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Dreadful Nonsense

"I've read your blog. it's really funny. you should write a column." - Jon Ronson

29 July 2005
I’ve been thinking the last few days that it’ll be rubbish when all the comedians in London fuck off up north to the Edinburgh Festival, because there won’t be any decent comedy to watch for a whole month. And then I remembered that since moving to London I haven’t gone to see a single comedy show that didn’t involve my boyfriend. So to put that right, and make the most of the time we’ve got left together, I went to see some comedians doing their final try out show for the Festival.

I’ve always in the past eschewed Edinburgh previews as being below me, since I of course would be up in Scotland for the duration of the Festival instead, lapping up in equal measure the culture and the alcohol. I didn’t need their early hand outs – I’d be there for the revelation of the finished product, the proud achievement of a year’s developmental work. None of that reading-from-scripts, missing-the-cues or falling-over-each-other-on-stage for me.

But this year it is not to be. What with moving to London, having not worked for the year 2004, finding myself burdened with more credit card debt than previously imagined and not being arsed to go, I’m not going to the Edinburgh Festival this year, which will be the first time in eight years. You’d think I’d grab the opportunity to leave London and its gloomy bombers behind for a short while, but no. I’m defying these bombers by staying here because I love London, and because I can’t get any more holiday leave from work.

So last night I dragged He Who Only… out to watch two preview shows, completely forgetting the fact that it was an Evil Thursday, the day of choice for suicide bombers, and gazed out of the window of THREE different tube lines travelling in rush hour as police patrolled stations with guns. He Who Only… guided me through the protocol for the evening, so we were officially “defiant” on the Circle Line to Oxford Circus, officially “stoic” on the Victoria Line to Victoria and officially “going about our normal business” on the District Line to Hammersmith.

The shows were excellent, Stewart Lee’s in particular. Even though I won’t be paying that much attention to the Edinburgh Festival coverage this year, I won’t be able to help myself when it comes to reviews of this show. I’ve always been a dedicated and drooling follower of everything Mr Lee does with his career, and he does seem to be branching off in to fairly new territory with this show. Seeing as how he was almost bankrupted by threats of prosecution under blasphemy laws at the start of this year, through his involvement with Jerry Springer The Opera, the stress of which landed him in hospital, it’s interesting that he is including a 20 minute routine, the culmination of which is the line “and so I vomited in to the gaping anus of Christ”.

Which should bring me some interesting google hits over the next few days.

28 July 2005
I can certainly vouch for this story as hurled about in the news all day today. This morning, there were two shiny faced infant policemen standing outside the train station. I noticed them particularly today (1) because of their extreme youth (they couldn’t have been more than 21) and (2) because one of them seemed to be extremely hungover and was clutching a can of red bull to himself like his life depended on it. I enjoyed the fact that my life depended on him being alert enough to spot a man walking on a train with a giant rucksack emblazoned with the word “BOMB” across it, because I’m not sure he was capable this morning.

When I got to Liverpool Street there seemed to be three times as many police around as usual, and there’s been quite a few in the station ever since the 7th. I was checking the back of their jackets, because I assumed at least half of them would be pretend policemen, or “community officers” as they’re labelled, but each and every one of the pairs of luminous patrollers were your actual police man. There’s even policemen patrolling the station platform in each of the tube stations. It doesn’t provide me with any kind of feeling of comfort.

Our driver today on the Central line was one of those who insist on making an announcement in each and every station. I’m not sure if this is policy any more, since not all drivers do this, but this fella was determined to have his say.
On the official Underground announcements, what happened in London three weeks ago today are “the events of 7th July”. On the official notices asking for donations to the charity, they are “the London Bombings”. According to our driver this morning they were variously “the suicide attacks”, “the suicide bombings” and “the explosions”. I’m glad I only had three stops to go, I think he was about to wax lyrical with details of the nail bombs as sprawled all over the tawdry papers this morning. My paranoia, I’m ashamed to say, reached some new depths when I changed where I was standing, just to move away from a man who would match a certain description, but I blame all the newspapers around me screaming the fact that everyone expects the bombers to strike again.

