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Monday, August 01, 2005

Home notes

Granny due to head for her home city on Thursday has issued stern notes to herself. Eg:-
1. Do not buy/rent let alone ride bicycle, unlike 50,000 others who have ignored fact that odds of death/injury thereby are considerably higher than those of death/injury by bomber assuming there are more of them out there. (Probably.) Admittedly Granny's odds of bike injury likely to be even higher. (And bikes probably all sold out by now anyway.)
2. Do not advance on friendly armed policeman standing outside her local underground station, gesture towards her (black) backpack and quip merrily "I've got a bomb in there."
3. Do not - if she has failed to resist above temptation - attempt to run away and vault barriers. Not only is she insufficiently athletic. She can rarely even access the orange-jacketed, chipful card, tactfully called a 'freedom pass' and issued to all wrinklies like herself with London addresses by Ken Livingstone's kindly(?) bureaucrats without dropping it and/or her other encumbrances (newspaper, book, sun or woolly hat, glasses etc etc.)
4. Do not in absent-minded moment leave said backpack on seat of underground train/bus or counter of newspaper kiosk, coffeeshop, and go off without it, She thinks her precious MAC unlikely to survive even a controlled explosion.
5. Do not on platform/train/bus/at bus-stop run, screaming 'Ware bomber' at sight of any (youngish) man whose skin is not dead white or at most rosy wearing a backpack of any colour. (Memo to self; there are a lot of people with sun tans at this time of year.)
6. Do not, on the other hand, sidle up to character, as above, shake him by the hand , say - for example - 'I'm not prejudiced/I know you're not a bomber/I love Islam/I'm thinking of converting to Islam/I am an undercover Muslim activist' - or all or any of the above - or other such expression of friendship. (Worst case scenario is that he is actually a bomber and will be induced thereby to set bomb off AT ONCE instead of as per intention, two or three stops down the line after she has safely disembarked. Perhaps this thought is selfish.)
7. Do not, equally, engage heavily veiled ladies in friendly conversation. If their voices turn out tenor, let alone baritone or bass, this will only add to the unease of you and all around you.
8. Do not wrest seat by the door of bus from under encroaching buttocks of ANOTHER, making use of advanced age to justify such behaviour to him/her and all other observers. If usurped buttocks are still more aged/decrepit/laden than her own, of course, this justification might not avail. (Memo to self; in present state of minor frailty BUY NECKBRACE. Better still: WEAR IT. This might do.)
9.Thereafter DO not leap out of door at sight of any suspicious character (see above) thereby trapping self/bag/strap in closing doors, and/or unnecessarily breaking or at least spraining ankle. Helpful paramedical/emergency services have more than enough actual or possible work to do at the moment without that.
10, Do not decide to walk absolutely everywhere; thereby - London is big - taking up all the time she - Granny - would be spending having her hair cut, researching new book (some people never learn) in British Library, eating with friends, going to films/concerts, just getting there. (And giving herself, possibly, infected blisters/heatstroke/frostbite etc. See extra strain on medical services above.)

In other words; DO: BE PLUCKY LONDONER AND LIVE LIFE AS NORMAL. (All this despite advice of London friends who are PLUCKY LONDONERS by default -ie they live and work there. 'The atmosphere is horrible,' they say. 'Jumpy, paranoid, frightened, angry, Stay away if you can.')

She can't stay away really. And is mindful anyway of Claypot's very funny piece on 21st July (possibly a slightly unfortunate choice of date if it was written, as she suspects, before the 2nd, failed lot of bombings.) She is also tired of reading about plucky London spirit, etc etc and has lived through bombs before. (IRA. And, for a short while in late 70's Jerusalem.) This might be nastier than the IRA stuff. It is nastier. Even if it can't be compared to alarms in Iraq and elsewhere. The best analogy, she thinks, is with a disease she worked alongside in the 80's: epilepsy. The problem with that condition is a good deal more than the seizures, whether they are few or frequent. The problem is never knowing when or if they will happen. And having to learn to live with that uncertainty. Which is the only way of coping, in fact only the sufferers who do learn to - with some sensible precautions - manage to lead a more or less normal life despite it.

Westerners like all of us are too used to taking the right to life for granted. To being able to forget there are nasty things out there - and inside your body - which can get you any time. Better to be resigned, really. Granny read 'Hotel Rwanda' lately. She doesn't forget the remark by one of its (real life) protagonists - dying of AIDS anyway and due to be murdered by Hutus (he was in fact hacked to death the very next day.) She doesn't have the book here, so can't quote exactly; but in effect he said: 'You Westerners don't accept you're going to die some day. We know we will, so we don't worry about it. We just enjoy the day we're in. '

Yes. She'll try. Shaking in her birkenstocks meantime - only joking of course...Things always look scarier from a long way off.

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