08 February 2007

Thoughts in Kings Cross Underground

Kings Cross underground has changed enormously. Thanks no doubt to the Eurostar terminal which is being constructed here the tube station is probably the most modern on the network. But the modernisation has resulted in a familiar landmark being moved, and it took me a few moments to find the monument to the 31 people who died in the fire in November 1987.
It's hard to imagine that it was over 19 years ago, and my memory of that evening is getting hazier. I do recall that I just caught my train from neighbouring St Pancras having taken the Victoria line north from a party thrown by my publishers, and the train time and the time of the fire coincided too closely for comfort. I remember the smoke in the tunnel that carried the old wooden escalator down to the Piccadilly line as I ran from the top of the newer steel escalator that had brought me up for the platform, and I remember the police officer who was rushing down to the source of the smoke as I passed through the ticket hall. I cannot be sure, but I fancy he is the holder of the George Medal named on the plaque, for my dash through the tube station took place as the alarm as being raised, according to the official report.
It is difficult to remember a time before mobile phones, too. Hilary drove in to town to check whether my car as still in its parking place, and the fact that it was not told her that I had not been incinerated. I travelled back to Bedford that evening and had to go out on some council business - a dinner with Paul Boateng was involved, though i recall that I didn't stay to eat. It was some community relations meeting that he had spoken at, I think, and the group was run by an interesting guy who encouraged me - on the other side of the political spectrum - to take an interest. I read a copy of The Unmelting Pot, about Bedford's 70-odd ethnic minorities, that he lent me. A long, long time ago. It was an aspect of being on the council that I loved.

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