Last night I got the bus back to Liverpool Street, rather than the tube. I don’t know why, I just made that decision. The bus was full when it pulled up, so I was surprised that it stopped to let us on. The driver was shouting at everyone standing in the aisle to go upstairs. Most of the people standing in the aisle were ignoring him, but me and some other brave souls went upstairs. To reiterate – downstairs it was heaving. More people were crowded on to that bus than the tube at rush hour. Upstairs, there were about three other people. I looked around, wondering what had spooked everyone in to staying downstairs, but I couldn’t see it. No young man of a certain description. No big rucksack. No suspect packages. Nothing. Did they all know something I didn’t?

I stayed sitting upstairs and buried my head in Harry Potter, but was so relieved when we got to Liverpool Street and I could get off the Top Deck Of Death.

27 July 2005
We were in the pub last night, three of us sitting around a small table cramped by the wall, leaning slightly to the left in order to get a good view of the screen. The crowd noises of the match, it being an away game and being on foreign grounds, meant that it took some concentration to follow what was going on, as you were never distracted from your own chatter by the usual roar that means someone is near someone else’s goal mouth. One of us sat rapt with attention throughout the 90 minutes. The other two spent most of the second half talking about the glory days of university, the drinking, the skipping deadlines, the lack of appreciation of the privilege being handed to us. We all drank beers.

After the match, one of us got up and went to the toilet, leaving the other two sitting and talking absolute rot about nothing. For some reason, it was agreed between the two of us (one lady, one gentleman) that we would most certainly be quite happy to share a bed in the cuddling sense with David Tennant, as he had that certain something. One of us (also a gentleman) returned to the table, catching only the tail end of the conversation and eager to find out who it was that so lit our metaphorical loins on fire that we, a heterosexual lady and a heterosexual gentleman, could be on complete agreement about in the bedroom shenanigans department. David Tennant, we dribbled back.

Oh yeah, he responded, and nodded in quiet agreement.

We three of us nodded, and drank down our beer.

25 July 2005
We were sitting in the pub in Camden run by a fantastic man from Northern Ireland who has a big thick moustache, a bigger, thicker gut, the biggest, thickest accent you’ve ever heard and a big thick sense of humour entirely unique to himself. The pub is excellent for many reasons, not least because there’s a theatre upstairs that has a tremendous amount of top quality comedy.

We were waiting for some of that comedy to come entertain us, and in the meantime we were finding our own entertainment staring out the window at the Camden Nutjobs walking past.
One man had a fantastic Mohawk made entirely of lego bricks. There’s no good reason for this, and so we applauded him as he passed. I was also tempted to treat the frightening lady who had obviously not been sober once in the last twelve years to a round of applause, but I thought she might fall over if I distracted her from her obvious heavy concentration of putting one foot in front of another.

As we continued to stare out the window, we found ourselves staring at someone we knew (who we’ll call DR), who promptly came in to the pub to say hello, distracting us from the world outside. We had a brief chat about Edinburgh, his Edinburgh show and how close it was to the whole Edinburgh adventure when he casually mentioned he was in America last week. “Oh,” I sighed, looking around the pub to catch more weirdoes in action and not really paying any committed attention to the conversation, “why?” He was, he explained, appearing on Jon Ronson’s radio series.

My head snapped around, my eyes stopped wandering. He had my attention. “You’ve met-” I started, too high pitched. I took a breath, and attempted a lower octave. “You’ve met Jon Ronson, then?” I said in a practiced casual manner that sounded as relaxed a paedophile offering a child some sweets. He Who Only… looked down at his thigh, were my hand was clenched far too tightly, cutting off his blood supply. DR didn’t seem to notice, and carried on with his tale of shooting guns for the radio. “But… Jon Ronson?” I squealed again, as He Who Only… started trying to shake me off for fear of losing a foot. DR looked over at me, and perhaps noted the hysteria induced deathly pallor adorning my face. “Yeah,” he said casually, “I read his book on the way home. It’s good, isn’t it?” And then he left the pub.

