Having not been in central London since this whole thing started, I felt the need to go up to town today. I don’t know why – solidarity? a need to touch base? a feeling I was missing all the action?
Anyway, I went up to Borough Market and had a nice lunch – grilled scallops and bacon then some falafel.
I’ve been slightly embarrassed by all the references to the Blitz this week (most of which, interestingly, come from the States). The Blitz was over 60 years ago now – most of the people going to work on Thursday would have been too young to remember the London of Carnaby Street and Mary Quant, let alone the war. And the Blitz killed 40,000 people; this just isn’t the same.
I’m actually unsure whether Londoners have really been exhibiting an unflappable bulldog spirit, and not just a large scale version of the normal city anonymity. You could walk down Oxford Street in a state of obvous emotional distress and most people would studiously ignore you. Perhaps this is the same thing – once people have established that no one they know is involved, they just go back to minding their own business. Rather like the vibrant, multicultural, tolerant aspect of London that the Olympic bid was so keen to stress. It’s not born out of thoughtful libertarianism, but pragmatism and indifference. I’m not suggesting that’s a bad thing.
I have found it interesting, though, how quickly the mood was established that stoicism and resilience were the things to stress. The matter-of-fact coverage of the TV news, both ITV and BBC, probably helped, and Blair set the tone well with his initial statement; but generally everyone seems to have decided very quickly to take that attitude. For the past few years, if the stiff upper lip got any media time, it was usually to suggest that it was thing of the past – particularly since the reaction to Diana’s death. Whether or not that was a good thing was a matter of taste, but there was something of a consensus that we were becoming a more volatile, emotionally open people. But the reaction to the bombings was to rummage through the myth-kitty and pull out the bottle marked “Ol’ Blitz Spirit”.