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As you may have noticed in my previous posts, I will never be truly British. My manners are terrible, and I care about substance rather than style. I often forget to send Thank You cards and when I am bored I can’t stop yawning. The only way I get around this is by doing my pelvic floor exercises (25 reps) sitting at the host table or on a chair, and also by sucking my tummy in and then gently releasing it (25 reps). I once was so bored at a Christmas party that I managed to do 5 series of each. My husband credits this technique for my reasonably flat tummy.  On top of the physical benefits, it prevents me from yawning.

But I am a Londoner. Oh yes. How do I know it? Well, the start of July is always an emotional time for me. 6 years ago, almost to the day, I was back to work after a 6-month maternity leave. On 7th of July 2005, I dropped my elder daughter to school at app. 8.40 am and took the Victoria Line to go to Euston station. As usual, I was rushing –life as a Mum is about having to hurry up all the time-. I had a main line train to catch from Euston station at 9.25 am, to visit yet another factory.
London was in a jolly mood. The city had just been selected for the 2012 Olympics and it was a beautiful day. Then, on the Tube, something happened. My train started to go very slowly from Warren Street Tube station on and, when we finally reached Euston, all tube services had stopped. We were all evacuated at the same time, which seemed to take forever as the tube station was packed. The messages were mentioning a power surge over and over again. I didn’t realise that a bombing had happened. All I could think about was that I was going to miss my train. I was next to two gorgeous women who seemed to come from Eastern Europe. They were talking about catching a bus. I don’t know what happened to them (a bus departing from Euston station was bombed half an hour later). All the passengers seem relaxed –incidents on the Tube happen all too frequently-. Unbeknownst to us, four terrorists had detonated four bombs, three in quick succession aboard London Underground trains across the city and, later, a fourth on a bus. Fifty-two people, were killed in the attacks (excluding the bombers), and about 700 more were injured.
I managed to catch my train. Only later in the day did I find out about what had happen and the full scale of the horror didn’t dawned on me until a few weeks later. The rest of the day passed fast. I couldn’t call anyone as all the networks had all been shut down but I manage to reassure my family with text messages –go figure!!!-
Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t a victim or anything, and I got an easy escape. The whole experience has an unexpected impact on me: I am a Londoner. I belong here despite the fact that I am French. I have changed too: I used to think the terrorists were “freedom fighters”. Now I don’t think that they deserve any compassion whatsoever. They certainly didn’t show any to the commuters and tourists who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The whole episode made me more grateful about what I am, and also helped me to put things into perspective: life can change pretty quickly. And, by heart, I am a Londoner.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London
  • Welcome to London. I hope only that it is where you wish to be. And that if there be a next time, you and your family remain safe.

  • I understand you, yes. I live in a big town next to Madrid (Fuenlabrada) and I go to Madrid every day to work by train, underground and bus. I have had the same feeling as you had when I arrived to my School, in Madrid, and I realised that some trains had been bombed and 200 people had died (I don’t know exactly the number of injured, but if you think that, in the mornings, the trains arrive to Madrid completely crammed, I know for sure there were hundred and hundred of injured that day). I could have been traveling in one of those trains, or waiting in the railway stations, next to them. Fortunately, neither I nor my family were on those trains.

    I was very lucky, yes. And you too.

    Regards 🙂

  • Oh my goodness, what a way to find out how connected you feel to a city you live in. Tragedies like these really do connect all of us more closely together, when we realize the fragility of our lives. Unsettling but lovely post!

  • This is such a chilling recollection actually; but interesting that you found your connection. We are bound by grief; only grief is when we realize what makes all humans one. Unsettling but a calling indeed!

  • Wrong place, wrong time and you were very fortunate to be somewhere ‘right’…somewhere you were meant to be in. Happy you were/are safe. And truly in times of serious trouble, race, color, language, etc cease to be identity anchors. It’s the common sentiment of survival that highlights our humanity.

  • I remember hearing about the London bombing too, and worrying about relatives there. A part of me is still a Londoner, but having left at the age of 5 my heart is firmly in Oz. It’s nice to know that you can relocate so wholeheartedly.
    Josie x

  • It must have been terrible to be so close to such events and realise just how lucky it wasnt you. Things like that often make us sit up and as I say “give us a kick up the bum” to appreciate what we do have.
    For you, it has bonded you with London in ways that other things couldnt.
    As an aside next time I am yawning I might just try the pelvic floor tip, it might work on a number of fronts.
    Thanks for sharing such a post. Everyone has their very own very personal story about this life of ours.

  • Sometimes it takes a tragedy or harrowing experience to open our eyes. I’m so glad you and your loved ones were okay, Muriel. We love you — no matter what city you claim.

  • It’s amazing how defining moments change the way we think and determine our future. I had a friend many years ago from Northern Ireland. She said that the people there were so used to bomb blasts that they would just carry on as though nothing happened. She was in Marks and Spencers in Belfast, pregnant with her third child one day, and a bomb went off in the building next door. Their whole building shook like crazy and people just carried on shopping. That was when she decided to emmigrate to Canada were her sister and family lived, along with her own family. You have accepted as part of being a Londoner that London IS a target, but this is part and parcel of living there. I hope this helps you as you forge ahead with life. Thanks for sharing as always Muriel!

  • What a gripping, reflective post. I do think it’s exactly those kind of events, that, while no-one would want to be caught up in them, bind a person to a place. We lived in Westminster in the early 90s and actually heard three IRA bombs detonate, one small one was only 100 meters away and it practically blew us out of bed.

    (I am so delighted with your comment on my blog, dear Muriel. You must be among the toughest of critics, as you know the mores of Provence first-hand. Thank you.)

  • Muriel, it’s heartbreaking to realize the impact senseless acts of terrorism have on the world. I can only imagine how traumatising an experience of this kind can have on people. I’m glad you weren’t harmed. Great post!

  • Hi Muriel –

    I believe the whole concept behind terrorism is to frighten people. It’s not so much about the quantity of deaths, although that certainly matters most to all of us, for a terrorist it’s about scaring people. Certainly you thought about this horrific event for many months after it happened. As a mother moving about with her children for fun; walking around a London park, museum, or taking a bus; you probably recall this event often. I’m glad you’re safe. 🙂

  • I love that you are so honest and real! This is a great post and London is lucky to have you!

  • Wow an interesting post! You’re so right, everything can change so quickly. One just never knows when. It’s a scary, but empowering thought!

  • Wow, what a story! Thaanks for sharing!

  • This is a gripping story especially the way you relate it, and to it, with the two well-dressed women talking about taking a bus – perhaps the one that was bombed. I can understand how the fact that you were there at the time and could have been hurt or killed, and you shared Londeners’ shock and anger made you feel one of them. My American mother had the same reaction when she was in England during WWII. Everyone bonded when facing a mutual enemy.

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