Eric Sykes, My memory of the London bombings and how to fill on live TV…

Eric Sykes, My memory of the London bombings and how to fill on live TV…

I know this entry is slightly late; I’ve been writing it for over an hour and have yet to get past the first section which is currently 940 words long, so I’ve decided to cover everything else here and will make a separate entry to cover my escapades on Thursday, which will include a picture or three.

So, what else has made its way into my hula-hoop* this week?

Sadly, we lost Eric Sykes on Wednesday. His career spanned six decades and he was part of my childhood, seemingly always on TV somewhere and always funny. His prowess as a straight actor should not be overlooked either; having had guest slots in various prime time dramas such as Holby City and The Bill, appearing in a Harry Potter movie and voicing The Tellytubbies. It is fair to say that he was the kind of entertainer one would have to search far and wide to find in the modern era.

This week also saw the anniversary of the London bombings on 7th July 2005. There was a programme on the BBC called “7/7: One day in London”- it is still on the iPlayer as I write and if you’ve not seen it, please make the effort to do so before it gets taken off. Everyone knows where they were on that day and we’ve all got different stories and were affected in different ways.

I was managing a group of properties in central London at the time, one of which was almost directly opposite Holborn station, one stop away from Russell Square, where one of the bombs was detonated. There were some arrangements in place for my reception area to be used in event of a major incident – this will be relevant later on.

My day didn’t get under-way until around 8:15 that morning – I’d got a project going on which entailed me working 2-10pm for a few evenings that week so I was having the morning at home. As was the custom I put the radio on and got on with general bits and pieces which always includes several buckets of tea! My attention was grabbed by Jon Gaunt who was the mid-morning presenter on BBC London at the time – he was going into a travel & news bulletin and closed with the words “if anyone knows what is going on around Liverpool Street, please let us know”. LS happens to be the main-line station I use most to get in and out of London, so I was now listening intently. It seemed that there had been some sort of power surge that had lead to some sort of explosion – bad news if you are caught up in it or need to be around there in the immediate future. Things then developed and there were reports of similar problems at Aldgate east, which told me the problem was on the sub-surface lines (H&C and Circle). I know the geography of that area quite well and had already decided to take a different route into work later on. However, as we know all too well, this was only the beginning of the worst day peacetime London has ever known.

Before long it was apparent that this was BIG and I put the BBC news channel on – I really could not take in what I was seeing – as reports came in about incidents at Edgware Road and Russell Square, I called through to the security supervisor on site and asked him if there were any issues – he was unaware of anything going on so I quickly gave him a run-down and gave him some alternate means of contacting me – I knew the cellular networks would get busy and didn’t want to be out of contact. I asked if anyone had been over from LUL and was told that the DSM had been in, but that we would not be needed, which was a relief in a lot of ways.

As the morning wore on I was taking a lot of calls from the tenants on site – “What are we supposed to do”. “are we getting extra security”? “what are the contingency plans”? And so on. I was at pains to point out that nothing was being allowed in or out of London at the time, which was unprecedented; if the Police and other services are being over-run with this, what chance did we have, and that they should do whatever their company policy dictated – although I doubted that there was a chapter to cover what was going on. I did wonder how these people reacted and coped when the IRA was busy in London in the 70’s & 80’s but thought better than to comment.

I managed to make the main complainant see sense and she let me know that they were going to seek advice from the Police. By this time I was aware that nothing was moving in London, transport wise, and there was no estimate as to when things would get moving again. I began to think about the work that had been programmed in for the evening and called the company that were doing the bulk of it – we decided there and then that we would put it all off until the following week. By now the cellular networks in London had either been flooded with traffic or had been closed down as a security precaution, so the e-mail took a hammering. At around 1pm I got a call from my brother-in-law asking if I was okay – it had not occurred to me that people might consider I’d been caught up in it all.

The images of London that afternoon, with people walking along the traffic-free streets are still fresh in my mind. It was almost post-apocalyptic and as time went on, the full horror of what had happened began to emerge – I cannot begin to imagine what drove the people to commit these unspeakable acts – did they think for a second that they would win any friends by killing all those innocent people and changing the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of others forever?

Expecting delays the following morning, I left it until the end of rush-hour to head into the office. I need not have worried – the tubes were almost deserted at 9:30 when even on a Friday, seats are at a premium. Everyone that remotely fitted the loose description of the suspected bombers was at least eyed with suspicion and in some cases, thrown off the train by other, understandably jumpy passengers.

I started this section by letting you know about the BBC programme, now that I’ve finished recounting the day, may I suggest you catch “7/7: One Day In London” again?

This week also saw the British Grand Prix. I’m not going to review the race or the events around it, other than to say that I don’t think the BRDC did anything wrong – they are used to dealing with rain but the amount we’ve had in the past week (and seem set to continue getting this coming week) is more than any contingency plan can reasonably be expected to cater for. What I thought was brilliant was during the qualifying show on the BBC – a red flag during qualifying means only one thing for the presentation team – FILL!

The BBC managed to pull it out of the hat – not only did Eddie Jordan manage to swear, which caused Jake Humphrey to apologise, but they managed to get Mr. F1, Murray Walker, into the commentary box. This little event caused me to grin like an idiot – MURRAY WALKER was on the BBC again! There are very few people that have the effect of stopping me in my tracks, but hearing his voice has just that effect. I used to bump into him from time to time when I went to a lot of racing and track-days back in the late 80’s and early 90’s and he was always someone you didn’t just hear, you “listened” to. Hearing him speak, interviewing Bruno Senna and reproducing two of his famous phrases was enough to have me welling with emotion and became the highlight of what was an otherwise pretty mundane session.

I have no idea what Sky did for the race as I’m no longer a subscriber, but amongst the post on Saturday was an invitation to rejoin Sky FREE for SIX MONTHS – the total package, which is what I had when I left them in April. The one exception to this is the “HD Pack” which is effectively a £10 premium (per month) for getting a number of channels in HD. I have until the end of July to take up this offer. If they were to include the HD bit, my resolve might be tested to the extreme, but as it stands; no deal.

I know I’ve gone on about 7/7 a bit in this entry, but I’ve never written about it before and I doubt I will again – what happened that day will never be forgotten by anyone who was affected to any degree; that is a given. That said, it does show that Londoners are a resilient lot and whilst life does undoubtedly go on, we never forget our own.

* Phrase borrowed from a friend in the US, which has found its way into my vocabulary.


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