Sunday, July 24, 2005


Rain stopped play in the first Ashes test match at Lords yesterday afternoon. The ground was packed with men in blazers and women in bright summer dresses and the England cricket team were being sent reeling back into the pavilion as their wickets fell like ninepins to the Australian bowling when big drops started to fall from the darkening sky.

The Australians, who began their current tour getting beaten by Bangladesh, minnows in the world cricket league, had found their form — and England, as they always seem do against the Aussies, had lost it.

After two weeks when bombs in the London Underground have sent police sirens and ambulances screeching around gridlocked streets and TV and radio have been dominated by news and pictures of wrecked trains, police cordons, deaths of innocent victims and stories from stunned survivors and witnesses, the news from Lords was a welcome relief because it was normal.

To hear commentators mulling over and speculating about the state of the wicket, past test match glories and England’s chances of regaining the Ashes instead of the prospects of further terrorist attacks was like listening to soothing music after the cacophony of war.

Players holed-up in the pavilion on a wet afternoon made it seem the English summer was once again in full swing despite the terrorist attacks.

Since the first bombs exploded on 7 July, pleas by the Metropolitan Police and Government for people to carry on as usual have largely been answered and Londoners have gone about their business as normally as possible.

But, though it goes on, life has changed. Wariness and nervousness haunt the streets and passengers on the buses and Underground. When they get on board they look around the carriage or bus deck. Young men with rucksacks and holdalls are eyed with suspicion; their appearance and behaviour is noted even by people who are often too preoccupied with their own concerns to notice other travellers. Some whose suspicions are aroused get off before their destination stop or station and walk the rest of the way to the office. Others have swapped public transport for bikes or pay the congestion charge to take their cars into central London. The possibility of bag searches and airport style security on the Underground, causing delays in getting both to work and going home after it, hangs in the air. Extra staff may be posted by ticket barriers. Sniffer dogs already prowl some stations.

The utter ordinariness and normality of the rain stopped play scenario at the Lords test match was not an illusion. It happened all right and for a moment made things seem to have been restored to the way they have always have been and we expect they always will.
The change, the difference the terrorist bombs have made is that we no longer can. We will now have to fight to keep the safety and normality of the packed, uncomfortable work journeys that we have for so long taken for granted.
DOES HE THINK HE’S WORTH IT? The latest pictures show Saddam Hussein with bottle black hair. Perhaps he uses L’Oreal because he thinks he’s worth it. Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2005 All Rights Reserved