1.45am. Across the way from my house, there is a grand old cow barn. It was built in the nineteenth century, by a gentleman who adored his cows and wanted them to have a palace. It is known as the Coo Cathedral and now it is a place where weddings are held. Tonight, there was such a raucous party going on that I could not sleep. I went out just now to take the dogs for a walk and found a magical sight. The entire granite structure was lit up and music was pouring out into the still night air. As a happy band sang The Bonnie Banks O’ Loch Lomond, a sinuous mist rose from the ground and a bright moon sailed in a dark sky. I looked at the scene, trying to take a snapshot in my mind. It was one of the most magical things I ever saw.
I came back in and took one last look at the internet before bed. Somebody said something about London Bridge falling down. Another person said they were praying for London.
My brain went into its familiar state of incomprehension. For moments, I did not understand. Then I checked and checked and went to the BBC and I could see that something shocking and strange and terrifying was happening.
I had been thinking about Kabul, in the last few days. I did not know what to think about that or what to write about that. Kabul was on fire, and the atrocities came, one after another. They were bombing funerals. I had written about Manchester, but there are times when you run out of words. I thought about Kabul, but I did not know what to say about Kabul. Humans are flawed, and frail, and there is only so much shock that can be processed in any meaningful way. Distance should not matter, but it does. The things that happen close to home strike harder, because, well, home is home.
There’s also the blind nature of hope. If I keep putting one foot in front of the other, keeping on with the normal, concentrating on the ordinary, everything will be all right. Equilibrium will return. I think most people believe this, and it is a blatant survival mechanism.
London was my home for a long time. I knew that great city like a sister and I loved her and she made me laugh and gave me joy. Borough Market and London Bridge are instant familiars, with cultural markers and known associations. And yet, I am five hundred miles north, as this news breaks. As this news breaks, I have come in from one of the most glorious, magical Scottish nights I ever saw. That’s the dissonance. That’s what makes my brain start to snap and sizzle, as if the neurones are exploding in incomprehension and disbelief. How can there be such peace and loveliness here and such carnage and panic there? As I get older, I sometimes think it slightly comical that I know nothing. When I see such news, the knowing nothing becomes a black, blank space.