Leaving London – just for one day

London, Euston Station, Friday morning 24 March. Waiting for my train to Manchester. From one great city to another. Going to see Car Seat Headrest tonight. I’ve been to Manchester quite often, but only on work trips or stag-dos. I’ve never had a good look around. Hope to today – I say “hope” because, as I write, the train is stationary in a place called Kings Langley, 15 minutes from London. Some incident ahead, which has required the police and ambulance staff. Been here for an hour now.

But as I sat in Euston, watching all the people waiting for their trains, people on the go, people coming into London on just another day, I thought back (again) to the horrific events on Wednesday, when people were killed and maimed by a deranged individual who ploughed his car into them on Westminster Bridge before he stabbed a policeman to death at the gates of Westminster Palace. The heart of democracy, a place always heaving with tourists, as well as people going about their business. A senseless act by a convicted criminal who presumably believed his act was an act of war in a holy war. It would be absurd if it wasn’t so tragic.

It was an incident close to home for me. I’m often in the House of Commons meeting MPs and sometimes being grilled by them in select committees. Three of my colleagues were caught up in the lockdown, ending up with a few hours in Westminster Abbey. I could have been there – I had been invited to go to the meeting they were due to attend. But I decided I had better things to do. Close call.

Watching the TV news last night was a moving experience. The tributes, the family stories, the defiance. There was even solidarity with London from other parts of the country. That’s rare. London does stand out and is resented, of course, for its wealth, its perceived arrogance, its accrual of power, it’s expensiveness, and maybe its diversity and openness. Its difference. London is a world city. It welcomes, absorbs, constantly evolves. There is poverty, violence, anger, exploitation, signal failure on the underground, outrageously costly accommodation, empty homes owned by money laundering foreigners; but there is life. Endless life. Endless opportunity – which is why so many people want to come and live here. People from the rest of the UK, the rest of Europe, the rest of the world.

I’m proud of London, love living in London. The world city.

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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5 Responses to Leaving London – just for one day

  1. Dood says:

    Very good piece, John. And all sentiments echoed. Of course.

    (Well, nearly all: the money-launderers could also be Brits, of course. We have the odd bad apple, as Wednesday appallingly demonstrated.)

    I walked part-way home this evening in that intoxicating spring sunset glow – the ‘magic hour’ beloved of film-makers. Islington to Westminster via Clerkenwell, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square, to name but three coordinates. The streets heaving with humanity – wide-eyed tourists, weary commuters, post-work revellers, blasé locals……

    As you say, truly a world city.

    J.

    P.S. Demonstrate that tomorrow! 11.00 anti-Brexit, pro-Europe march on Downing Street. Sock it to her! I’ll be there. (Can’t miss me – wheeled suitcase for weekend getaway. Only human.)

    • John S says:

      True on money launderers, but it is an absolute scandal. All these impressive blocks are rising all over central London in particular, and hardly anyone is living in them! Meanwhile ordinary Londoners, people working in really important occupations, including schools and the NHS, are struggling to afford rents and have no hope at all of buying. The market is failing and therefore intervention is needed. Big intervention. But who will do it? The only hope is Sadiq Khan, but I doubt he has sufficient power.

  2. Dood says:

    Of course you’ll be in Manchester today. Have fun.

  3. Resa says:

    Condolences on the tragic Westminster horror! London is fabulous!

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