Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Leaving london

Part 2

The idea was to get to Pamplona late Friday night, July 8, watch the third running of the bulls of this year’s Festival de San Fermin on Saturday morning, then risk my life for no good reason by joining the running on Sunday.

But on July 7 some assholes with bombs on their backs decided to take out 50 people on the London underground.

I felt mildly patriotic riding the tube the next day anyway, even if it was only me and one other person riding in the subway car when it passed through the King’s Cross station. The other guy was reading a London tabloid paper, splashed with giant gloom and doom fonts and enormous pictures of bleeding commuters staggering out of the very same station the day before.

The train came to a stop at King’s Cross, but the conductor announced that the doors would not be opening. Two police officers on the platform, each toting a semi-automatic machine gun, gave me a good look as I sat with my hiking backpack on my lap, trying and apparently failing to not look suspicious.

The journey from the University of Sussex, which is located in Falmer (a tiny suburb of Brighton) to London Stansted Airport is about a 3 hour trip assuming no delays. I planned on the tube system being down, so I was prepared to walk the half hour through the city center it would take to get between London Bridge and the London Liverpool Street train station, where I would catch the Stansted Express for the last 45-minute leg to the airport.

I gave myself two extra hours of padding, because there was no fucking way I was going to miss my plane to Santander, Spain, and subsequently my bus to Pamplona. The terrorists weren’t going to take the several hundred dollars in transport reservations I had already confirmed.

Thanks to the Londoners who were so pissed off they could think of nothing else then to get everything back to normal as quick as possible, the tube was back up by the time I left Falmer station at a few minutes past 7 a.m., less than 24 hours after the attacks.

Even though the tube lines I needed were back up, sheer luck got me north to Stansted. First, the train I needed to London Bridge from Brighton was cancelled because of a mechanical problem. I jumped on a different train leaving a few minutes later and headed to London Victoria--I could take the tube from there and bypass London Liverpool street altogether.

I emerged from the underground at Tottenham Hale, well north of London Liverpool Street, only to find that a security alert 15 minutes earlier led to the full evacuation and closure of the London Liverpool Street station. They stopped sending trains north to the airport and shut down the Stansted Express, the one route I figured would be the best bet of the morning. I instantly recognized the significance of my first train out of Brighton being cancelled, since had it ever left, I would have made it to Liverpool right as the cops cleared the building, and be stuck in the city center rather than its northern outskirts. I heard later that an abandoned briefcase caused the evacuation.

Again, the terrorists weren’t getting my fucking money, and I was going to get to Pamplona and risk my life on more predictable terms. Some other would-be Stansted Express passengers and I organized ourselves in groups of five and headed for the taxi rank. What would normally take 45 minutes by train took almost two hours by taxi, and cost another £100 (almost $200). But again, small price to pay, especially when split among five, considering my non-refundable investment.

At 11:55 a.m. in light rain, the plane took off, and I thought something about how I really should have paid more attention during four years of high school Spanish. If Senorra Novillo could see me now.


Blogger tina said...

You're blog made some interesting reading...i liked it!!and sounds like you had quite a laugh in Spain I must try it!

6:58 PM  

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