Tuesday, August 15, 2006


And so, the magical season of terror is on us once again. Just like Christmas, apart from the presents are all great big parcels of spittle-flecked fear, and Santa has laced the tree with tinsel made of ricin.

I'm a bone-fide Londoner, which means I'm in possession of two things: one, a real true-life story of how I or one of my nearest and dearest missed the tube bombings by mere milliseconds by oversleeping, or bunking off work, or just noticing the poignancy with which their children said goodbye ("As if it was the last time I'd see them!"), deciding that some bad shit was DEFINITELY going to go down and hiding under the duvet; and two, the ability to completely forget about any threat about two weeks after said bad shit arrives, and revert to the normal state of internally screaming blue murder at anyone who breaks one of the forty thousand unspoken rules of riding on public transport. You know, like not moving down the carriage, or talking loudly, or existing in a three dimensional state, or something.

So when terror arrives again, it don't half shake me up something rotten. But the thing I hate most of all is how it can turn me - me being liberal leftie Guardian-reading etc cliche cliche wanker - into a pathological racist. Take, for example, a mid-afternoon tube journey yesterday. Half-empty tube, usual stuff, but for the vaguely Arabic-looking bloke sitting opposite me, with what looked like the Koran, and reading it, or praying or something, but out loud. It was a constant low-level mutter, not loud enough to disturb anyone, but enough to make me a) consider getting off the tube and getting the next one, b) check to see if he had any conspicuously big backpacks and c) go into spasms of panic when he reached into his bag and brought out...a pair of glasses.

So I was convinced that this guy was about to leap from his seat, scream Allahu Akbar! and blow himself up, because he was PRAYING? Every logical part of my brain, of which it turns out there are not many, was screaming at myself to not be so stupid, Muslim does not equal terrorist, and the nutjob tendency of terrorists towards mass murder was probably in place before the "Islamic extremism" gave them something to hook it onto, but I was still scared.

Frankly, I'm disgusted with myself.

Although I will allow myself a tiny excuse that anyone who mutters to themselves on a tube is breaking one of the most holy of the forty thousand rules, and no matter what their reason is, they should expect to be looked upon with suspicion. So there!

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