23 July 2005
I had been threatening He Who Only… with the prospect of going shopping with me for some time. I have it on good authority, backed up by all that I’ve seen on both American and British sit coms, that boys do not like shopping, and so I have been flashing this threat about the place for a short while in order to keep He Who Only… in line. By Saturday, I had worked up a list of important things which must be bought (these included socks, the Harry Potter book and “some shiny things”) and so we jetted off down the road in his mother’s car, remarking to each other how long it’s been since we’ve traveled by car (late night taxis don’t count as cars).

Less than an hour later, we were already worn down by the sheer shopping of it all. We’d wandered around a book shop staring at the 3 for 2 offers and pointing out to each other which ones we’d buy if we had the bookshelf room and the finances to do so. I gazed lovingly at the new Mark Gatiss novel that will be in my hands within the next two weeks, and then He Who Only… bravely hefted up the heavy load that is the new Potter novel, bought it (for me, I hasten to add – he refuses to read it or any of the others on the grounds that they are children’s books), and we retired upstairs in the book shop for coffee.

Book shops that sell coffee! What is this, New York? Madness! The brilliant thing about the book shop we went to it is that it also appeared to sell bicycles. And inflatable globes. And toys. And some sweets. And a frightening variety of Manga cartoon books that include a frightening variety of frightening sex scenes. Not that I looked. For very long.

So there we were with our new books and our pints of coffee and I spotted a Guardian magazine and raced for it so that I could read the Jon Ronson column Out Of The Ordinary. In it, he usually talks about his wife Elaine or his son Joel, and has the astonishing habit of making himself sound like a completely unlikeable moron, which endears me more and more to him every week.

It’s a conundrum that I’ve come across in the blogging world time and again, and something that continues to puzzle me on every level. My thoughts go like this:
- It’s your own blog / column
- You can write about what you like
- You can make the outcome of your stories as you like
- You can give whatever impression you like

And yet so many people continue to make themselves sound like thoughtless, talentless, ignorant, boring, self obsessed idiots.

And that is why I love Jon Ronson’s column so much. The difference, obviously, is that the printed word rather than the on-screen word, still holds more power to influence and impress. Yes, you think, he is a fool. But he’s a published fool.

You may well be wondering about the point of this post, and I shall explain the point to you here and now. Jon Ronson googles his name on a regular basis. Jon Ronson has visited this site before when I’ve said nice things about him. I wanted to let Jon Ronson know that (a) he’s brilliant, (b) I think he’s brilliant and (c) if he ever decides to leave (or is thrown out by) his wife, my email address is at the top right hand side of this site for ease of contact.

Many thanks.

*Note to He Who Only…: This is a joke.
**Note to Jon Ronson: I’m not kidding

22 July 2005
All good things must come to an end. All bad things, too, must come to an end. The point I’m making here is that things come to an end. All things. And so it was that the summer school came to an end and having dropped out of society I was being dropped right back in to it with a great big bang.

Sitting in the back of the taxi that was whisking me to the train station the driver was listening to Radio 4. The news was on out of schedule, and that’s almost never because something jolly’s happened. I already knew about the attempted bombings the day before, so I imagined that was what they were still discussing. Perhaps some arrests had been made. Perhaps they’d decided it was a sick hoax. Perhaps all was well in the world? I blocked out the sound of the radio and stared out the window at the one glimpse of Nottingham I was going to get all week.

We passed the giant offices of the regional newspaper. Outside the offices, the headline of the evening edition was gladly roaring to all who would listen the damning evidence that all was decidedly not well in the world. “BOMBER SHOT DEAD ON TUBE” does not make for a happy Shazzle. Real life came crashing around my ears a little too quickly.

21 July 2005
I’m standing at the computer, trying to reset the oxygen values so that the computer is accurate recording the 100% oxygen rate of the respiring tissue we’ve got spinning around in the pre-prepared buffer. My new lab partner (we change every two days) comes bounding up behind me and puts something on to the desk with force.

