7:07 a.m. Grey dawn. The silhouettes of bare trees slowly take shape against a sky several degrees darker than the porridge that I have just eaten. The branches, and the twigs that grow from them, wave in the freezing air. From my window I can see the shapes of people scuttling along the path in the nearby park, followed by the brake lights of the Civil Defence trucks.
It has been several hours since the last Iraqi air raid. We are lucky, I suppose, here in West London, that the majority of collateral damage has been at Heathrow Airport, 15 miles away and now, obviously, uninhabited. Furthermore, the immense improvements in the homing devices in unmanned missiles since the V2 rockets that hit us at the end of W2 (the last time Britain suffered air raids) have meant that, barring the odd stray bomb pulverizing a mall or side street, the devastation has been confined to the former airport.
At this stage, the bombing is largely for show. Britain is taking it on the chin; it is only the older people who remember the last time we were attacked who seem extremely upset. When the first Iraqi missiles struck, before the reintroduction here of petrol rationing, many families would actually drive out to Heathrow to watch the gradual demolition of this once-flourishing metropolis. When I say families, I mean mostly the men. Security, too, has been blasé by World War II standards. Today’s smart missile can find you whether you are there or not: This time around, there’s no black-out. Getting into my office this morning and switching on the light hasn’t provoked any hassle from the wardens.
Uh-oh—either the tube-trains have woken up, or that was a stray coming down. I felt the house flicker just a moment in shock, then go back exactly the way it was. Hopefully it won’t wake Michèle upstairs. I can hear Figgy jump off the chair outside my door, where I saw her sleeping on my crushed velvet trousers when I came in here with my tea. What amazes me is that I’m not more terrified. As Michèle said, it’s scary what you can adjust to.
Why, oh why, did the Iraqis refuse to believe us when we showed them, beyond doubt, that we do not have weapons of mass destruction? Every cupboard and cellar door was opened wide for their inspectors. To date, less than a thousand people have been killed here, according to the Daily Express—but what happens when the sites are set on Central London?
The rumor is that Britain does possess some kind of nuclear or biological bomb, but that Downing Street will not deploy it until (or preferably unless) Saddam Hussein orders an attack on Buckingham Palace.
… Sorry, where was I? Daydreaming again! Oh, yes.
Hello. My name is Robyn, and I’m a musician. With my girlfriend Michèle and our black cat, Figgy, I live, as I said, in a house in West London, England. It’s Dec. 9, the 22nd anniversary of John Lennon’s death. Outside, the sky is now light. Patches of blue sky appear behind the moving clouds. Green lichen is clearly visible on the sides of the trees. I can hear planes, but I can’t see them.
Recently I was asked by an online magazine if I would write a diary for them. In the past, my diaries have been blighted by overzealous loved ones reading them—always to have their worst fears fulfilled. That is one sure way of getting what you deserve, reading someone else’s diary. At least the devil has the decency to know it all already. But in this instance, the diary would be a public one. So, no worries. Furthermore, I would be supplied with a digital camera to add some visuals to the text. All I had to do is use it. The camera duly appeared, and the battery has charged. Between now and tomorrow, I am somehow going to work out how to operate this futuristic thing, which in 20 years’ time will be a quaint, kitsch antique, used in advertising to press the nostalgia buttons of thirtysomethings. As will the expression “thirtysomethings,” probably.
So, tomorrow, with luck, you’ll start to see how it all looks. The midwinter sun is shining horizontally into my room, which means the clouds must be going.