What a difference a day makes

My body clock is having a bit of struggle adjusting to Welsh Summer Time so I thought I’d confront my insomnia by posting the following story….

One summer morning in 2005 I rose early and left my house – I was living in Nottingham then – and took a train to London. I was quite excited. I was going to be interviewed later that day for a programme in the BBC TV series Horizon called The Hawking Paradox. The filming was to take place inside the Café de Paris near Piccadilly Circus, for the simple reason that it wasn’t used during the daytime, and would therefore be both quiet and cheap to hire. I was keen not to be late so I got a train that was due to arrive at St Pancras Station in London at about 9.30am.

On the train I dealt with a few bits of correspondence, filling in forms and writing out cheques to pay bills, so had a couple of  items of mail to post when I got to London. The train was on time, and it was a fine morning, so I decided to walk from the station down through Soho to the location of the shoot.

I crossed Euston Road and walked down towards Bloomsbury. Spying  a bright red Royal Mail postbox across the road  in Tavistock Square, I waited for a bus to go past, crossed the road and popped my letters into the box. I looked at my watch to see if I had time for coffee on the way to Piccadilly. It was exactly 9.45am, on July 6th 2005.

I enjoyed the filming, although it took quite a long time – as these things do. Breaking for lunch in a local pizzeria, we were surrounded by a hubbub of excitement when news broke that London had been awarded the right to stage the 2012 Olympics. We finished the filming and I headed back to Nottingham on the train. All-in-all it had been a very pleasant day.

Last week the inquest into the terrorist attacks on London delivered its long awaited verdict into the terrible events of 7th July 2005, the day after my trip. Here is a picture of the postbox in Tavistock Square taken on 7/7/2005. The bomb that tore the roof off the bus and killed 13 people went off at 9.47am, almost exactly 24 hours after I had been in precisely the same spot. Spooky.


6 Responses to “What a difference a day makes”

  1. Daniel Mortlock Says:

    Hi Peter,

    Sobering stuff. Do you remember your reaction upon i) hearing about the “7/7” attacks and then, presumably sometime later that day, ii) finding out that the bus had been blow up where and “when” you’d been the day before?


  2. telescoper Says:

    My immediate reaction to the news about 7/7 was one of shock, followed by a terribly selfish thought – I was glad I’d got home before the railway network shut down, which I believe lasted several days. Had I arrived on a train at 9.30 on 7/7 I’m not sure what would have happened either. Was St Pancras open then? The tube bombs had gone off earlier, I think.

    It was only some time later when I realised that the bus blew up right next to the very spot I’d been in 24 hours earlier. I was then gripped by thoughts of whether I would have survived, or been injured. The bus was apparently pretty full, and the 13 people that died were apparently all on it. The main force of the explosion, however, seems to have been taken by the roof which blew completely off. Had that not been the case, or the bomb been downstairs, many more would have been killed. There must have been injuries to pedestrians in the street, but as far as I know, no deaths.

    I still wonder how I would have reacted if I had been there when the bomb went off. Would I have been able to help anyone? I like to think I would have tried but I’m not sure what use I would have been. I may have just panicked and fled.

    Another thing that struck me in accounts of the day was that the bus was stuck in heavy traffic that had been diverted because of earlier incidents. The street wasn’t at all busy on the day I was there. Moreover, the bus that exploded was a number 30 whose route doesn’t usually go down that road anyway. I don’t remember what number bus I saw, but it certainly wouldn’t have been a 30.

    • Daniel Mortlock Says:

      Thanks for the interesting reply – and I know only too well the guiltily selfish/trivial reaction to something far more serious.

  3. I arrived in London with with family on the 6/7 and accidentally found ourselves in Trafalgar Square when the Olympics was announced – very happy time (and the kids thought it was great). Next morning I was outside Wapping tube, taking then to the NHM when they pulled the gates and said the trains had stopped due to a power surge. We were trying to bundle the kids onto a bus into the city instead, but weren’t quick enough, so stood at the bus stop and waited for the next one.

    Then someone told us there would be no more buses that morning……

  4. Anton Garrett Says:

    The last weekend before Christmas in 1983 I was visiting London and was staying at a friend’s flat in South Kensington. I planned to walk along the Cromwell Road into central London next day – better than the tube because the weather was good and I enjoyed getting to know London. But I spent too long in bed, took the tube – and avoided walking past Harrods at around the time the IRA bombed it. There is much to be said for sloth.

    Also, I was at Lords for the 2005 Ashes Test there, and on the first day of that memorable series the failed bombings took place that were meant to be a follow-up to 7/7 a fortnight earlier. This time the home-made fuses failed. It was a while before the media got the story straight and more than one friend rang my mobile asking if everything was OK. I answered by discussing England’s prospects in the match.

    I remember Tony Blair, then the Prime Minister, saying that terrorists would not wreck our way of life. I’m not surprised, for I had long thought that that was his job.

  5. […] I forgot to mention another event, in 2005, when I was at the precise location of a bomb explosion but precisely 24 hours […]

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