I live just half a mile from the Houses of Parliament. I wasn’t sure what to write about this week’s horrific attack… So I thought I would just post what I wrote on Facebook about it…
I wouldn’t normally mark myself as ‘Safe in an attack’ but I live just half a mile from the Houses of Parliament – and this afternoon was working just around the corner from them, doing my regular Wednesday afternoon shift at the wonderful Abbey community centre (named after Westminster Abbey): a hub for local residents and workers in the area, just yards from Parliament Square.
I always think I’m lucky to live so close to Westminster. I can’t get over the fact that on a very still night, we can hear Big Ben’s chimes from our living room; that I can walk less than 10 minutes, and there it is as I turn the corner: the mother of all parliaments, in all its gothic glory. I walk past it – and over the Westminster Bridge crossing to Whitehall – a dozen times a week, at all times of the day or night. It’s no coincidence, I’m sure, that I’ve got involved in politics since going past this place so often: I’ve seen MPs and advisers and staff and others coming to and fro from what it surely the most beautiful office building in the country, and our Parliament has thus become very real and tangible.
Since getting involved in politics, I have also made more trips into Parliament in the past 18 months than in the preceding 40+ years. And as anyone who’s ever visited Parliament knows, the police officers who work there are just brilliant: clearly shit-hot at their jobs – in the most serious way possible – but also funny and friendly and just… well, shit-hot at their jobs.
My heart goes out to the friends and family of the police officer and the others killed today. I can’t even begin to imagine their grief. And I can only begin to imagine what it must be like to be on that familiar crossing on Westminster Bridge and to suddenly be in such danger.
It’s horrific. Horrific and heartbreaking. That’s what today has been.
It is – and always will be – an utter privilege to live here. To live in this beautiful, vibrant city. To have the luxury of grumbling when tourists cram the pavement and stop to take selfies with Big Ben; or to smile to oneself sometimes because you realise you live – *live!* – in a place which people pay £££s to come and visit, to see a building they’ve only seen in pictures. To be able to step out of your door and see Hollywood film crews; to walk past journalists gathering to report the latest Big News from your country – happening right on your doorstep.
Usually that news is political; usually you hear helicopters overhead because a march or a demonstration – great hallmarks of a democracy – is happening on that doorstep.
But today, I left the Abbey Centre and went past cordons and saw police vans and ambulances, and more TV crews and photographers than ever before – and in new places. And tonight, the helicopters are still hovering overhead.
Yet we got home safely this evening; our police kept us safe; our emergency services looked after the wounded; our public transport system continued to run; and our city still stands proud and tall, and it understands – as it always has done and hopefully always will do – the risks it runs to be free, despite what the likes of Donald Trump Jr might say.
I’m not a religious person, but I don’t know how else to say: god bless all those who keep us safe, and continue to keep our free country free. I may be privileged to live where I do – but we’re all privileged to live in this country. This afternoon, I couldn’t help but think ‘There but for the grace of god…’. and be reminded, more than ever, that every day is a blessing – that being safe is a blessing. Thank you to everyone who looked after our city today, and continue to look after all of us every day. And love to every single one of my loved ones. X