Wednesday, May 23, 2007

London Blitz Spirit

It is an old cliche that London is at its best when faced with adversity. Hence the term "Blitz spirit" to refer to the comeraderie and neighbourliness that broke out during the German Blitz of London in WW2.

I sensed a bit of that appearing on July 7th 2005 when the transport network was paralysed and over 50 people killed in a wave of suicide bombings. Mrs. Donatella and I, newly married, met up and got a free boat home from the centre of London to Greenwich where we then lived. Despite the sombreness of the day, the boat ride for those not normally used to commuting via the Thames was accompanied by a commentary from one of the boat's crew on the sights we were passing. He even managed to get in some entirely suitable and well received jokes.

Today, in an entirely benign bout of chaos, the blitz spirit again started to break out. A fire under the railway in Bermondsey South London resulted in the major rail artery that passes through London Bridge to the south being completely closed.

An attempt to shift the strain onto trains from Victoria largely backfired as the crowds that massed around Victoria station meant the station and underground had to be shut.

I made my way on a packed DLR train out of the City. Normally the DLR is not the friendliest of lines. While it has a superficial veneer of civilisation, the mix of city boys and girls on the make, scurrying to and from work does not make for a very friendly atmosphere.

Today all was changed. The DLR was swamped with commuters from all sorts of places. I was crammed between a group of secretaries bound for Kentish towns, a scouser cracked jokes and a bald well spoken man in his 60s asked "Is it always like this". The journey was horrendous in physical terms. The burst of warm sunshine and packed conditions meant most people were dripping in sweat and completely wedged against each other.

The usual requests to "move down please" from people trying to get on the train were futile and were met with a chorus of about 50 people shouting "NO" from my carriage as we met fellow frustrated commuters at Canary Wharf. A few used other varients !

Despite the grim conditions people were unusually cheerful and most unusually talked to each other !

I can only draw from this that when London faces it daily pressures and troubles it does so glummly and in a surly way. However once the "pain" reaches a certain level the Blitz spirit kicks in and Londoners rediscover their humanity. That was how it seemed this evening at least.

London Bridge may well be closed again tomorrow so that is another day and I am not sure if the Blitz spirit is too easily awakened in the mornings !

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