Here is a snap shot of my experiences from the day London paid for Blair's adventurism in Iraq. The attack on Iraq was a blunder and in my view a serious error but it does not detract from the fact that we have been fully engaged in a war with fundamentalist Islam as a national Arab movement.
I work in an office in central London and live in a suburb. Commuting the short distance thanks to the legacy of Mrs T(atcher) is still a very cumbersome business. Instead of going to the nearest station I usually get on a bus to a station with both metro (Underground or Tube) and train services. I have a late running body clock and can never get my shit together in the morning.
So shower, kiss wife, stroke the dog, throw his ball a few times, he is happy, check time, yikes! Look at the time think of all the idiotic comments by Mike, my ops man at work is going to make (“Duvet was particularly heavy this morning, Hamid, lined with lead, was it?!”), run for the bus, station, crikey! missed all the over-ground fast service, good, tube's there, jump in, rotten mood, all the papers jubilant about London winning Olympic bid, why are the muppets jubilant (I later had to eat those words as how professionally the services coped with an awful day)? This city's run down infrastructure will never be able to cope, it can't cope with the population now. Again think why I have been so stupid to have been so lazy.
Never mind, read the bundle of news and analysis I have to know before markets open so at least I can hit the ground running, changeover at Hammersmith, the station tannoys announcing delays because of power failures, jump back in District Line tube which brought me to this station, no good same announcements affecting District Line, power surges at Edgeware Road (surely they have back-up systems? Or did Mrs T privatise them too?), hop like mad back to the Piccadilly line, cursing new London NY-style-mayor and Lord-soon-to-be-richer-than-you Coe the new head of Olympic Organisation committee, call office, tell David I am late(r than usual), tell him if we cannot organise a tube journey how the f**k are we hoping to organise Olympics? rant, rant, I see you when I see you.
Think fast, idea, catch a bus (only to find out later what the result could have been) from above the station, number 9 all the way to the office, damn no number 9, shit! 10 goes 90% of the way, jump on. As we get closer to central London it is obvious there is a major network outage or something serious (if no power, is there any point going in?), after a while the bus driver just lets everybody get on, even through exits, he is trying to carry the maximum number of passengers (later I think about this, and shudder as the bus driver in Tavistock Square whose bus was blown up, must have loaded his bus full to help “Keep London Moving”, what a stupid time to remember the London Transport motto – must be effects of trauma?).
I keep thinking the incompetent f**kers really have done it now, the French must be laughing their socks off seeing London Underground come to halt because of a power failure. Now the world will see what 'I' have to go through every so often. I see more people lined up at bus stations, begin to realise I will never get on no 9 at Hyde Park Corner, never mind, nice weather, I walk. More and more people stranded on bus stations. The ruddy old double deckers with open access from behind are overloaded, it looks more like India with people hanging on to every bit of bus (remember it later also, shudder, shudder). I begin to think and feel something not quite right about this but dismiss it quickly as I think about market opening and start walking quicker.
Reach work, drop my stuff, must see what is going on and have the morning rant before getting involved in the day's trading, CNN, SKY etc all have people outside stations etc. walking the streets, reminds me/makes me think of the NY power outage. Then I hear through my headset, which has TV sound piped to our phones about the bus's roof in Tavistock Square and I knew then, it was no ruddy power outage, it was the same scum as September 11 etc. Anger takes over, reporter says bus's roof has been blown away, bus near British Medical Association, blood splattered 15 feet high on the BMA building from the height of the second deck upwards. Anger, anger, barely contain my anger. Shit that is very close to where my best friends work.
Then I hear about the bomb having gone off in the Piccadilly line train between Kings Cross and Russell Square. Two of my bestest friends work in the area as I said earlier, panic, now I am panicking, strangely not thinking of what could have happened to me but can only think of them and panic more, a childhoold friend of more than 35 years Mami has his college in Russell Square, Reza is a partner in a firm also in Russell Square. F**k!
