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Sofia's Letters from London #7
by Sofia Gkiousou
2007-07-10 11:17:30
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It used to be the case that if there was one thing that characterised the English, it was that famous stiff upper lip. Well, after a few years in London it becomes quite clear that Londoners of all nationalities, cultures and religions refuse to panic and overreact, going on about their daily lives as if there are no bombing attempts happening at all. But is it really due to a calm disposition – or are people in London more detached than ever?

It is an amazing thing to live in London while the level of terrorist threat goes up and down and bomb scares keep grabbing the headlines (not to mention the platform from which you were expecting to get a train home).

Not that I have to face travel disruptions. Having a preference for living in the city and riding a scooter means that I have almost forgotten the nightmare that travelling in London with public transport can be. Most Londoners that have decided to purchase a home though are forever exiled in suburbia – due to the extortionate prices in the city – and are commuting back and forth each day. You may imagine that any travel disruption brings the city to almost a standstill.

And naturally this is not just about being inconvenienced, this is about the very real threat of getting blown up as you very happily walk along the streets or as you are having a drink. The first car bomb that failed to explode these days was outside a ‘trendy’ London club, ‘Tiger Tiger’ (between you and me, you will never find a trendy Londoner in there, it’s much more of a ‘I’m desperate for someone to go home with tonight’ kind of scene).

But Londoners seem curiously calm through all this. They get up in the morning, get into public transport and go to work as if nothing has happened. As one adorable man told BBC News the other day in a thick cockney accent ‘if i’s gonna happen i’s gonna happen what can ye do?’ And this is not just your typical ‘English’ (and I don’t think any typical English exist). This is every single person, even if living in London for the last 5 years – such as myself. You just get on with it – that’s what you do. And after a few years in London you catch the bug of soldiering on.

Compare this to the long and winding ‘healing’ road that the Americans needed following 9/11. No comparison right?

What I still can’t decide though is whether Londoners are really calm or if they have become so detached that they can’t be bothered to worry anymore. Living in a city torn apart by IRA bombings in the past – or going through the Blitz even further back in the past – Londoners seem to have acquired a type of thick skin that seems to sustain them for ever more.

The only concern I’ve got is how communities will continue to live together in harmony if some are dangerously close to being profiled as ‘extremist’. I am only hoping that the international style of the city will see us through.

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Asa2007-07-10 11:25:14
Welcome back, Sofia!

Londoners have always been that way, especially during the Blitz. Stiff upper-lips and all that... rah rah!

Sofia2007-07-11 13:51:33
Thanks Asa.

What strikes me as odd is how people living in London for only a few years seem to get a case of that stiff upper lip pretty sharpish

Asa2007-07-11 14:16:12
Most people's stiff upper lip is lost above their loose flabby chin.

Sofia2007-07-12 00:03:46
lol. Well spotted

Asa2007-07-12 17:51:11
I wish it was my line, but credit should go to Tony Hancock and Kenneth Williams in the comedy sketch 'The Test Pilot'.

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