Tuesday, 10 July 2012

All White Then Black

On Thursday, 7th July 2005 I managed to organise working from home for the week, having spent the past few months working every week in London from Monday to Friday, returning home only at the weekends. I was back in London again the following week.

I sometimes wonder, if I had travelled down to head office in Marylebone, as normal via Kings Cross that very week, whether or not I might have been involved in some way. It was a Thursday, so it was less likely, but who ever will know?

Last Saturday, 7th July, was the seventh anniversary of the London bombings. Three of them occurred simultaneously at 08:50 on three tube trains : at Aldgate, Russell Square and Edgware Road - the other one an hour later on a No.30 bus at Tavistock Square, which was more than usually crowded because, by then, the whole London Underground had ceased operation in light of events and people were trying to get to work overground instead.

I wrote this poem as a direct response to this human tragedy, but particularly having watched an extraordinarily high quality, moving, but very sympathetically made television documentary on BBC2, "7/7: One Day in London", which was shown late on Wednesday, 4th July.

I have used the first hand accounts of a handful of the characters interviewed in this documentary to provide the substance of the poem. These were people, who were directly affected by the bombings. I've focussed on four victims in particular, with one stanza to talk of their personal preamble and another stanza later in the piece to recount their personal outcomes.

Through this poem, I offer my belated condolences for the families of the fifty-two people who lost their lives and to those who survive and will probably carry with them for the rest of their lives not just the physical scars, but also the emotional scars, that are etched into their conscious and sub-conscious minds...

...I'd like to make mention of some of those, who took part in the documentary, both the living (who had the courage to speak with such honesty) and the dead: William, Stan, Martine, Tracy (who recounted her experience in such an impressive, poetic way, that she effectively provided the title and theme of the poem), Philip, Yoko, Kathy, Bill, James, Matt, Laura... and many more whose painful memories and suffering live on.

And all because the minds of four young men were damaged by extreme indoctrination. From whatever source, extremism must be tempered by a balanced education.

Yet, once again this shows how even the most horrific acts of inhuman behaviour always seem to be met by the strength, generosity and goodness of the human spirit, in an undoubtedly unifying act. The last line of the poem makes this point. You will find it here.


  1. I remember that day so well, John, as I was in my unit kitchen baking as usual...heard the news on R4...went cold while looking out over the peaceful farmland the window faced...& wondered why there is so much hatred in the world. Your poem was very moving & really brought home the ordinariness of that day before all was shattered & changed forever for those involved. We often pass those places & I always try & take a minute to remember. I'm sorry that I missed the documentary, will try & watch it on the iplayer. I think the poem is a real tribute. Hope all is well with you all x

    1. We must be psychic, you and I! After a very busy period (helping my step-mum move home and an extraordinarily painful and drawn out negotiation of an insurance claim on a leak from our bathroom shower!) I fell to thinking about you, apropos nothing other than I wondered where you are with your book - I am still working on the anthology!

      Anyway, we are well, but covered in noise and builders dust at present! Thank you for commenting here, Rachel; I'm glad you found something in the poem for an event, which is engraved on most people's memories.

  2. That one comment about extremism will stay with me.

  3. The BBC's web site reports today on the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings and the commemoration services that are happening. It also provides the stories of the fifty-two individuals, who died, in the form of mini-biographies ... http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33259919

    There are some poignant accounts, particular of a few of the victims who changed their travel routine on the fateful day ... none are more poignant than of Jennifer Nicholson - my daughter's namesake, who was also the same age as my daughter - who died. What wasn't reported was that her mother, a vicar. later renounced the cloth and gave up her vocation because she could not bring herself to forgive those who were responsible for the bombings! How many lives are affected by such atrocities!


Don't leave without letting me know what this article made you think, how it made you feel ... good or bad, I'll take either.