Tear Gas and gun shots

Following on from my blog post about bombs in London that I had heard I thought I would write about just 2 more incidents of “slightly scary stuff that has happened to me”.

I am pretty sure it was New Year’s Eve of 1995 going into 1996. We had an Eve Eve party the night before and I may have been feeling the worse for wear. I am sure I was not drinking alcohol and we had left our flat in Ealing and were in, I think, the Harrington Arms. Someone will correct me. I was drinking orange juice, because of the night before. We were in the basement area and I went to the gents. When I came back I was greeted by one of our party who I thought was really upset and crying. It turns out this was just the effects of the tear gas that was working its way through the pub. Someone had let off a canister for fun as far as I knew and it soon affected me. My eyes and nose hurt and I felt even worse than I had from the night before. Needless to say we left and went elsewhere before heading to Parliament Square for the midnight hour.

The next incident happened on FA Cup final day in 1996 or 1997. I was at a flat just off the North End Road in London and was happily not really paying attention to the game when there were three loud bands and shouting from the flat beneath. I called the police. A while later there were plenty of armed police outside the block and they were calling up to the flat below me. I just waited and eventually someone was led away from the flats and the police spoke to me about what happened. I think the guy below just fired blanks in a rage but it didn’t matter to me. I think it could have been worse if I was out in the open and heard gun shots when I knew there shouldn’t be any.

Oh well. Life is much less exciting out here in the countryside.


Following the bomb that went off in Oslo, I decided to write down my experiences of terror.
During my time as a student in London there were 15 bombs or left packages left either by the IRA or by middle east terrorists. I lived there from 1992 to 1996. There were some huge explosions and many people died, but 99.999% of the population were safe. I always checked in at home after an explosion, calling my mum from a phone that was attached to the wall via a cable! I never really understood the worry she would face but now I have my children I get it at last.
The first bomb I heard was during my first year at Imperial College. I was asleep in student halls in South Kensington (actually they were in Westminster but I’m being picky!). I woke to the sound of a blast of thunder and I turned sides. When I became a little more conscious I realised it was sunny outside and so the noise must have been a bomb. I mentally shrugged and then went back to sleep. I don’t know what time I then woke up but I remember not being really bothered by the bomb. Fortunately no one was injured or killed. Those sort of things happened. It was 10th January 1992.
The second bomb I heard was more of a shock. By this time I was working for the students’ union of Imperial College and we had offices in the Beit building. There had been a fire alarm and so we were gathered in the quadrangle waiting for the all clear when there was a very loud boom. I knew it was a big bomb and quite close. I was worried about people and hoped that help would arrive. I also knew there was nothing I could do. There would be many people gathering to help. Some other members of the student union staff were visibly shocked and moved by the bomb. This time it was a big car bomb planted by someone from the middle east as they had just blown up the Israeli embassy. 20 people were injured and there was a lot of damage. It was 26 July 1994.
These days it seems we are more worried about terrorism without having the terrorism. It bothers me that we have lots of hype from the press and the government. The rigmarole we go through to get on a plane or visit a tourist attraction bothers me. The data show that no threats have been beaten through these security measures, the plots that have been stopped were caught by old fashioned police and intelligence work.
Time to get real on terrorism I think. Yes, there is a threat, but there always has been. We are a global power and so will always face having to deal with disgruntled people.