Mobile phones don't work at all, I guess as it turns out later correctly, that the mobile networks have been deliberately brought down by the police to stop communication between the terrorists or to stop mobile phones being used as they were in Madrid to trigger explosions on surface trains or buses, London Bus services are halted, don't have time to think about myself or how I get home, Mami, how the hell is he, he had stopped driving in a while ago and was using the damn Piccadilly Line, damn, private line rings, it is the bugger, safe and sound, I love it, I love him, life is beautiful, the fat bastard is fatter and lazier than I so was coming in much later and he was shut out of the Underground system, does he know where Reza is? He doesn't know but assures me that he drives in anyway, shoot off an e-mail to Reza, hoping he answers.
I begin to realise how lucky I have been but strangely not scared. What the hell, thank my lucky stars. Screw work, market is dropping in 50 cents per barrel increments (that is 500 dollars per lot traded and we on average trade a few thousand lots so do the math as the Americans would say), but nobody is trading except a few nutters on the electronic system. Line rings, it's Ali who works in the suburbs, screaming at me why I am not answering my e-mails to let him know I am allright. Calm him down and explain that he should engage his brain as the last thing on my mind after realising how lucky I have been. Tell him Mami is OK, forget to ask about his sisters and family, but can't get through as mobiles are still down. Check e-mails, Reza has answered, all on his side are OK. Found Ali's office number while listening to the news and calling Ali, all his family OK as well.
Like a hen who had counted all her chicks, I feel a bit better. I can't get ” she who must be obeyed” but know she is in college locally at home, so no danger. Leave message at home, it is now clear what is happening and the bad news keeps rolling in, unclear how I can get home. Not that bothered. Will figure something out. Think about my teenage daughter fleetingly but no point texting her as mobile networks are out.
More news, now the horror is fully apparent and clear. Father/daughter telepathy, private line rings. It's my teenage daughter, scared out of her wits and crying her eyes out. Comfort her. She won't calm down, takes a bit of persuasion and TLC. Start thinking fast. Call home, leave Z a msg to see if she can pick her up and walk home together. No luck. Z as it turned out was oblivious to it all and was enjoying her class.
I call my sister in Germany as I know she will be very concerned and get her just in as she's about to call. Send e-mail to my uncle in Norway also. He is so very good and I know will inform others. Lots of animated discussions about the effects of what has happened, effect on price of oil, stocks etc, nobody really has a clue and given what is going on their hearts are not in it. Make a show of work, nobody working or willing to do anything.
Suddenly think of Robin's boys. He is our main broker so I know him and of his family. If my daughter was that scared, think of his boys stuck in a boarding school. So yahoo Robin, “maybe you want to leave the boys a message at their school”, thinking he is going to tell me to mind my own business, you never know with Brits and their precious privacy. But he suddenly realises what they may be hearing or thinking and is very grateful for the prod.
It is now near noon. Shahmard my cousin has sent me an e-mail from Florida (I am thinking crikey! he is up early!). He is asking about family. It occurs to me that I have not checked on up everybody, so round of calls to my mother's cousins etc, quickly send a note to Shahmard with copy to the rest of the gang in Canada, California (thank heavens for e-mail) so as they don't worry. Very touched by all their concerns, specially Shahmard. He must have thought of me soon as he had seen the news, bloody hell it is so good to have so many people care about you, I FEEL I CAN FACE ANYTHING, bring it on Al-Qaeda, you are nothing but a bunch of weasels.
Blair comes on, nobody is impressed with his 'seriously concerned' show. All desparate to get an understanding of what why where and how. Only general description of what and where, forget the rest. Check on more friends and colleagues in other companies, go out to get a sarnie (Sandwich) for lunch, taken aback by how deserted the streets are. Police out in force, distant sounds of sirens, think OMG, there must still be dragging people out if the ambulances are whizzing around only to understand later the magnititude of it. Nobody hanging outside shops etc, like normal city streets. It feels very odd.
