Monday, 25 January 2010

Yeah, things could be worse.

I had a crap Monday morning. Spilled an entire cup of coffee in my entrance hall and then had to catch the tube because it was grey and drizzling. The tube was packed and as we sat beneath King's Cross I decided to start wondering about why the terror threat level in the UK has just been raised to severe. And then vowed to cycle for the rest of the week.

Last night I'd been reading about the Blitz, which probably fired my imagination. Thinking about the destruction bombs on a city as dense as London must've caused, I looked it up. The numbers are astonishing: on the 7 September 1940, 364 bombers attacked, escorted by 515 fighters. Between 100 and 200 bombers attacked London every night but one between mid-September and mid-November. Arsenal football ground was bombed. Euston station was bombed. (Which explains why it's such a bleak little box now.)

This picture of St Paul's Cathedral was taken after a night of frantic bombing of the City, which caused a firestorm so bad it came to be known as The Second Great Fire of London. (Whenever I see St Paul's I think about it surviving the Blitz and give a little cheer.)

And as for my commuting woes, apparently during the years of the Blitz there was a little reported phenomenon called 'trekking', where central Londoners moved away from the city and commuted several hours to work and back every day. Or slept in local parks. Can you imagine having to do that? I suppose the general terror of wondering whether bombs would fall on your building at night was a big motivator. Never mind having to fight to get on the tube, imagine having to sleep on it. I felt a bit more grateful as I walked along the platform to come home, this evening. An eyewitness account:

'By 4.00 p.m. all the platforms and passage space of the underground station are staked out, chiefly with blankets folded in long strips laid against the wall – for the trains are still running and the platforms in use. A woman or child guards places for about six people. When the evening comes the rest of the family crowd in.'


  1. I can't imagine what it would have been like. I've seen photos of people camping out at Bethnal Green tube. That's an amazing photo of St Paul's - thank god it survived. xx

  2. If you'd like to read an excellent account of a young woman's experiences of living and working in central London during the war then I can recommend "Few eggs and no oranges:the diaries" by Vere Hodgson. One of my beloved Persephone books.
    I think cycling might be the best option for a while.xx

  3. Wow what an impressive photo of St of London's most sacred monuments. Thankfully it is still standing. Great post x

  4. we've been re-watching "band of brothers" in great anticipation of the premiere of "the pacific" on hbo, and it doesn't matter how many times i hear or see things about ww II, it's like a punch in the gut every time. what's odd to me is that i feel much more connected and sympathetic towards that war than i do anything that's gone on in our lifetime.

  5. What a picture...

    And I should really stop bemoaning my drive/walk to work! Note to self there!!

    Hope the rest of your week has been better? x