Friday, July 08, 2005
# Posted 5:42 AM by Patrick Belton
THUS ALLAN MASSIE in today’s Indy
Sometimes, you think, we are becoming soft, far more ready to give way to sloppy self-indulgent emotionalism than our parents and grandparents were; that the upper lip is more often wobbly than stiff. And then you get something like this.
I was in my study, looking out over the green tranquil country of the Scottish Borders, sheep grazing in the field below the woods, when my daughter telephoned to tell me bombs were going off all over London. I turned on the television, and one of the first things I saw was a man with the left side of his face all cut and bloody being interviewed.
I can’t remember just what he said, but his tone was familiar, immediately recognizable. He was, I suppose, in his forties, maybe a little younger, certainly of a comfortably post-war generation. He was calm, relaxed, self-deprecating; it might have been John Mills or Jack Warner telling Hitler: ‘London can take it, Britain can take it.’ It was moving, comforting, and, yes, inspiring.
I had another call later in the day, this time from a girl in my publisher’s publicity department. She was ringing to ask if I could go on a book festival on a date in January. That, too, is an example of the spirit of the Blitz. It might, she admitted, be difficult for her to get home that evening; but work goes on.
London has been through it before. The Blitz destroyed great parts of the city. … And even when victory was at last in sight, came the rockets – the V1 and the V2 – bringing death without warning. Londoners shrugged their shoulders and called them ‘doodlebugs.’ … But then, in years of peace, came the IRA bombing campaign, and Londoners bore that too without flinching. Most remarkable, the terrorists then were regarded with contempt rather than hatred.
We are the same people we were 60 years ago, capable of the same stoicism. London can take it, and it can do so because its stoicism is laced as it always has been with humour.
Orwell again: ‘A lot of bombs in Greenwich, one of them while I was talking to E over the phone. A sudden pause in the conversation and a tinkling sound:
I: ‘What’s that?’
E: ‘Only the window falling in.’
Business as usual.
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