I got on the train yesterday morning as usual, arriving at the platform barely on time to get the (thankfully slightly delayed) 8.46am train to Liverpool Street. As usual, the train was full to capacity. As usual, I had to stand. As usual there were too many people cramming themselves on and as usual someone stood on my foot. I buried my head in my book and ignored all the newspapers crowing about the London Olympics.
I didn't even notice that the tube station was closed until I was almost walked into the barrier, such is my mental state in the mornings. I've arrived at Liverpool Street and found the underground not working twice already since I moved here, so I decided to ring work and get myself a big old cup of coffee while trying to work out bus routes. I also rang He Who Only… who was by then himself on the way in to Liverpool Street to keep him up to date with the news, and only then did I notice the sudden influx of armed, bullet-proofed policemen who descended out of nowhere and started to put up police tape.
I headed outside, trying to find someone to ask directions of, and realised that as I walked out, a steady stream of people were flowing out behind me - the station was being evacuated. I headed up the road towards Bishopsgate and saw that the police had taped the road I was walking up out of bounds. I started walking quicker as a policeman started screaming behind me for everyone to clear the area.
Even then, walking at a pace with my coffee, I was more worried about the fact that I'd got some coffee on my jacket then whatever security alert was happening around me. I only found out what it was when my Dad rang. I answered the phone and he said "so you're not on that train then." I said no, I was trying to get my train but the station was closed - what was going on. Dad said a train had "exploded". I looked up and saw the Sky News helicopter circling above us, competing for air space with the police. I really wanted to not be there.
Couldn't get a bus for ages that was heading out towards my office, because everyone that had been kicked out of Liverpool Street station were obviously trying to same trick as me. Finally I managed to force my way on to a number 8 and we headed out towards the heart of The City. I picked up a phone message from He Who Only… (the phone networks were already starting to show the strain) who said that the train accident appeared to have been caused by a power surge and there was no cause for alarm. I felt immediate and immense relief.
I was on the phone to JC, who was telling me what was being reported on the radio news, and how Kings Cross seemed to be closed, when the bus driver stopped the bus in the middle of the road about 10 minutes later, and started screetching at us in no uncertain terms to Get OFF. The BUS. NOW. Someone asked him very calmly why, and he wailed something about being told to return to the depot. I told Johnny, hung up and got off the bus. I rang He Who Only… at his office, after trying for about five minutes with no success to get signal, to ask for directions from St Pauls to my workplace, and complain about the bus driver. He told me a bus had just blown up.
I wanted to burst in to tears then and there. It seemed so stupid to keep heading in to the heart of the City when all I wanted to go was go home, but the best plan of all was just to be indoors somewhere, and that was the only place I could think of going. I walked up the street with my walkman on, listening to the news bulletins on the radio stations, all of which were still reporting power surges. I felt like every bus that went past was a potential explosion waiting to happen.
I finally made it in to work at about 10.30am, and at that point realised the extent of what had happened. What followed was the most surreal day, between keeping up to date with everyone, trying to get messages to people that I was all right and checking they were okay and trying to get to grips with the second day in my new job. It really didn't help when He Who Only…'s building was evacuated. I finally cracked and had to leave the office at 3.30pm, since I had no idea how to get home.
I walked home. It took me two hours.
It was actually quite a nice experience, although one I'm not keen to try again. Because there was no public transport in town, the traffic on the road was very minimal, and there was a huge stream of office workers heading out of town in every direction, so I just joined the flow. It felt really comforting to be part of a crowd, and although no one was really talking to each other it felt very friendly. I basically kept pace with a girl who was wearing very pretty green shoes, listening to the special broadcast from Capital FM who were keeping up the great Breaking News tradition of broadcasting guesswork and rumours. When I got to Angel, I started feeling like I was closer to home and finally stopped the panicked power walking I'd adopted. Almost immediately headed to the pub, echoing the actions of almost everyone in London.
One stupid story from this morning: The overground train we were on this morning got stopped about three stations outside Liverpool Street due to a security alert. We all whipped out our phones and called our respective offices. And then the man opposite us offered the man sitting beside him the use of his mobile, in case he had anyone he needed to ring. These atrocities have changed London, although I think they may have changed it for the better.