I glace over at the desk.

I jump.

I turn around and face him. He looks very pleased with himself.

I say in my poshest voice “Please don’t slap your testicles on the desk so hard.”

Most of the room turns around, wondering why we’re both on our knees laughing.

Today, my new lab partner and I spent the morning playing with rat’s testicles.

20 July 2005
We are sitting in the lab, down the back in the corner. I am hooked up to a Douglas Bag, which is used to measure the quantity of air expelled in a given time, and also allows you to measure the amount of carbon dioxide produced and oxygen used. From this, you can calculate the approximate rate of metabolism. I’m sitting down. There’s a nose clip on my nose and my mouth is filled with the mouth piece that is far too big for me. My eyes are closed. I’m crying. My lab partner – who is also the experimenter in this case – is standing behind me, holding my head in her hands. She’s whispering in my ear.

It must have looked so strange to the rest of the class. Had anyone else been paying attention. Which they weren’t.

The night before it had seemed like such a harmless idea, measuring the effect of stress on your metabolic rate. I had declared myself game for anything and my lab partner had promised that she’d be able to induce a stressful feeling by regressing me to a time where I felt stressed out, so that I could feel that emotion first hand and we could take scientific measurements. I agreed to do it only because I didn’t believe she’d be able to do it.

I was wrong.

19 July 2005
Disaster! Tragedy! Catastrophe! Calamity! My baby is teetering on the edge of death!

I was lying in bed watching Seinfeld, which is what I do at the summer school when I’m not planning, testing and deciding whether to accept or reject hypotheses. Jerry and his group of crazy friends were getting up to some shenanigans or other, what with Kramer being mad and George being overwrought and Elaine having far too much hair and Jerry looking as if he’s about to laugh at the wonder of it all, and then all of a sudden the screen went black. And not only did the screen go black, the sound went dead, the lights went off and my baby stopped breathing.

I’ve only had Eggers my lap top since the end of May. He was a parting gift from the glory that is my parents, an early birthday and Christmas present that was designed to ensure that I’d get essays done on time and would be able to keep up with email and that kind of thing, but without the ridiculous burden of a computer and monitor and mouse and all those old fashioned things that used to be necessary but now seem stone age to me. Of course, I do still do my essays on Eggers, and now that I’ve worked out how to make the internet appear on his face I’ll be doing so more regularly once I stop having this social life that’s currently interrupting my sleep and lounging about time. But I’m slightly shame faced to admit that for the most part since May, Eggers’ main use has been so that I can watch DVDs in my bedroom.

So there we are. The room has been plunged in to darkness, I’m groping about blindly for a light switch, and my baby lies dying on the desk in front of me. I plug him in. Nothing. I hit ctrl+alt+delete, because that’s the only thing I can think of doing. Nothing. I panic even more. And then I do something really stupid, which I now believe to be akin to shaking a baby who’s stopped breathing: I take out his battery and then put it back in.

Still nothing.

I ring He Who Only… I get his answering machine. I leave a breathless wandering message that says everything and means nothing and then hang up in frustration because I don’t know what I’m talking about. I try switching Eggers on again.

A light flashes.

I hold my breath.

Another light flashes and he starts to boot up.

And then: the worst of the worst. I get the BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH.

The one that says that everything you ever believed is wrong.

The one that says there’s no hope left in the world.

The one that says your computer is broken.

I tumble in to bed and lie there in shock. My baby. My poor baby.

Of course, the next morning He Who Only… explains, in words he thinks I might understanding, things about rebooting and interrupting sequences and starting from a CD and says things like it’s all fixable and not a problem, and I fall a little bit more in love with him because he knows what to say and it sounds like he means what he’s saying.

That evening, I try again. Eggers boots up as normal and sits there grinning as if nothing has happened.


