Twenty years ago – pretty much to the day, if I’m not very much mistaken – I moved from Perth to London. I was 19, recently dumped, and quite the dickhead, but that’s beside the point. I dropped out of university, packed a suitcase full of my best slim-fit Britpop t-shirts, and joined a group of friends on a 36-hour, three-stopover, mega-budget flight to Gatwick.
For the next nine years, London was my home. I didn’t take to it at first; I was overwhelmed by the hustle and the bustle and the black bogies. But – London worked its (black) magic, and, I dunno, I started to hustle and bustle with the best of them, dodging the Sunday morning puddles of sick like a pro, and establishing – over the course of a decade – an ingenious system whereby I knew exactly which part of the underground platform to stand on to align myself with the most convenient tube-station exit. It was a skill mate, a fucking skill.
London, for all its faults, is the finest city on this earth. I say this having never been to New York, and having only spent mini-breaks in Paris, Rome and Barcelona, and actually quite liking Melbourne, too, but all that aside, London fucking rocks. It has this moody charm, a bit like Alex Turner, or Amy Winehouse (past tense) – you know, immense coolness with a dark undercurrent of SOMETHING ABOUT TO HAPPEN. I miss it, my London.
I miss it not because I now live on the other side of the world, in possibly the least-London-like suburb of northern Perth. I miss it because my London doesn’t really exist anymore. My London is under attack, and my Londoners – my friends, and my family – are being attacked. I’m well aware that there are many cities across the world that are under attack. The rest of England is under attack. The rest of the WORLD is under attack. I know this. I understand this. But it’s this attack – this latest attack in MY London, MY London Bridge, MY Borough Markets – that’s tipped me over the edge.
I was angry after the Manchester attacks, don’t get me wrong. You targeted little girls, you fuckers, LITTLE GIRLS at a pop concert on a Monday night. Fuck YOU. I’ll be honest, I haven’t managed to read much associated with those attacks. I can’t go there. I know the number killed, and I know the Queen visited the hospital, and I know that a homeless man helped the injured. I know those sparse facts, but beyond that, nothing. I can’t bring myself to find out more, to let my mind wander into those lost families, those lost little girls. I just can’t.
This attack – THIS one – I can’t seem to accumulate enough information about. I’m refreshing newsfeeds, immersing myself in eye-witness accounts, so that I can walk the routes that the terrorist murdering cunts walked, and imagine myself and my friends in the wrong bar, on the wrong bridge, at the wrong time. That is my London, you fuckers, those are my people, and they could’ve been my friends, my family.
London’s been under attack before, of course. In the nine years that I lived there, I experienced bombings and threats. There was the Soho nail bombing in 1999, when a neo-Nazi walked into a gay bar and blew the fucker up. My flatmates were in town that night; I’d been on an early shift at HMV the next morning and had stayed at home. No one I knew was hurt, but it still hit us hard. Still, it felt like a one-off. It had happened, it was horrific, it was over.
Then, in July 2005, while I was pregnant with Ben, the underground was blown up. I was running late for work, and got to Mile End tube station to find it closed. Something to do with an electrical fault, they said, so I wandered up to Bow. That was closed, too. Get the bus, my boss said when I phoned to say I was gonna be late. Then the fuckers blew up a bus. It was the day after we’d won the bid for the Olympics, I remember that, and I couldn’t believe how we’d gone from elation to despair in fewer than 24 hours. But still, it felt like a one off. Yeah, they could try, but we were stronger than that. We’d get back on the tubes, we’d get back on the buses, and we would never, ever live in fear. Fuck that.
But now, I dunno. I’m not there, of course, so I can’t speak for the people of London, but I get the sense that people are nervous. They’re angry, of course, but they’re scared, too. There’s no humanity in these fuckers. They mowed down people on London Bridge, and then got out of their van to kick them and stab them and ensure their last moments on this earth were torturous and horrific. But that wasn’t enough, was it? No, because then they went running through the bars and restaurants of Borough Market, cutting the throats of people out for dinner and drinks on a Saturday night in London. They came from behind, pulled heads back by the hair, and cut throats. Merciless, fucking merciless.
And we’ll stand strong, of course we will. We’ll hold charity concerts and remembrance marches and Coldplay will sing Oasis and Miley Cyrus will sing Crowded House and we’ll cry and we’ll hold hands and we’ll say THEY WON’T BEAT US and LOVE CONQUERS ALL and we’ll hope and we’ll pray – but is that enough? IS love all we need?
I dunno; I need to do more. I can donate money and I can send love and I can say that OF COURSE I’ll still travel to London and I WILL NOT live in fear, but in my heart? In my heart, I’m scared. I’m scared for my dear friends who live in big cities. I’m scared that love isn’t enough.
But if love isn’t enough, then what is?