I left my flat in south London at 10am this morning full of beans and laden with presents for my friend Natalya and her brand new baby Eden. The radio had said that the Underground was closed due to a power surge. I skipped along merrily, thinking I could catch a bus instead and use the over-ground train. One of the underground guys was telling people that there were no buses into central London and that we should all go home immediately.
Rising, surreal panic took over my legs and I began to hurry home. BOMB BOMB BOMB … was all I could think. The first beep beep of text messages began on my phone which were to continue all day, ‘Shap? Where are you? Bombs all over London. Stay home. Natalya x’
Like everyone else who has loved ones in London, I began my safety checks. I called my brother Peyvand’s phone. No connection. I called it again, it went straight to voice mail. At this point I didn’t know how many bombs there were or where they went off, I just knew that if I didn’t hear my brother's voice any second now, I may combust myself.
I got home, my heart in my mouth. My phone rang. It was my mother, we exchanged quick ‘You alright, I’m alright’ and established that neither of us could get through to Peyvand. He works very near central London so I began to call him frantically. Nothing. My boyfriend, who is a calmer person than I am during terrorist attacks said ‘Oh you know Peyv, he’s probably left his phone at home, lost it, or eaten it; he’ll be fine’
I let some time go by, about a minute, then I called his office: ‘Is Peyvand Khorsandi there please?’
‘Nope’, said the nice man on the end of the phone. ‘He hasn’t made it in today.’
I asked him, as calmly as I could if he had called in to say he would be late. When the answer ‘no’ came out of his mouth, I threw down the phone and entered a full on, no-holds barred, old-style Iranian screaming fit. I didn’t know I had it in me. My calm boyfriend from Nottingham, who had never witnessed such an exhibition in full effect, held me whilst I screamed and wailed from the depths of my soul, crazed with grief which had not even struck.
I waited until I could breath without hiccupping too much and called my parents. My father ordered me to calm down. If it wasn’t our Peyvand he said, it was somebody else’s and we had to stay strong. His togetherness soothed me until his voice cracked and he descended into the same deranged wailing as I had. My mother came on the line. She, thank goodness, always keeps it together and told me to get off the line as she had a call waiting. It was, of course my brother. He had, of course left his phone at home.
Blood rushed back through my head with a big WHOOSH.
Relief didn’t last for long, my father was right, it wasn’t my brother this time, but somebody else’s. Other people were screaming (though probably on the inside, unless they were of Eastern extraction).
Tony Blair spoke to the nation from the G8 summit at Gleneagles. The usual ‘this is an attack on our way of life, the War on Terror will be won’ etc etc. We all know the form by now.
For me, it’s simple. This is war. These people do not have endless supplies of fresh faced soldiers, tanks and daisy-cutters. They fight with the resources they do have.
Tony Blair, George Bush and all the others have been speaking with tears in their eyes about how ghastly it is that so many have died today in London (forty and counting). Ordinary people on their way to work. I’m thankful all my family and friends are safe and I have been sobbing all day for those who are not.
But I cannot, even for a second share Mr Blair’s sentiments that this is just an attack on ‘our way of life … on the civilised people of the world’
My ‘way of life’ does not condone the terror Blair and Bush have inflicted on the ‘ordinary’ people of Iraq and Afghanistan. It does not make me set the life of those living in troubled lands at lower than my own and those I love. My idea of civilisation is not to sanitise the reporting of a war in an Arab country then give us gory, around the clock coverage of what the terrorists have inflicted on us.
When I was wailing like a professional, I never thought ‘how could this happen to us?’ Just because I can buy a Frappacino on every street corner, it does not make me immune to the insane havoc that has been created by our leaders and those faceless cowards who attacked London today. There is no side for me to be on. I feel so helpless and disconnected with all of their analysis and endless talk.
All I can think of today is that Natalya is very brave to raise children in this shit-heap of a world, and my brother should sew his mobile phone to his coat pocket.
Shappi Khorsandi is a standup comedian in the UK.