I gave up on the telly in the early hours, since there wasn’t a lot of point; although we do, don’t we, watch it relentlessly as if watching it will give us some control over what has already occurred. Every attack is an assault of some kind. It is always personal in some way. That is, after all, the point.
I wanted to say something about London Bridge and Southwark. It is an area that, apart from the station, was pretty much forgotten. Then came regeneration and gentrification – the forbidding slums were fixed and renovated next to the shiny glass buildings for the shiny happy people. Like Covent Garden and Shoreditch, it has gone through the usual progression from grim to hip to formulaic, but it’s nice for all that. It’s a place for a night out – there are old pubs and strange turnings, alleys and railway arches. It retains something of Dickens about it – the steps here last night’s terrorists crashed their van are called Nancy’s Steps- a remnant of a previous London Bridge and the scene of Nancy’s murder in Oliver Twist. They take you down to a level lower than the bridge – to the Mudlark and to Borough Market, places full of people just like you, just having a drink and maybe a meal on a warm summer Saturday night.
If you’re not from here, there’s a particular feel to those evenings. Everyone is a bit too hot, it’s usually muggy – people drink too much to cool down, they try to find a nice place to sit, to stand in the cooler air – possibly (shock horror), smoking. It can be fraught – too pushy, too crowded, too much hassle. It can be magical: if you find the exact perfect spot with the perfect group, if the air is warm enough and cool enough and the food comes on time and the beer’s just cold enough and the wine is just dry enough. Or if you’re there with your true love or the one you think will be, or could be.
At home time you pour yourself into a taxi or onto the bus or tube or train. Maybe you won or maybe you lost tonight – but it doesn’t matter too much. There’s always another evening, another balmy night in the Smoke. There’ll always be another chance – another girl, another boy.
The area’s got all terribly posh and cosmopolitan but it’s still Sarf London. The best quote I heard last night was from a cabbie who phoned in to a local radio station: he’d seen some of the carnage and said he spun the cab round to try to hit one of the attackers with his cab. “I wish I’d run the bastard down,” he said, with feeling. Well, it’s not very Catholic of me, but – I wish he had.