The city marches on. But sometimes its ability to heal itself, shrug off adversity, ignore the arrows of fate and God can seem too strong. Sometimes it feels like a cold-hearted place. Didn’t you just see what happened?
Last Friday, London was buffeted by a wind spirited up over the Atlantic. By the time it marched on London its strength was already dissipated but it still packed a bunch. Branches snapped from trees, rubbish was pulled from bins and sent scarpering down the road and, just outside Holborn tube station, at a point where the city and the commercial West End bleed into each other, it hit the roof top of an old Victorian building. And at 23.05 it did its worse, dislodging a chunk of masonry that fell towards the busy street and landed on a minicab, killing its driver Julie Sillitoe and injuring her two passengers and a passer-by.
The spot where the rubble fell is on my walk to work and today when I passed, the façade was covered with scaffolding and builders and across the front of the site someone had found time to make an awning printed with the words that all the businesses were open as usual “following the recent tragic accident”. Pedestrians marched along and nobody was looking skywards for falling bricks.
Julie Sillitoe’s family and friends will be mourning today but the city will heal and move on. I wish it wouldn’t be so good at letting us go; it makes you feel rather speck-ish.
One minute’s walk from this tragedy is Red Lion Square, although it’s not really a square any more as a multi-lane road carves its way along the western flank. The road was made possible by the ravages of German bombing in the Second World War. Many people lost their lives but there’s no memorial. In nearby Queen Square you can find a small metal plaque commemorating a Zeppelin bombing during the First World War – but you have to look hard.
Just a small patch of one metropolis where so many sad tales have unfolded and yet this city just shakes them off. It’s what makes a city so powerful, like an organism that can just keep multiplying and regenerating. But sometimes you want these small daily tragedies to hit us harder. You wish it wasn’t just business as usual in the morning. That the city took more care of us.
Andrew Tuck is Monocle’s editor.