding rings of steel and armed police. Bomb South London and we shrug, realising that Stockwell on a Saturday night is already far more dangerous. Besides, if we play our cards right, it’ll help keep the tourists out for the next century or so — we’ve only recently let on that bubonic plague is no longer rife South of the Thames [except in certain parts of Streatham]. Any interested proto-anarchists out there, wishing to tap into a groundswell of popular support should note that placing devices in a) Madam Tussaud’s, b) Rock Circus and c) the Rainforest Cafe would be the terrorist equivalent of the neutron bomb, taking out the tourists, but leaving the residents intact.
Thus, life will go on, given the lack of evidence to the contrary. What does not kill us makes us stronger, even if it’s at the cost of a few local bus diversions…