So here it is.
The first installment of The Blog.
The start of a journey.
After much encouragement, motivation and plain nagging by a certain someone whom we will refer to as TheBlogFather,I’ve started. I should tweet him now and tell him the exciting news. He should be flattered, the last time he challenged me to something… it took over 6 years… this has taken only 4 months of nagging… the 2 challenges aren’t exactly unrelated, but it will probably take months of blogs before we get to how that bit works, unless I type really, really fast.
I suppose you are expecting the blog to be about the usual stuff, things happening now and I’m sure there will be a bit of that here and there. Those things will probably include Peace,cake, cocktails, crotchet and a cat with only 3 legs calledTheDaisypuss, but TheBlogFather isn’t really interested in me telling you all about those things, though I’d probably find it more fun. I know the BlogFather would like me to start about 7 years ago… so let’s start 7 years and 1 day ago just to make sure I get it right…
Seven years ago the world, my world seemed so very different.
Seven years and one day ago, I was in the office at work, it was the day we all found out the UK would host this year’s Olympics. I remember the atmosphere in the office was great, we didn’t usually have the sound on the TV but today I allowed exception to the rule. Turns out the team got the tv on the next day too, but we will get to that bit later. My boss was down from Scotland and kept ‘nipping out’ of his meeting to pop his head in the office and ask if it had been announced yet. I told him they were about to announce it and he came in. The atmosphere was that classic British attitude we have to all major sporting events, great expectations, but that nagging feeling we would be disappointed. I will never forget the words ‘and the 2012 Olympia goes to the City of…
‘COME ON PARIS’ my Scottish boss screamed, we all fell about laughing!
But through the laughter we all heard it
We all jumped up screaming and laughing… I look back on that moment as that final memorable innocent happy perfect moment before the world changed. Seven years later it’s almost here. Seven years ago I had no idea I would be a torch bearer carrying the Olympic flame and what that would symbolise and mean to me… Seven years and one day ago, none of us could imagine what would happen to our beautiful capital city and the people in it. I wish I could not imagine those things. I wish I did not know those things. I wish I didn’t remember those things. I wish it had been different.
I should explain the timing of this first blog and why I finally came to succumb to the nagging and slightly drunken phone calls now… well let’s just say there’s some cross over with my blog and TheBlogMasters blog this week. The following morning we both boarded the 6am train to London Kings Cross. We were both working. I didn’t know he was working on the same train as I was travelling, and for many years neither of us realised we had been on the same train. For some reason we both thought he was on the train after me. But we both arrived in London’s Kings Cross just before 9am on 7thJuly 2005.
I only needed to travel one stop on the Northern line to Angel, but when I got there I couldn’t get down stairs, it was too full. Everything appeared normal above ground. No-one yet had realised the horror which had just taken place below ground in the tunnels, on the trains.
I was advised I could get a tube from Euston and so I made my way there. I saw a policeman close the Euston Road, tying his police tape to a set of traffic lights; yet I didn’t consider the inner Ring road of the Capital had just been closed or how significant that was. I was so wrapped up in getting to my meeting, calling colleagues on the way and leaving themmessages. Everyone’s phones were going to voicemail.
I got to Euston to find the station had been closed and evacuated as I walked from station to station. I was advised I could get a number 30 bus or another number I didn’t quite hear. It didn’t matter they both left from the same stop. I left a colleague one last message as the number 30 arrived. It was the last message they had from me ‘I’m at Euston getting a number 30, hopefully I won’t be too late. See you soon’ It was about 9:35am
By the time I boarded, the bus was full downstairs and a few people pushed past me knocking me slightly. A young man squeezed past, politely taking his rucksack from his shoulder. I only noticed him as I remember thinking ‘there’s one last polite boy in London today’
I followed him up the stairs. Only a few seats left. He took a seat at the back and I took the empty seat near the middle. I did not know it, but at that moment, the young man with an explosive device in his bag, left me the only safe seat left on the bus. Had I taken the empty seat near to him or decided to stand down stairs I wouldn’t be here to be writing this.
Eleven minutes later many lives had been lost and many more destroyed. My life changed forever. A bus journey turned into another type of journey altogether, one I’m still travelling, one I will have to continue to travel for the rest of my life. Sometimes I feel like a weary traveller, sometimes I am taken to unexpected places I could never have imagined 7 years ago.
I was so lucky in so many ways. I was injured. Those injuries are permanent, but they were never life threatening. I was knocked unconscious, so I don’t really remember the blast, I think this is a good thing. The only feeling I do recall is the very strange feeling I was being compressed, like I’d just been crushed and squeezed through a pipe and pushed out the other side. That’s the only way I can describe it. It was unlike any other sensation I’ve ever experienced and I sincerely hope I never experience it again.
I woke up with a mighty bad head (a head ache which didn’t go away for over 2 years), pieces of my broken front teeth in my mouth, my eyes couldn’t focus , and I couldn’t hear much at all.’ I thought I had fainted. I couldn’t remember where I was at first but even before I realised what had happened I knew how lucky I was.
I won’t share with you what the scene around me looked like. No one should ever have to see or know those things. But I will tell you that everyone who had been sat behind me were gone. They just weren’t there anymore. Everything behind me was gone.
Despite experiencing the very worst that one human can do to another, I was so very fortunate to also experience the very best of humanity that day. Most of it in the form of random acts of kindness from strangers. Some of whom I’ve managed to get back in touch with, some are now very precious friends, and sadly some I will never be able to find or thank personally. Every single one of them restored my faith in humanity. I call them every day hero’s. Special people who couldn’t just turn and run away or walk on by. I know each and every one of them asking themselves ‘how can I make this better?’ Feeling no doubt like they never could, but they did. I know I wasn’t the only one helped by a stranger compelled to help. I am so very grateful to all of those who helped us all. If you spoke to them they will say they did nothing special, but they did… they held my hand, they held me, they offered me comfort, they scooped me off the pavement and out of danger. One very special lady, a patient in the hospital gave me her shampoo and moisturiser…. To this day it remains the most special act of kindness I have ever received. You have no idea how much I wanted and needed that shampoo… the Clinique moisturiser was the icing on the cake. I smile every time I think of her. I wish I could tell her how much I appreciated them, how much I appreciated her. I think all I managed at the time was ‘thankyou so much’
Since that day, I have been blessed to meet many other special people connected to that day or other day’s just like that sad day. There’s something between us that doesn’t even have to be spoken. You can just feel it. I’m not sure I could describe it, but it’s there. It unites us, it is the very reason why conflict and violence will never win. We know too much, we learned too much that day. These people taught me so much, the most important lesson I learnt that day was I will never be embarrassed about being kind to another person ever again. Isn’t that the silliest thing in the world to be embarrassed about?