Column: Back to Normal for Resilient Londoners

Nearly a week on from the terrorist attacks in London, life is amazingly, and inspiringly, pretty much back to usual. The resilience of everyday people has been remarked upon, and has ensured that despite the tragic loss of life, the terrorists have not achieved their aim of paralysing the capital city.

Of course last Thursday there was confusion in London. What first appeared to be a technical fault with the Underground slowly emerged as something more sinister.

I was on my way to the office when the attacks happened, and travelled in by overground train as the Tube was closed. Stuck in the train for a few minutes waiting for a platform at Charing Cross station, people in the carriage started receiving mobile phone calls from friends telling of a bus explosion. Within the carriage, the usual “vow of silence” that is prevalent on London’s public transport was broken, as people relayed to one another what news they had heard and shared their worries.

I walked down Whitehall to the office, aware that I was passing many buildings that could be potential targets – Government Ministry offices, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and finally the Houses of Parliament. There was a noticeable increase in police and ambulance sirens. Arriving in the building, all the TVs usually showing the proceedings in the Chamber had been switched to SkyNews for the latest coverage.

With family and friends knowing that I was working in London, I answered phone calls and text messages from people just asking if I was OK, just as millions of people with loved ones in London will have been checking up.

It was certainly a strange day. Trying to make my way home to East Dunbartonshire, I wheeled my case around central London on foot, and was struck by the sheer numbers of people around on the streets. People crowded around a Dixons shop, watching the news on the TV displayed in the window. There was uncertainty and anxiety, but no panic. The emergency services handled the situation calmly and effectively.

Yet despite the attacks, this morning I boarded the Tube to travel into Parliament, and had to squeeze into the carriage as it was so full. People are just getting on with things.

Thursday’s bombings came hot on the heels of much celebration in London and around the UK, at the news that the 2012 Olympics will be held here. The whole country should benefit, with different events being staged in locations across Britain, and the training camps for various nations also likely to be spread out, bringing economic benefits. Hampden is set to host some of the football competition, and Scotland must also seize the opportunity of having so many people visiting the UK, to encourage tourism in Scotland on the back of the Olympics.

Perhaps appropriately, when the news was announced, I was watching from the treadmill in the Westminster gym, having a lunchtime workout. As gyms go, it’s not the flashiest, but it is pretty friendly. I don’t usually encounter many MPs while I’m working out – though I have seen a few (and it’s always a little disconcerting to meet colleagues in your workout gear, I find). It’s also well used by the thousands of people who work in other roles in Parliament.

A week ago today, the screens were showing the scenes from Singapore as London and Paris battled it out for the Olympic prize. As the word London was read out as the winner, the people near me on the cross-trainers and exercise bikes around me cheered and clapped.

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