Friday, 10 July 2015

I woke up hungover and dehydrated, the events of the night before falling scattergun across my memory. The hotel apartment I was sharing with four friends was quiet, and my best mate hadn't returned after our almighty drunken bust up a few hours earlier. I was still angry at him but concerned that he was AWOL. 

I dragged myself out of bed and staggered down to the bar/lounge area, ordered a water and found a table. The Spanish sun was streaming through the large windows overlooking the pool and my eyes narrowed in protest. It took a few minutes to register the news on the TV screen in front of me. Bombs in London. Footage from a poorly realised disaster movie was shown over and over again while the awful words rolled along the bottom of the screen, bombs on the underground. Then that shocking image of a red London bus disembowelled in Tavistock Square. Nobody else in the room seemed to be paying attention to the TV and in my delicate state it all seemed surreal and unbelievable. I watched for a couple of hours then went back up to my room, where my friends and the friends of friends I was on holiday with had gathered. I told them the news and everyone was shocked, then the stupid comments came out. A friend's boyfriend said "I wonder who did it, the (highly offensive racist word) or the (highly offensive racist word.)" God you're an idiot, I thought to myself. Someone else said "it's just so shocking because the UK has never been attacked before." Erm, what about the IRA, or the Luftwaffe I asked. "Oh that was years ago!" How quickly people forget; it had only been seven years since the Omagh bombing which killed 29 civilians, only four years since a bomb in Ealing killed 7 civilians.

By the 9th of July I was back home in Birmingham and on my way to an aunts' birthday party at the Novotel on Broad Street. The police had closed several roads though oddly not Broad Street itself. The buildings had been evacuated and their occupants, including guests from the various hotels, were standing around on the pavement. Some of them were in bathrobes, evidently having been interrupted whilst doing something relaxing. We got to the Novotel, and met the rest of my family. The party had a 1960s theme and so we were wearing all sorts of daft clothes; kaftans, sunglasses, beads, wigs. My dad wasn't going to the the party, just dropping us off, but as it dawned on us that we were in a bomb scare he decided that nothing was going to make him leave his city. He wasn't going to be sacred off by a terrorist, he was going to stay and go to the party and enjoy himself. I agreed. There was some debate about what we should do, the buildings had been evacuated but nothing more had been done or said by the authorities. We knew it could be a false alarm and that we would be allowed into the hotel at any moment, but at the same time I think everyone was silently considering what would happen if a bomb did go off whilst we stood out in the open surrounded on all sides by concrete, steel and glass. 

A policeman appeared. He was on a bicycle. He suggested in a slightly Sgt Arthur Wilson style that we might all like to leave the city. To be honest he didn't have much impact and we all stayed put. Next a group of about twenty police ran down broad street, their jack boots crashing in rhythm as they went. That was a little bit more impressive. Finally, a squad car screeched violently to a halt and one of the occupants shouted down a loud hailer "get out of the city, NOW!"

Ok, drive, walk or run we wondered?

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