Sunday, 26 March 2017

Upon Westminster Bridge

In March 2015, @andimecbandi and I had been together for a year and we decided to do something to "mark" the occasion (celebrating not really being a Scottish thing).

We looked at various options and in the end resolved there was no finer ( or easier) destination for a short weekend break than our own capital city, London.

We flew down after work on the Friday and back late on the Sunday, resolved to cram in as much as possible in the short time available.

Now, I've obviously been in London many times for matters related to my work or political commitments of various sorts but I hadn't been in London as a tourist since I was still at school. On the Saturday therefor we decided to do the Tourist full bhuna.

Setting off early from our Liverpool Street base we proceeded to Tower Bridge, then through the City to St Paul's. Onwards via Fleet Street to the Inns of Court, then Trafalgar Square; Admiralty Arch; The Mall; Buckingham Palace.

Refreshment taken, we then negotiated St James Park to reach Westminster Abbey and on to Parliament Square.

Finally up  Whitehall past the Cenotaph to Downing Street, at last boarding a Tube to retire to our hotel exhausted for a wee lie doon.

On the way, as tourists do, we took lots of photographs. One of which appears above. @andimecbandi upon Westminster Bridge.

It's not a great photograph, for the sun is directly behind me, but it was a photograph literally hundreds of people were trying to take of their own loved one or loved ones at exactly the same time. The Houses of Parliament, the most famous legislature in the entire world, viewed from one of the most famous bridges in the entire world, with one of the most famous rivers in the entire world also in shot.

It was of course at almost this exact spot that last Wednesday what was presumably meant to be a symbolic attack on this most visible display of our democratic life was launched. It failed. It lasted start to finish eighty two seconds before the attacker was shot dead in what was not a security failure, as some would suggest, but in surely what has to be classed as an unprecedented security success. Eighty two Seconds.

But of course, even in that eighty two seconds, three innocent civilians and one heroic Police Officer still lost their lives.

The next morning however, our Parliament was back. Appropriate tributes paid, democracy went on.

On the Sunday of our break we'd had enough of the "grand" sites of London so we headed in precisely the opposite direction, through the east end, via Petticoat Lane, and the streets and streets of open air clothes markets surrounding it, to eventually Brick Lane and its food.

It was as if you were transported to the modern day markets of Samarkand. People of every colour, culture and religion, a thousand languages being exchanged alongside the lingua franca of English. And the food! We came across a disused factory where it was possible to sample, at countless different stalls, street food from just about every country in the world.

Food served up by those originally hailing from wherever but now, altogether, Londoners. And on so many stalls, wee flags. Flags not just of the country of the food's origin but Union Flags as well. People proud of their own origins certainly but proud also now to be British.

Some times good things can come out of tragedy and I think last week might be one of these times. For in the aftermath of events it wasn't just Londoners who came together, the whole country did. In defence of our way of life in all its diversity; agreeing across the political divide with the defiant response not just of our Church of England Tory Prime Minister but also of our Muslim Labour Mayor of London.

And also in defence of our democracy. Sure, just like any political system it has its crooks, chancers and opportunists. But across the main Parties it has far more people like Tobias Ellwood MP, who ran towards the trouble, knowing not what might await, to give PC Palmer desperate medical assistance. Far, far more people like that.

In the end, in our own understated way, the whole thing made you proud, and grateful, to be British. Maybe we should all be that just a little more often.

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