London was my home for five years. My daughter was born there. I bought my first house there. I adopted my first cats there. Ronnie and Reggie, the Kray twins of Hendon.
London was not, as everyone had told me, cold and unwelcoming and lonely. It opened its arms and embraced me. I put it down to the fact that we have deeper history. My grandparents demobbed there after the war. My grandad working on the docks and my gran worked growing the family. My mum and aunt are technically cockneys. Lor’ luv a duck and all that.
London and I have history, important, wonderful history.
It is the place I feel most myself. On setting foot on its grimy pavements it’s where my heart and soul know home is, and I miss it, sometimes like an ache is how much I miss it.
I will probably never live there again. Cost, family, the fact that Jason hates city living all conspire against it. I’ve made my peace with that. Instead I visit as many times a year as I can, and it’s amazing, when it’s only an hour and a half up the road, how many times you can visit.
Events last night were so sad. Events like this are always sad. My heart aches, and I feel so much care, is the best word I can find, for my city and for those poor people. I wish to God I didn’t feel I have to keep writing posts like this. I really do.
I’m going to keep visiting though. I’m going to keep turning up, no matter what. Nobody is going to stop me from going home. Nobody.
There will be, there already are, angry, frightened people who rail against this kind of post, and who suggest mass deportation, internment camps and bringing back the death penalty (like that will stop suicide bombers). There are those who are already insisting that 1.6 billion Muslims are all the same, despite the fact that they wouldn’t dream of saying that 2.2 billion Christians are just the same, or that all men are the same, or all women, or all people with curly hair.
There will be those who don’t remember or who conveniently forget that we lived through the IRA bombings all through the Seventies and Eighties and didn’t demand mass deportation of Irish Catholics. There are those who will forget the nail bomber in Soho and Brick Lane and all the other atrocities (and that is the right word for them) that have been carried out in the name of other ideologies and beliefs but which don’t fit today’s bigoted agenda.
There are those who will call for us to vote Tory on Thursday because the Conservatives have a natural penchant for things like draconian measures on immigration and crime and punishment. These are the same people who will also conveniently forget that under Theresa’s tender care at the Home Office we lost 20,000 police officers on the streets, and that this is why the army are being called in, not because it is ‘a good thing’, but because it is ‘a necessary thing.’ These are the people who will ignore the fact that immigration has not gone down over the last seven years of Tory rule, while also conveniently ignoring the fact that both at Westminster and Manchester, the terrorists were British born.
I can’t conveniently forget any of that, even though it would be so wonderful to have a knee jerk response, a call to arms, a ‘do something’, a ‘declare war’ mentality. It’s so easy to say, but the reality is that it is not so easy to do. It’s not like flicking a switch. It’s not like you can just go out there and arrest people because you know, all criminals look like criminals so it’s easy. And even if you did, you couldn’t bloody hold them anywhere, because Theresa was also busy shafting the prison service at the same time she was running down the police force.
The cynical part of me thinks about how convenient all this is for the right, just at the time they need to be re-elected. The cynical part of me remembers Thatcher riding to victory on the back of the Falklands. The humane part of me hopes I’m wrong, because if I’m not, the lengths people who aren’t labelled terrorists will go to for power would just make me sick to my stomach.
I just won’t do it. I won’t give in to this kind of thinking. I refuse. I understand people’s fear, really I do. I’ve lived large parts of my life consumed by fear thanks to my mental health. If anyone understands living in fear, I do. What I understand about fear though, having been its constant companion for so long, is that it isn’t real.
It isn’t terrorism that will bring this country to its knees. It’s fear. Fear is the real killer. Fear divides us. Fear makes us turn on our friends and neighbours. Fear paralyses us and keeps us in the house with the curtains shut, not daring to go out ‘just in case.’ Fear kills us while we are still alive. Fear taints every day, every thought, every thing we do or don’t do. Fear allows terror to live in your house and your actions and your mind, and that’s how terror wins.
Not in my house. Not in my head. Not in my life.
I can’t solve the problems of radical Islam, or racism, or homophobia, or fascism. I can’t legislate for anything, or force people to do what I want them to do, or shout at them until they give in to my stronger will. None of this is in my power or within my capabilities.
What I can do is live well. I can open my door to let people in without fear. I can open my door and walk out of it without fear. I can open my heart to those who need it, and particularly those who don’t know they need it. I can open my mind and refuse to accept ‘pat’ responses to complex problems, and I can love. I can love like a fiend. I can love like it’s my last day on earth and I need to use it all up so it doesn’t spoil. And I will.
So, every time something like this happens, I vow to write a love letter, because at the end of the day, love is the only thing that will make a difference, and anyone who tells you any different is wrong. Love is not namby pamby, weak stuff like people who scorn these words will tell you. Love is the most enduring force I know. It keeps hearts beating long after bodies should have given up. It knits broken people and their families back together. It proliferates the more you give it away. Love is always and eternally the answer because it is what life is made of and from.
So today, London, I love you with all my heart. Heal fast. I’m coming on Saturday to party. Be ready for me.