Friday, July 08, 2005

What a difference a day makes......

- corny maybe but Dinah Washington's words sing true.

After winning the Olympic bid the Evening Standard had the audacity (in opinion) to proclaim that this was the best day London had ever had. The cruel irony then that today the media were reporting on what felt like the worst day. I'm no fan of the Olympics and I had been mentally preparing my scathing blog on the way home but it didn't materialise because during my journey my spirits were lifted. Not even I could stay unaffected by the Olympic euphoria everywhere. It's hard to stay critical when your usual mundane journey home is transformed by the rare sight of happiness at rush hour. As I walked through Stratford station there were signs of having won the bid everywhere and although I cringed as the women on the stage at Stratford was "Biggin it up for East London" the celebratory atmosphere did completely change my mood (if not my opinions).

And so in the context of this, yesterday's bombing which would have been tragic enough anyway seemed to be such a cruel cruel irony. Somehow a blog does not seem the right place for detailed comment about yesterday's events but the last couple of days has got me wondering about the whole collective London thing. Obviously not everyone in the same place feels the same way about things but even if you don't to begin with, intense emotional states whether of euphoria or of distress do seem to be contagious. Is this simply the way humans in a shared space work or is it all down to the media? Or is it a bit of both? How much is hype and how much is real? Is our shared Londoner identity genuine or manufactured? Is there really such a thing as London pride? Are Londoners really resilient in the face of disaster? Do a people make a place or does a place make the people? Maybe my questions are begging the obvious but these are some of my less painful reflections from the last few days.


At 10:44 am, Blogger meg said...

I suppose there must be a Londoner mentality in the sense that someone living in a huge city alongside people from many different backgrounds probably responds differently to events than someone living in a village where they know everyone and things haven't changed in centuries.

I got swept up in everything in Stratford aswell. I felt so proud of our crappy little run-down bit of London. It's about time we had some money over to the East!

I'm not sure that we're necessarily better in a crisis than anyone else (I just heard on the news that Birmingham city centre was effectively evacuated last night without any panic). I think it's helpful, however, to say that we're good in a crisis and remind ourselves of the war. It helps us to just get on with things and not be scared. My Grandma refused to be evacuated in the war and worked as a bus conductress in East London. She saw some terrible things but still maintained that the second world war was the best time of her life. She wasn't particularly enamoured with going down to the shelters in the middle of the night, saying "if a bomb's going to get me, I'd rather it got me in my bed". THAT'S the kind of attitude we need right now!

At 9:17 pm, Blogger Katrina said...

Yes I guess that's what all the public figures are trying to do at the moment - boost morale. And the one thing you can say about disaster is that it pulls people closer together. Somehow the little things in life that annoy you become trivialised and you get you gain some perspective. Better this than foster hatred and take revenge, although evidently some people think that's the way forward.

At 8:04 am, Blogger I'm Over The Moon said...

The thing about living in London, even being in london for any length of time (given that it was everyone in london that reacted well, not just people from london) is that it hardens you, gives you a daily outlet for anger and frustration (swearing at traffic, giving tourists wrong directions, whatever) so it doesn't build up and get released negatively all at once, and most importantly of all it makes you VERY resiliant to a kicking.


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