18 July 2005
The timetable of the summer school is starting to weigh me down. A day at school follows the course as set out below, with absolutely no room for variation:

7.30am – Get up.
8.00am – Breakfast in main hall (for me, this means 2 overcooked quorn sausages, and two slices of cold toast with ketchup and two cups of strong black coffee)
8.45am – Set off for medical school.
9.00am – Lab work begins
10.30am – Coffee break
12.30pm – Lunch in hospital canteen (invariably a baked potato with baked beans, because the veggie options look vile)
1.30pm – Lab work continues
4.30pm – Lab work ends, head back to halls.
4.45pm – Lie down and watch one episode of Seinfeld on laptop.
5.45pm – Wake up and go to dinner in main hall (usually some kind of quorn)
7.00pm – Tutorial in maths and physics department
9.00pm – Back to halls. Write up lab book notes.
10.00pm – Lie down and watch one episode of Seinfeld on laptop.
11.00pm – Wake up, brush teeth, go to bed again.

I like the security of it. I have always found that I very quickly and comfortably adapt to any institutional life. Being told what to do and when and where to do it is greatly comfortable for me. I think I’d really like a sheltered life. The “real world” has started to fall away from us all. None of us have been paying attention to news, we’ve all forgotten to keep up to date with what’s happening outside of anywhere but the grounds of Nottingham University. I’m exhausted, but I’m loving it.

17 July 2005
The first full day of my Summer School found me dressed in a lab coat too big for me, reaching down below my knees and will sleeves rolled up around my wrists so I had the appearance of a child playing dress up, crushing leaves with a pestle and mortar and about to play with a lethal poison currently banned in the United Kingdom.

We’d been introduced to this poison the night before in our first tutorial by our Theme Tutor who looked quite like and spoke exactly like Alan Titchmarsh, complete with brass band music permanently playing in the background soundtrack. The poison, it had to be stressed to us a lot, was not to be drank. It was not to be recklessly carried around the lab. Under no circumstances was it to be sucked up in to a pipette and then squirted in to the eyes of the students around us. Don’t touch your face, don’t bite your fingernails, don’t rub your eyes, don’t have any direct contact with the solution. This was a very lethal poison, capable of killing a man quicker than a swan can break a dog’s leg.

The poison sat in a tiny test tube on the table in front of us as we crushed our leaves to release the chlorophyll. It was decorated with tiny stickers that had a skull and crossbones, it had the words “POISON” emblazoned down the side, it virtually shimmered with murderous appeal.

We made up the potion (not the technical or scientific term encouraged during our summer school, but the term I insisted on using throughout) and then went to add the poison. Me and my lab partner were giggling like the demented harridans we are at the fun of it all.

Naturally, I spilt it all over the table. This made us both explode with laughter, useless, helpless laughter than left us doubled over and tearful, momentarily gaining control long enough to attempt to mop up the disaster without Mr Titchmarsh spotting our hideous mistake and banning us for life from the labs. Thank god they insisted on protective gloves and goggles when there’s goons like us let loose.

16 July 2005
We were sitting on the number 73 bus – the bus of champions – heading to Kings Cross to get a train to Nottingham. We were going to Nottingham because one of us was on the way to a Summer School Open University course, having spent more than the cost of a 2 week holiday in the South of France on the opportunity to spend a week trussed up in a lab coat doing experiments on leaves, glucose substrates and rat testicles (more of which later). The other of us was on the way to picking up the biggest bag of cricket equipment I have ever seen in my life. Both of these things were required to happen in Nottingham. Thus, we were Nottingham bound.

I had made a good effort at packing everything I owned in to a wheely suitcase, and it was standing in front of us on the bus, in the area kept aside for prams and bus bombers.

The number 73 bus – the bus for the discerning passenger – goes round a lot of corners, and the drivers usually take special care to brake as hard and as suddenly as possible as often as possible, in order to keep the passengers happily awake and alert. Therefore, I had occasion to keep lunging forward to stop my bag from falling forward on to the floor with a big bang, which would of course have caused most of the mildly-hysterical Londoners around us to jump in alarm and then spend the remainder of the journey shooting looks in our direction. I’m not a fan of the dirty look, so I kept a watchful eye on the bag.

