Maybe it is just a fundamental difference between us and other countries but according to some foreign media, everyone in the UK and particularly London is terrified but as the headline in the Independent revealed, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
I have to say that I’m not in the slightest bit terrified nor do I give it a second thought. I may not have lived through The Blitz but I did go to university during a period when IRA bombs were going off in London extremely regularly, sometimes several in a week or even a day. In fact once I was told by my professor that having 2 bombs go off between my station and the college was not sufficient reason to be 15 minutes late for class. He was right of course.
And with an attitude like that, it is just my tiny way of demonstrating how impossible the task is in front of the terrorists. Is the country that has seen off more enemies than any other really going to cower in terror at a bunch of losers with a few knives or access to a van? Hardly. And in the big scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter except for the unfortunate people killed or injured.
I really think even the British media is over-hyping things, let alone foreign media. I remember just in the 1990’s when the IRA would murder someone and it resulted in 2 minutes of newstime towards the end of the newscast with the events reported unemotionally and factually. There really is more chance to die in any number of ways, in a car crash, normal street crime, natural disaster or human catasrophe… in many other countries just by being shot by non-terrorists.
So no, I’m not terrified and I’m not reeling and I don’t know anyone who is. Some things that leave me reeling are when the local shop has run out of soya milk, I arrive on time for my bus to find it went early and then the next one arrives late. Or when someone sits next to me on the tube early in the morning when the train is empty and by close to me I mean within 20 or 30 seats…. double that if they are on their phone or have music playing.
The defiance began at the police cordon. It was mingled with the first floral tributes and the signs with the slogan “For London”.
And it found its purest expression in Chris and Isabel Charlton, strolling hand in hand in the sunshine, eight months married; pausing, as it happened, right where the police lines began, to kiss in the middle of the street.
You couldn’t let the terrorists win, said Mr Charlton, 39. You couldn’t succumb to hate. “You’ve got to carry on,” he added.
They live locally and had been to Borough Market twice that day. Only the coincidence of friends coming round for supper had stopped them having a meal in one of the market’s restaurants that night.
It could have been them, caught up in a terrorist rampage that left seven dead after a van ploughed into pedestrians on London Bridge, before moving on to Borough Market where attackers started stabbing people.
So weren’t they now terrified, as the killers wanted them to be, as some news networks seemingly expected them to be? “Terrified?” said the faultlessly polite Mr Charlton. “That’s a bit strong. We’re probably going to go shopping … Very mundane. Sorry.”
Next to pass was Andrea Woelke, German-born and 25 years a Londoner, in the process of getting a British passport, with his seven-month-old son in a baby carrier.
From where we were in Union Street, you could peer inside the cordon and just about see what looked like containers for first aid equipment, seemingly discarded by paramedics in the rush to help the wounded.
Mr Woelke said “The terrorists want us to freak out,” he said. “They want life not to return to normal. The best way to stick two fingers up to them is to get on with our lives, and our democracy.”
With a restless seven-month-old baby to placate, the best way to keep calm was to carry on walking. “We might meet friends for coffee,” he said, strolling on, more frightened of the baby starting to wail again than any terrorists.
At the Rose and Crown, across the road from the cordon, you could find people at the bar, still cracking jokes about Brexit and each other (even if today they had to tell the foreign news crews where to find a fancy meal, this being a proper, crisps-only sort of establishment).
Suggestions that fear should have kept them from a Sunday lunchtime pint were met only with bemusement and shrugged shoulders. “Well I’m not terrified,” said Robert Discipline, 53. “Life has to go on.”
Omar Morris, 37, a decorator and theatrical prop maker said “They won’t stop me from doing nothing,” he said. “There’s no way they can change me or make me a different person.”
Nor was he going to fall into the terrorists’ trap of starting to hate Muslims. He wasn’t going to let the recruiters’ propaganda that everyone in the West hated Islam ring true. “I’m not a hater,” he said, with a rather cheeky grin.
John King laughed at the idea he must be frightened. “I’m not frightened in the least,” he said. “I’m the gentlest, politest chap you’ll meet, but I’ve never been terrified of nobody in all my life and I’m not going to start now.
“Mum had been in the Blitz. Dad had been in a Japanese POW camp.” Now that, said Mr King, had been “hard, hard, hard”. “That bunch of f*cking animals aren’t going to make me afraid.”
At the neighbouring table Danny and Jeanette Rowley from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, offered a glass wine and vowed to carry on with their trip to London, despite having seen a group of Americans returning terrified to their hotel after being caught up in the attack on London Bridge.
Mrs Rowley, 50, a midwife, revealed that her granddad had been in the World War One trenches. Those previous generations, she said, had been “gutsy”.
“We’re a tough breed us Brits,” said Mr Rowley, 48, a carpenter.
It was hard now to resist such pride as other images of defiance emerge such as “pint man”, who while forced to flee the terror attack did not see the need to abandon his beer, or to spill it.
The New York Times, a newspaper that – despite what the current US President thinks – enjoys a towering reputation built on a near-obsession with fact checking, must have felt entirely safe in describing the London attacks as hitting “a nation still reeling” from the Manchester Arena bombing.
It was soon put right on Twitter by Alan, an NHS scientist. “You really don’t understand us Brits do you?” he wrote. “The only thing that leaves us reeling is a penalty shoot-out against Germany!”
“Or no milk nor tea bags,” added the next twitter user to respond.
Inevitably, the New York Times was informed what “reeling” means in British English: a wartime wife, sitting atop the rubble of her bombed out home, enjoying a nice cup of tea.
A bunch of murderers may have inflicted death and mayhem on Saturday night. But there is a reason, a folk memory, behind the T-shirt, mug and diary-selling popularity of the slogan “Keep calm and carry on”.
Perhaps the terrorists have just given us a chance to live up to it.
Below are a few other Londoners who are obviously terrorfied and reeling.
I can really sympathise with all of these things as they leave me reeling too.
It didn’t long for Isis to claim responsibility for the attack but again good humour came to the fore with the same predictability that has Isis claiming responsibility for terror attacks around the world, often ones they have nothing to do with.
Apart from a big dollup of Keep Calm and Carry On, I think the media should make more of some of the heroes of the attack who confronted the terrorists either with simple police batons or skateboards or bar stools. One such gentleman is 47 year old Roy Larner who is thought to have saved possibly dozens of lives by fighting all 3 armed terrorists with only his fists.
He explains how he reacted when the killers burst into the restaurant shouting “Islam, Islam” and “This is for Allah”.
“Like an idiot, I shouted back at them. I thought, ‘I need to take the p*** out of these b******s’.”
“I took a few steps towards them and said, ‘F*** you, I’m Millwall’. So they started attacking me.”
Mr Larner added: “I stood in front of them trying to fight them off. Everyone else ran to the back.
“I was on my own against all three of them, that’s why I got hurt so much.
“It was just me, trying to grab them with my bare hands and hold on. I was swinging.
“I got stabbed and sliced eight times. They got me in my head, chest and both hands. There was blood everywhere.
“They were saying, ‘Islam, Islam!’. I said again, ‘F*** you, I’m Millwall!’
Mr Larner, from Peckham, south-east London, said the attackers eventually “ran out of the pub and legged it”.
Despite his injuries, Roy followed them outside.
“It wasn’t until I was in a police car,” said Mr Larner, “That I realised I was in a bad way. I’d been sliced up all over.”
“I didn’t think of my safety at the time,” he added. “I’d had four or five pints — nothing major.
“I can handle myself. But I was out with an old person and it was out of order.”
For those who are interested, new CCTV footage emerged overnight showing the 3 supposed terrorists attacking one last victim before being confronted by police.