The summer passed in waves of gnarly violence. Bombs started going off in town almost every single week. There were seven in Zone One in July. Sometimes suicide bombs, sometimes car bombs, sometimes bombs left in a bin or a bag in a bar or a cinema or a bendy bus or Tiger Tiger again. A couple of times nobody got hurt, but usually a lot of people got hurt and some people died. Karim’s cousin, who actually used to skate, got blown up in the Piccadilly Burger King at the end of August. A teacher from Billy’s old school died last week from the nails he got stuck in him in the Oxford Circus Nike Town nail bomb in June.
On the night of the day that he nollie inward-heeled the Southbank seven, Lucien got shrapnelled in the back and the neck at the ICA. This was at a free booze party that Georgia had snuck him and Eugene into, which turned out to also be the target of the early bomb attack where Alan Yentob and four other people died. Lucien lucked out and he’s OK now. He beat all of us today in a big game of S.K.A.T.E.
The streets uptown went dead quiet within two weeks. People were urged to shop again, but millions stayed indoors. London had never known terror like it.
Because of skateboarding though, obviously, we couldn’t stay indoors. All of us kept on turning up at Southbank every day. It felt like it was sort of safer there. We didn’t know what else to do.
We were all downriver at Southbank on the afternoon that the pod on the London Eye exploded, and we were there eight days later when the big car bomb went off out the front of Topshop on the Strand. We all spun and saw the ball of flame chug up into the air, then the thick black smoke and ragged bits of Topshop curling out and fluttering down over the rooftops. It was happening right around us but we felt like we were out of it somehow. It was so sunny. There was the massive wide divide of the river—why would anybody bomb that?—spread out like a giant moat right there in front of us. All the concrete bulk of Southbank Centre huddling us, backing us up; solid. The undercroft became like a proper shelter. A lot more people slept there. Nobody, we told ourselves, would ever bother bombing a skatespot.
In the winter, in the days just before the bombs started up for serious, Nugget drew this sticker—like those stickers that graffers make and stick on everything—which he claimed was for some big new art project of his. One night after Southbank we all watched him stick it slyly on a vending machine on the platform in Waterloo tube. It was basically for jokes. He was about to fail his first year at art college, and he’d never produced any art that any of us had ever seen. All he was really doing then was just skiving and being fully back on skating every day. The sticker said:
ALLAH IS GREAT.
THIS VENDING MACHINE HAS BEEN RIGGED WITH A POWERFUL EXPLOSIVE DEVICE. INFIDELS WILL BE BLOWN APART LIKE DOGS IF THEY SELECT THE CRUNCHIE, WISPA OR CADBURY’S FRUIT AND NUT BARS.
It was pretty funny at the time. But they evacuated the station and it was on the news and in the papers and we all felt nervous about the whole thing for a while.
By some weird miracle, Nugget never actually got caught, which he was stoked on for the rest of his life. It’s one of those things that just wouldn’t really happen any more. It just wouldn’t be funny. The streets are pretty dead, and loads of old spots that used to be total busts are totally not busts any more, which is sweet, and it’s all much better for skating. But everyone everywhere knows that the scene in London just kind of sucks now.
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