A lady who was all round and fat from having a baby in her tummy got on the bus about 10 minutes after we did, and in front of her she was pushing a buggy with a toddler in it, such is the way with these round fat ladies. Said toddler was sat like a pudgy king on this throne, glaring around at the people on the bus as if trying to condemn us all to death because he was displeased. I’ve never seen a baby look more disapproving or cross. He looked like a medieval ruler unamused by a jester’s bladder-on-a-stick routine, the kind of ruler happier to throw jesters to crocodiles or lions than to crack a smile.

I remembered all that I’ve learnt so far of child psychology, so I tried to coax a smile out of the toddler king by smiling at him. He stared back at me as if I was completely deranged. He threw a look like our cat does just before she vomits. I sat back, defeated. There was nothing to be done to soothe his rage.

The moment I sat back, the bus jerked to a sudden stop for no reason at all, and my bag flew forward. The handle came *thisclose* to smacking the toddler king right in the face. I leapt forward before the fat-with-baby lady could threaten to sue me and removed the bag from the baby’s face.

The baby spent the rest of the journey giving the most astonishing variety of filthy looks, occasionally leaning forward in order to emphasise just how pissed off he was, at me and He Who Only… It was the most entertaining thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

14 July 2005
One week later, and everything seems to be going back to whatever passes as normal in London. We've all finally stopped staring at each other on the tubes, returning to studying our feet and rustling our newspapers, but new behaviour is beginning to creep through. There seems to be an understanding that the people who are left to crowd in the doorways and at the ends of the carriages carry the responsibility to "vet" everyone who gets on and off the train, watching bags and studying faces for religious rapture. I would suspect that the underground are experiencing a severe drop in the number of commuters at the moment too, since I keep having the strange of experience of sitting down while travelling. This morning, in fact, the carriage was half empty. Which is unnerving during rush hour, like you've missed an announcement that everyone else heard.

Otherwise, life trundles on as usual, although I have started to take extra care not to rush goodbyes, and to answer text messages and emails as much as possible. The idea that four young men were willing to strap explosives to themselves and look directly at the faces of strangers they were about to murder is one that I can't seem to shake, particularly when I'm going through the rituals of getting on the tube. Everything I do, I can't help but reflect that they did exactly the same. They bought travel cards. They put them through the machines. They went down the escalators, possibly standing to the right to let other commuters pass them by. They stood on the platform. They chose their carriage. They boarded the train. They stood in the gangway, holding on to the rails. They knew that they, and many of the people around them, were about to die in an incredibly horrific manner.

These are my thoughts. This is what I'm dwelling on. And I'm getting increasingly irritated by the continued insistence in the press that we're not afraid and we're all defiant and we're all carrying on as usual. Patronising rubbish like werenotafraid.com can go swing, as far as I'm concerned. I am afraid, and I don't mind admitting it. I refuse to be pressurised to laugh in the face of danger. I'd rather avoid danger if at all possible, please, and if it's not possible, I'd like to be allowed the indulgence of feeling the fear that these four men have inspired in me. What's wrong with admitting to being afraid? It won't make them more powerful. It won't mean I'm going to lock myself in the house and never go out again. It doesn't mean anything's changed, for the better or the worse. I would just like to say for the record, here and now, that they've frightened me and I do still feel scared. My response is not inappropriate. My response is not un-defiant. My response is not giving in to the terrorists. My response, I feel, is one shared by so many people here and everywhere else.

12 July 2005
On Sunday night, we were standing on the steps outside He Who Only…'s house. We were mid-way through a short pub crawl, moving from one to the other at a slow but steady pace, and had stopped to pick up toothbrushes and that, because dental and personal hygeine are of course very high up on our respective agendas.

It was just getting dark but the night was still incredibly warm. I had started to move down the steps towards the street, but we were having some kind of fussy trouble with the front door, which is always the way when a couple of drinks have been imbibed - doors and their locks start misbehaving in the most mysterious way. As I stood there, two steps down from the door, a fire engine was driving slowly up the road, taking their time over the speed bumps.

