I originally wrote this blog post on the 4th anniversary of the London bombings in 2009 when I worked in London.
It's worth reposting.
On my way to work this morning, I walked through Russell Square Park just like I’ve done for almost every working day of the seven years I’ve lived in London. But this morning I took a different route through the park to stand by the oak tree planted as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the London bombings, four years ago to the day.
I know how lucky I was that day. I know. I was one of thousands of Piccadilly line commuters who, if we’d left the house a couple of minutes earlier / later / hadn't stopped to buy a paper, could have been on the tube train which exploded between King's Cross and Russell Square tube stations.
When I did eventually reach central London that morning, I then walked to work past Tavistock Square where the bomb on the bus exploded later that morning. I heard it from my office.
The memorial oak tree in Russell Square park flourishes and grows and at 8.30am today there were already flowers laid at its base in memory. I stood in silence and thought about those who died, their families, before picking up my bag and walking on with a lump in my throat.
I have some horrible memories of the morning of July 7, 2005 which I won't write about here. However, my abiding memory comes from the day when the Piccadilly line reopened after many weeks of being closed after the attack. Only a handful of commuters went to work by tube on that first day. I forced myself to be one of them, despite how hard it was.
I was one of only three people in the tube carriage all the way from north London to King's Cross. At King's Cross, my husband got off to go to work. He kissed me on the cheek and asked if I'd be ok. I said I would be. I had to be. The two remaining passengers in the carriage left King's Cross on the tube, we didn't look at each other. I got off at Russell Square station which was newly painted, scrubbed sterile, and took the lift up to the ticket hall.
With me in the lift were only half a dozen or so commuters. Two were in tears, another was being comforted by a Transport for London worker and it was obvious from their tearful conversation that the passenger was the parent of a young person who had died in the blast.
We all rode the six storeys together in the lift, some of us holding back sobs, some openly weeping.
The lift doors opened, we turned the corner to head through to the ticket hall only to be met by a barrage of television cameras and a large, booming member of the Metropolitan police urging us: “Come on, ladies and gentlemen, big smiles for the cameras! Big smiles, you’re on TV! Come on, ladies and gents, let’s see those smiles!”
None of us smiled.
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The invitation to join a writers day at Beamish Museum with their writer in residence Becci, came through on a tweet from Mslexia magazine. I signed up immediately and was one of a handful of writers on a sunny Tuesday in July who met in the museum café.
After introductions we went in twos and threes to explore various parts of the site. My first area to visit was the Fairground and Railway, which had yet to be invaded by the mass of visitors I’d passed on my way into the museum. As the carousel was steaming up, there was an eerie calm to the Fairground. Short story ideas came thick and fast and my mind is still whirring, wondering which direction to take this inspiration and make it work best. Becci gave us some prompts to think about when visiting each area and these were very useful. After the Fairground, a visit to the Railway again inspired all kinds of different short story ideas, and one possible large non-fiction project which I’m going to investigate fully.
It was time for lunch and a catch up with the rest of the group in the Resource Centre. We found out about each other’s work, families, tastes in sandwiches. And then the magic happened. We were taken on a behind-the-scenes tour, to places that the public don’t see, into the archives and collections. And just when I thought the magic couldn’t get any better, it did. We went into the costume department and were given a talk from the costumier, a lovely woman with a wonderful turn of phrase. My notebook was filling up with some fantastic material about, er, material.
It was time to head off to a second part of the site and I wandered down to Pockerley Village and then into the Town. With tourists and visitors now filling the site, I found it harder to get into the head space needed to take notes and immerse myself in the sights and smells and sounds of what was going on around me. And so I walked… I walked around the site, taking as much in as I could. The trams, the trains, the sheep. I closed my eyes, I breathed in the fresh air, I opened my eyes, I made notes.
At the end of the day we met again as a group in the Resource Centre for a chat and a debrief with Becci. Everyone said how fantastic the day had been. We’d made new friends, we’d even… and I hate this word.. we’d networked. Email addresses will be swapped, URLs will be Googled. I can’t wait to get back next week for day 2 of what I already know will bring a smile to my heart and pages scribbled full of writing inspiration to my notebook.
I’ve visited Beamish Museum a few times in the past, but never before have I seen it with my “writer’s head” on. It’s going to affect – for the better - how I view almost everything now!
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