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Armed police

Apparently, the police are on precautionary high alert today. That would explain the sniffer dog and four armed police on Platform 8 at Kings Cross this morning.

On a related note, Juan Cole reports that the War on Terror is over:

The Bush administration is giving up the phrase “global war on terror.”

I take it this is because they have finally realized that if they are fighting a war on terror, the enemy is four guys in a gymn [sic] in Leeds. It isn’t going to take very long for people to realize that a) you don’t actually need to pay the Pentagon $400 billion a year if that is the problem and b) whoever is in charge of such a war isn’t actually doing a very good job at stopping the bombs from going off.

Do read the rest of the excellent article.

On a possibly related note, Cool beans.

Book baton

Following the musical baton in May, sil has passed me a book baton. This is apparently a meme.

Books owned: Roughly 1000, shared with my wife but not including our two year old son’s.

Last book purchased: Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard and Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser, both from a charity shop in Biggleswade. Almost all book purchases come from charity shops.

Book reading right now: Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard. I loved the film for this book and I’ve been wanting to read a J.G. Ballard book for ages.

Books that mean a lot to me:

    Brewer’s dictionary of phrase and fable. This is my desert island book without question, stuffed as it is with old-fashioned odd shit and erudition. The cross references lead you pleasantly astray which makes it useless as a reference book but they can pass the time admirably. My inability to remember bald facts means there is always something new to read and learn.
    Rubicon by Tom Holland. About the fall of the Roman Republic: Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Mark Antony, Cicero, etc., etc. It covers the fascinating bits of a classical education I wish I’d had. I very rarely read books twice as it is, but this one I read twice in a matter of a few months and I could quite happily read it again tomorrow. It is a scholarly history but written as a human narrative: this is what academic historical research should ultimately aim to produce.
    Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. My wife often buys books which she thinks I might like but which I would probably not think of reading. Rebecca was one of these and I didn’t think it would be up to much on reputation, but it blew me away. This occasionally happens and I think X is the best novel ever until I read Y, but I think this one is quite hard to beat.
    Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. Despite his humiliating and pompous appearances on breakfast telly and his recent crappy form, Mr Forsyth is a cracking author and the first time I read this blew me away (see above). I used to read to get to sleep at university, which generally worked; it didn’t with Day of the Jackal. I’d even seen the film so kind of knew what happened but was still gripped.

Five people to whom I’m passing the baton: With the same rationale as last time, the same list:

London bombs again

I thought there were rather a lot of people at the crossroads of Grafton Way and Tottenham Court Road while we were having lunch in nearby Ask Pizza. On leaving there was a large amount of people, empty buses lined up each side of the road, and a steady press of police vehicles and sirens towards Warren Street Tube Station, where we now know there to have been a bomb, or at least a detonator explosion. We didn’t think too much of it as there is an obvious jumpiness at the moment, although it didn’t help our servers all being down when we got back to worki so we couldn’t find out what was going on. One colleague even went to Tottenham Court Road to buy a radio. Luckily, it doesn’t seem too bad although there is some uncertain excitement still at nearby University College Hospital (the HOSP next to the word GOWER on the above linked-to Streetmap map). I believe the trains are still going from Kings Cross so I hope getting home will be a lot easier than a fortnight ago.

Tavistock Square open

They’ve finally opened Tavistock Square, at least to pedestrian traffic. It looks completely normal, although I’m sure there used to be some plaques on the front of the BMA building. It was only after my previous post that I found out that it was Tavistock Square rather than Tavistock Place where the bus exploded: the former is right on my walk to work from Kings Cross and is only a few hundred yards from where I work. Yesterday, I couldn’t get through, although the police blockade was looking quite relaxed. I’ve been on holiday for a week in Cornwall, and I will admit to being glad to escape the feeling of claustrophobia in London, although I still followed the pompous updates on BBC news. The other strange thing is, further to what I wrote the other week, there is still the feeling that there is a tube strike. There are far more people walking around the Euston Road area than normal because half the underground lines are still out in the north of Central London: you never get that many people in suits walking down Gordon Street in the morning, this being a university area if anything.

Terror prevention

And it’s worth making the point that 4 years of the War on Terror don’t make me feel any safer on the way home today. I shall probably have to get to Finsbury Park to catch a train home to Bedfordshire and must admit to not fancying the idea of a bus.

Bombs in London

As everyone probably knows by now, London has just been bombed, although Seb Coe’s jubilant face still lights up BBC News. I heard the explosion at 9.50ish which must have been the bus down Tavistock Place being hit. A colleague had just pointed out the unusual sirens which must have been for the tube explosions. It still seems too early to say who did it and why although the G8 Summit is an obvious reason for the timing. Although, as far as I am aware, no-one I know has been hurt, I did get a horrible feeling when I heard the explosion coming from the direction of Kings Cross where my wife should have been arriving at 9.50ish. She is fine and stuck in north London. The main worry now is how to get home.

And, of course, what really needs to be said at this early stage is that please can we please have no knee-jerk reactions to invade Iran, introduce internment, or think that global warming and poverty suddenly don’t matter anymore.

See Wikipedia for further details.