I immediately saluted to the driver and his mate. He Who Only… noted this and quite rightly adopted the appropriate stance behind me. We both stood with our left arms straight down at our sides, right arms raised in a stiff and solid salute, stock still safe for the light tremor of drunken giggling. The fire engine continued its steady crawl along the street. The driver's mate nudged the driver and pointed at us. The driver glanced at us, and then continued to stare ahead of him. The driver's mate laughed, and then blessed us with the most over enthusiastic return of salute I've seen since Top Gun.

We laughed for about 20 minutes.

11 July 2005
I hate the fact that the front of every single one of today's newspapers is proclaiming the London is returning to normal because we're all so bravely showing defiance in the face of the bombers and defiantly protecting our way of life, and defiantly getting back to our routine by getting on the tubes and buses. As if any of us have any choice in the matter.

In the same manner of "defiance" I got the tube my three stops to work today. It wasn't easy being defiant though. That's because along with being defiant, and metaphorically sticking two fingers up at Mr Bomber(s), I was also terrified of being blown up into tiny bits and scattered around a tube carriage. As I commented to He Who Only… on Thursday night, I refuse to die in London, and I particularly refuse to die underground.

My defiance found me taking my usual route to Liverpool Street tube station this morning, fighting against the hordes coming up the stairs at me. I was feeling particularly defiant, as well as incredibly nervous and slightly nauseous, as I approached the ticket barriers, only to be stopped by underground staff. I defiantly and with great trepidation, took off my walkman headphones to hear why we were being stopped, ready at a moment's notice to run screaming towards the exit. They were only holding back the queue slightly so that the station platform wouldn't get too crowded. I defiantly lost my nerve and went back upstairs to the main station.

I took a deep breath. I turned around. I went back down again.

I joined the queue and waited for three minutes or so, all of the time watching bags and rucksacks and people coming and going. For a good thirty seconds a Tescos carrier bag was left unattended underneath an Evening Standard advert which had rolling news scrolling across it about casualty figures, the fact that the bombers were both unidentified and still at large, the danger of more attacks. I watched the bag until I was ready to spontaneously combust and then someone came and picked it up. Then we were let through the barriers.

Once I was defiantly on the escalator on the way down, I realised there wasn't really any going back, and so I defiantly switched my brain off and pretended it was just a normal day and nothing unusual was happening or about to happen. I kept my walkman off, all the better to listen to the new, special, unnerving and defiant announcements from station staff. Passengers are continually reminded to keep all belongings with them at all times. Passengers are asked to be extra vigilant. Passengers are asked to move down the carriage, use all the room in the carriage. Passengers are reminded that unattended baggage can lead to unnecessary security alerts. Passengers are reminded that there is absolutely no service on the Circle Line. Passengers are reminded that any single one of the people on the platform or in their tube carriage could be a bomber ready to detonate at any moment. Passengers are asked to stand clear of the closing doors, mind the doors please.

On the train, everyone in my immediate vicinity was instantly attracted to one particular bag, sitting underneath the legs of a man standing in the doorway at the end of the carriage. We all stared at it, all stared at each other, all tried to shield ourselves against each other from every direction and then stared at the bag again. Finally, the man noticed, and shamefacedly picked up the bag, as if to claim ownership and relieve us of the tension. We all immediately started to try to find another unattended bag, like frustrated sniffer dogs convinced there was a package somewhere nearby.

But there wasn't, and it was fine, and I defiantly and with great relief got off at my stop, virtually ran up the stairs and got back in to daylight, limbs and life intact. Sanity left somewhere underground between Bank and Chancery Lane.

10 July 2005
I've made the internet come all over my laptop, it's fantastic. So I shall be updating and backdating entries for the next few days. But in the meantime, this is the funniest thing I've seen in relation to last Thursday having done a brief surf to catch up on news. Enjoy.

08 July 2005
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.

07 July 2005
Hello. I'm fine. He Who Only... is fine. Could London Bloggers please do me massive favour, and let me know in comments if they're fine too? I worry. Many thanks. More later.