As it happens I am in London, spending an evening between planes on my journey homewards. I am watching coverage of the mostly failed bombing attempt today in London on the TV in an airport hotel. That was not the plan.
I had a very much better plan. I had a ticket to see the great Michael Gambon as Falstaff in Henry IV, part II this evening, at the National Theater. And I wasn't inclined to let a bomb threat campaign stop I think that the terrorists win if you cower at home. Seeing the TV news presenter read a government statement asking people to go on with their daily lives clinched it. Michael Gambon here I come, I thought, as I set out to brave what I imagined were the London crowds. But first I had to get to London from Heathrow.
The problem was that London transport is basically shut down. For a while there, I thought I had a Plan B – I figured out a route from the airport with the help of the excellent London Transport Real-Time Map. The Piccadilly line that takes you from Heathrow to central London was (and is) shut. There is an express train from LHR to Paddington – but given my late start, no obvious way to get from Paddington to the show in time. Surface transport would, I imagine be at a standstill, queues for taxis very long, and it's a bit far to walk in the time I had available.
So the plan was to eschew the express, take the local train about half way to Ealing, and switch to the central line, which seemed to be working. I went back to the airport, bought a ticket from the vending machine for the London Connection to Ealing Broadway, and descended to the platform. No trains showing on the departures board. A small hand-lettered sign revealed the reason: no trains today beyond Hayes due to “technical issues”. The nice but harassed lady at the station duly refunded my ticket.
It seems even when you don't want to let yourself be defeated by terrorists, you can still be defeated by British Rail. Then again, it's probably a mercy. By the time I got back to my hotel, the Central line seemed to have been stopped too.