Bomb Threat, Tottenham Court Road

30 Apr

On Friday afternoon, I was sitting in the remainders section of Waterstones on Torrington Place, waiting for the rain to stop and a revision class to start. Flickbooking my way through a copy of The Europeans- I swear!- I for some tenuous reason started thinking about the Siege of Markham Square, the afternoon long standoff between the police and a heavily-armed barrister called Mark Saunders that had taken place almost five years ago to the day. I remembered how this one apparently well-off professional had brought the whole of West London to a complete standstill, how surveillance helicopters had buzzed so close to the roof of the building where my friend Eliza was working that she had tinnitus for days afterwards. Saunders, by all accounts in the throes of a nervous breakdown, was after five-hours shot dead by police snipers, and the “story” made it out just in time to scandalise the rush-hour freesheets.

I sat on a stool, paying even less attention to Henry James than I would normally do, trying to remember what I’d been doing that afternoon when my phone buzzed: it was my friend Alisa, asking if I was alright.

‘Yeah, fine…’ I said, irrationally fearing my undignified book-rifling had made it onto the lunchtime news, ‘…why?’

‘We were just on Tottenham Court Road and the police forced us off the street! Apparently there’s been some kind of bomb attack…’

My phone chose that precise moment to run out of battery. So engrossed in thinking about civil disturbances past that an explosion a hundred yards away wouldn’t even have made me flinch. I sprang up, and attempted to replace The Europeans in the place I’d found it; this took some time.

I ran out onto Torrington Place and on seeing the cordon, I immediately took this photo. It took several moments to register that nobody else was panicking. ‘Really fucked up my Starbucks panini’, I heard one student say as he, erm, “bantered” his way past. Within minutes I was just as bored with London’s most lethal failed HGV driver as everybody else.

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