Now something strange has happened. The blogosphere and mobile phone mpegs are reporting the bombing, and capturing the zeitgeist in its complex reality, in a different way than the broadcast media - which are all being excellent, by the way. The Guardian Media journos have just rung me to talk about this and we agree it is a phenomenon: seeing mpegs on the BBC 10 O'clock News was just the tip of the iceberg.
Jump straight into the following: a survivor of the Edgware Road bomb recounts the full horror; Letter to the Terrorists picks up the zeitgeist of beer and stoicism; Perfect (one of this blog's regular trackbackers) is on the case, while Yesbutnobut seems to be aggregating bomb blogs. Europhobia picks up a common theme of refusing to be deflected from the G8 agenda, posting pictures of starving African kids, saying:
"23:20 - Nearly time for bed. All I ask is that we don't forget the others who have died today, from whom those ******* terrorists managed to distract our attention."
Sitting at Edinburgh airport yesterday I decided to suspend the blog: while blogging was proving a good way of creating a little ecosphere around my broadcast reports this was something different. But as it turns out the blogosphere has sprung to life around the bombing in a way it really did not around the G8...
...at the airport I was rung by my friends from Tianjin TV (Chinese journalists don't get full access to the wires) to check facts and ask: how do British people feel, and how will it affect the G8. I gave a terse "don't know" to both.
I was then capsuled in the transport chaos until 9pm when I reached home. Me and my wife (who had been on standby all day to receive casualties at a London hospital but received none, and was frazzled) went to our local Indian restaurant, and that answered the first question...
It was packed with the archetypal London young office workers who would have been the main victims yesterday: a few had 1000 yard stares, but most were just smiling and happy and manic and consuming a lot of alcohol. From the blogs it seems that London hit beer and curry en masse yesterday evening, turning out to celebrate life. The Bangladeshi chefs and waiters had walked from Canary Wharf to Kennington, miles away, to get to work.
For that generation, this is their blitz. But there are a lot of stereotypes of the original blitz around: Orwell's 1940 diaries tell it like it was, and thinking about that led me back to his blitz masterpiece, The Lion and the Unicorn, which begins:
"As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me."
"The gentleness of the English civilization is perhaps its most marked characteristic. You notice it the instant you set foot on English soil. It is a land where the bus conductors are good-tempered and the policemen carry no revolvers. In no country inhabited by white men is it easier to shove people off the pavement...One can learn a good deal about the spirit of England from the comic coloured postcards that you see in the windows of cheap stationers' shops. These things are a sort of diary upon which the English people have unconsciously recorded themselves. Their old-fashioned outlook, their graded snobberies, their mixture of bawdiness and hypocrisy, their extreme gentleness, their deeply moral attitude to life, are all mirrored there."
I think: replace the words "postcards" with blogs, and "English" with that multicultural mixture of young black, asian and white Brits, Aussies and Polish plumbers that is the London workforce and you're getting close to understanding what's going on. Of course all the details have changed: the cops carry MP-5s, the bus conductors are not so good tempered etc. But...
This is a generation that is mightily proud of itself for things like Live8, for the Euro96 tournament and taking football back from the yobs, for the feistiness of the young women who wander round in confident packs during happy hour, for its tolerance, for UK Garage, for winning the 2012 Olympics with a bid that included cross-cultural community organisations in the East End. It is clear from a lot of the blogs that the bombs were seen as an attack on all that. As LNR's blog put it yesterday:
"Our city works. We rather like it. And we're going to go about our lives. We're going to take care of the lives you ruined. And then we're going to work. And we're going down the pub."
Or, as George Orwell put it rather more poetically, in his poem about the Spanish Civil War:
"No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit."