I left my house in West Hampstead a little before 9 O’clock. The southbound Jubilee Line was running a full and efficient service. It was much quieter than usual, I'd guess about a quarter normal capacity. IPODs were all left at home, and few people were reading. Unclaimed copies of Metro lay discarded about the carriage. Vigilance was the watchword.
I got off at Baker Street with a view to walking the couple of miles to Holborn, so I could see for myself how London was coping 24 hours on. In part, I think I also wanted to get back to street level.
Walking past Madame Tussauds, it was reassuring to see the usual queue of tourists, only slightly truncated. Otherwise, this end of Euston Road was oddly quiet. Several buses went by, sparsely occupied. A couple of motorcyclists took advantage of the empty roads to burn some rubber. Roadside police cars let them go by unchecked; they had bigger things to deal with.
Walking past all the shiny glass buildings on Euston Road, everyone’s pace seemed to quicken. Not a good spot to linger. I popped into Euston Station. The Tube had been sealed off due to an earlier security alert, but the concourse for overground trains was extremely busy. All trains seemed to be running as normal and, apart from a few extra police officers, the scene could have been anytime. Leaving the area, I passed the Euston Fire Station. All the shutters were open and the engines sat ready for a call. Firemen in full gear were chatting over coffee on the tarmac. They had plenty to talk about.
Along the gradual descent to King’s Cross, the number of people swelled. Commuters, tourists, TV crews, ambulance chasers. This station was, if anything, more busy than usual. That nasty bit of ground right outside the station, usually filled with beggars and troublemakers, was this morning packed with outside broadcast units. Round the back streets, the world’s media had set up stall. The area was awash with boom mikes and satellite dishes. I took one of these streets, heading South towards Russell Square.
The roadblocks started at Tavistock Place and I couldn’t get anywhere near the site of the bus explosion. A pavement café was open on the edge of the cordon, and a couple of suits were breakfasting as though the scene behind them was totally normal. A few photographers were capturing the scene, as though to illustrate how the British stiff upper lip will continue to sip tea under any circumstance. All the time, distant sirens that would normally be blocked out of cognizance made heads turn and ears prick up.
As I approached Great Ormond Street, I saw what I thought was an ITN news crew. I wandered over in the hope of getting a word with them. They turned out to be an Italian TV company with a similar logo to ITN. They filmed me answering a few questions about my reactions and observations. In return I asked them what impression they were gauging from talking to people. 'Shocked' had been the unanimous response.
I got into my office around 10. Only a few other people were in, as the site was officially closed for business. We exchanged stories and chatted away for quite a while. Everyone from the company had been safely accounted for, though one person had had a lucky escape from the train at Aldgate.
So, now I’m ready to settle back down to work again as this great city begins its return to something like normality. As I write these words, an inch above my monitor yet half a mile away, I can see the Union flag fluttering at what appears to be three-quarters-mast on the Senate House. Its defiant elevation above mid-mast stands as a reflection in microcosm of London’s resilience.