An Ode to London – ten years ago, ten years on

This is a piece that I have written for my music book. The bit in italics is what I wrote on the night of 7/7, 2005, when many innocent people lost their lives or were injured, in my beloved city. LONDON. This is straight from the heart – just like my love of London and its people. Coldplay became the soundtrack to my memory…

On 6 July 2005, London won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games, against the odds. There was real elation about the place. Positivity – or mostly. That evening, I went with a few friends to see a 20-20 cricket match at Lords in the sunshine. Afterwards we had a curry, near Baker Street, sitting outside in the balmy night air, debating the merits of hosting the Olympics. One of our number was steadfastly against it: cost, disruption, the corruption of the Olympic movement, all a New Labour wheeze, etc, etc. The rest of us gave him some stick, all good natured. There was a feelgood feeling.

It didn’t last long.

At around 9.30 the next morning, a little late for work, the train halted at Acton Town and we were asked to get off. Lots of people on the platform, milling around, grumbling about lack of information. Not an unusual situation for commuters on the London Underground, so we thought nothing of it at first. Then people started to see there’d been a power cut on the network, that one of the power stations had caught fire. Still no definitive information. I can’t remember what the station announcer was telling us, but at some point we got the message that the trains wouldn’t be running for some time. There had been an “incident”. Of course we started to think the worst… a bomb. I decided the best bet was to go home, find out what was happening, take it from there. I got an E3 bus home and turned on the TV…

7/7.

There were four bombs, two on the Circle Line, one on the Piccadilly Line and one on a bus in Tavistock Square. 52 people died and over 700 were injured. London’s 9/11. Not on the same scale, but horrific nonetheless. A vicious, pointless strike into the heart of the city and its people. Its multiracial, multi-cultural people. Many from similar backgrounds to the suicide bombers.

It was a day of bewilderment, surreality, mostly spent watching TV on repeat, contacting friends, colleagues to make sure they weren’t caught up in it; reassuring family you were OK. A desperate, depressing day, the optimism of winning the Olympics completely forgotten.

In the evening of 7/7, having had my fill of the news, having discussed what had happened with my young children, having seen them to bed, I sat down and expressed my thoughts on paper. I felt I had to do something. I had just bought Coldplay’s new album, “X&Y”. It felt suitably melancholy – and soothing – for the occasion. One song really caught my mood, a beautiful, plaintive piece called “What If”…

What if you should decide                                                                                                            That you don’t want me there by your side,                                                                          That you don’t want me there in your life…

The fear that comes with love. A love you don’t want to lose. Sung with such tenderness and feeling by Chris Martin. Ever vulnerable, even at the height of his powers.

I played the song again and again as I wrote. Later on, as I felt a stronger mood of anger, defiance, I switched a little to “Fix You”, with its soaring guitar break. But I didn’t play any other album that night. The mood had been set and reflected by “X&Y”. Forever my reminder of 7/7.

This is what I wrote that night. Exactly as I wrote it. Not a work of art. Just feelings from the heart.

LONDON, I have always loved you for your vibrancy, your diversity, your confidence, your love of life.

I love you even more today when the nihilists have violated you, killed your citizens and guests, ordinary people going about their daily lives, innocent victims of a Saudi internecine war that spilled onto the international stage. There is no rational explanation.

I love you because yesterday we won the Olympic bid for 2012. A recognition of the greatness of our City and how we planned to use the Olympics to make us even better, regenerating our poorest districts, leaving a wonderful legacy, inspiring our children, bringing all our people together. And yes, beating the French, though today that seems a gratuitous pleasure.

I love you because Live Aid 20 years ago and Live 8 only last week could only have started here.  It’s here where the energy, the music, the entrepeneurship, the bloody-mindedness, was enough to make it happen. The place where two brilliant Irishmen – Geldof and Bono – knew they could get a response that mattered. London – you always lead the way.

LONDON, I love you because I was born here. I have lived here since the age of 21. I love the people, the football, the music, the food (yes, Chirac!), the parks, the streets, the buildings, the pubs, the museums, the tube (despite the signal failures) – just everything. It is the home of my children, it is the home of democracy, the Enlightenment, free trade, free speech, multi-culturalism, tolerance, a place where all people can thrive if they make the effort.

LONDON – you are the best city in the world. The atrocities of 7/7/05 will only make you stronger, prouder, more determined to make a difference, to be the place that sets the example – like Bob Marley sang: one love, let’s get together, it will be alright.

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
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2 Responses to An Ode to London – ten years ago, ten years on

  1. Resa says:

    Beautifully written, John!
    London has always been a leader in my mind!

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