Back to the office, more e-mails to and from family, the Canadian branch is up and hasn't quite caught up with the news so have to explain. Do admin, anything not to listen to by now slightly repititous news (why do these people feel they ought to keep it going when there is simply no new news?). Out of corner of one eye, see the traffic on some of the road and think bloody nora, it won't be easy to get home tonight (wrongly as it turned out).
More anger welling up inside, anger at the coward terrorists, anger at political correctness shown by the politicians about Islam, f**king hell, how many dead do you need to see to come out and say it? Moderate Islam is an oxymoron, unless it is reformed and become a civilised religion and not an Arab Nationalist movement then we will not solve the core problem but politics is politics and they just repeat the PC stuff, blah! blah! blah! One of the colleagues comes over and says he thinks he now knows what I was ranting about all this time as he has read the Al-Qaeda statment to the ” Islamic and Arab nation”. Doh! If I hear one of the second generation Pakistanis or idealogues try to tell me about how the Jews knew about this and that like they did after September 11… Memories of friends who worked on 88th floor of the twin towers flood in and I feel livid with anger and frustration.
Mami calls again, tell him off for being a pussy and worrying so much,. Wish the wife was as concerned, talk to her, cool as cucumber she is! Has spoken to our daughter and calmed her down, she has ice through those veins of hers. If you had not seen her Iranian beauty you would have never thought she was Persian.
Discussing with colleague about each others' plans on how to get home, police asking people to stagger their return home to allow Oveground train services to cope. Silly school boy jokes, better go to the pub first if the police want us to “stagger” home! Good excuse to get a pink ticket from the wife and stay the night in town! etc etc.
Market down again, this time only 2 dollars a barrel but untradable. Try to buy what I need to buy but miss it for the most part as the market is also extremely nervous. So get the orders in for the close and leave it alone, too busy answering calls from concerned relatives of colleagues in meetings anyway. Decide I should really do a better job so I call home and tell the family I am staying late to work and miss the extended rush on the Overground. Colleagues start leaving early, then very soon it's me left in a quiet office. I quickly scan the spreadsheets, have the space and quiet to concentrate.
After a while take time to reflect, I feel anguish about those who are really or directly affected by this. The chain of thought runs away, leading to anger again. I stop it by concentrating on my work, get the stuff in good order, market is back where it was having made a 5 dollar move, what a day. My work is now as it should be in any normal day, so I feel strangely happy that I have accomplished that despite everything that has happened.
Leaving the office, I am taken aback by how deserted the streets were, shops having remained closed due to staff not being able to make it to work or closing early on Police's advice. I walk to the Overground station which takes half the time it would normally take because of the crowds.
I see more people near the footbridge over the Thames doing the same as me. I wonder about what they think of us Moslems and whether they know how angry I feel as well but then my attention is drawn to the London Eye which has stopped and I think screw you stupid cowards. It will soon be going again, these people are not fazed, they have been through worse experiences.
It is a beautiful evening, sun is out, London's views are breathtaking, more like a quiet Sunday evening because of the quietness, Big Ben, Whitehall buildings and the houses of Parliament to the west, St. Paul's huge dome and City to the east. I slow down and have a good look at the view while sparing a thought for all who have lost their lives and poor families who are waiting anxiously for news of loved ones. Notice a police patrol walking in the same direction, try and eavesdrop on their radio calls to catch any snippets of news but then think better of it (“Ah! Sarge! we have detained this suspicious looking Iranian on the footbridge, trying to listen to our radio, claims to work for a reputable company… “).
Get on the train, have a quick look around for any packages or bags left behind (hear Victoria Station was closed because of baggage left on a train). Get home, daughter gives me a beautiful hug and won't let go. Doggie is madly jumping up and down as usual. I was lucky, others weren't. As brutal as it may be, it is as simple as that.