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25 November, 2015 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 25 November, 2015 12:10:44 AM
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After Paris attacks, Britain carries on with caution

Paris may have been left stunned and shattered by the attack, yet London, too is no stranger to terrorism, having endured many bombings in the 1970s and 1980s by the IRA, and more recently, the murderous assaults of July 7 in 2005
Michael Simkins
After Paris attacks, Britain carries on with caution

Though barely a week has passed since the dreadful events in central Paris and the massacre at the Bataclan concert venue, it already seems much longer.
The ease and proliferation of instant connectivity means that any breaking news event, wherever in the world it occurs, can now be followed in real time by anyone with a mobile phone. I noticed something was happening in the French capital only minutes after the first attacks had begun on Friday evening, via, of course, the ubiquitous Twitter feed.
“There’s something kicking off in Paris,” I remember saying to my wife as I glanced at my screen. At the time it was nothing more than a brief alert reporting the sound of explosions at the Stade de France: yet it was soon obvious that something far more dramatic and merciless was unfolding – a series of coordinated assaults in various parts of the city by seven terrorists. By the time I went to bed at 2am, the full extent of the carnage was all too apparent.
Paris may have been left stunned and shattered by the attack, yet London, too, has endured a jittery old week. The city is no stranger to terrorism, having endured many bombings in the 1970s and 1980s by the IRA, and more recently, the murderous assaults of July 7 in 2005, in which 52 civilians were killed and 770 injured.
In the aftermath of the atrocities last weekend it may have appeared to be “business as usual” to any casual visitor to the UK capital, yet events just across the channel had left their mark.
I had reason to be in the city centre on Wednesday morning, and sensed a profound, if almost intangible, sense of unease that hadn’t been there before.
People hurried purposefully along much as before, but eyes flicked left and right as they walked, as if sizing up everyone they passed.
Conversations in cafes and restaurants seemed more muted, while any occasional bursts of laughter somehow seemed shriller and more insistent. The Underground was also less busy and anyone joining the train found themselves the subject of deft, if subtle scrutiny. That man there, for instance – is his bulging black rucksack merely the indication of a heavy workload, or something far more sinister? Street markets and tourist attractions were also reported to be quieter, while any¬one wanting to get a seat at a sell-out show in London’s West End found little trouble in getting a late cancellation. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath the Eurostar trains running from London St Pancras to Paris left virtually empty, despite being previously advertised as fully booked.
Conversely, the roads were suddenly far more crowded. Postmen and delivery van drivers complained of unexpected gridlock on the roads. Any suspicious parcels and bags left unattended at railway terminals immediately sparked mass evacuations and hours of delays. A friend of mine returned to his car at the provincial station where he always leaves it before catching the train to work, only to see it being towed away by skittish security men. They were worried that the cardboard boxes on the back seat might contain an explosive device; in fact they held nothing more sinister than advertising leaflets.
Myriad encoun­ters, myriad risk assessments. Which is, of course, just the atmosphere of mutual mistrust and xenophobia that the terrorists seek to engender.
Yet perhaps the most profound and poignant indication of just how much recent events have touched city dwellers everywhere was to be found on BBC television last Wednesday. The news correspondent Graham Satchell, reporting live from the Place de la Republique on the mood of the French capital, broke down mid-sentence during his piece to camera. Satchell, like all good journalists, is expert in ensuring that private emotion and professional objectivity never coalesce, yet the unbearable sadness of it all caught him unexpectedly un¬aware and caused him to well up.
He later apologised for his momentary lapse; but there really was no need. His distress, erupting through the familiar stiff British upper lip, perfectly captured what all of us here in Britain are feeling. Even if we try not to show it.

thenational.ae

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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