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Despite Threats, Life Goes On

In this Aug. 10, 2009 photo, people shop along Michigan Ave., in Chicago. Consumer spending, propelled by the wildly popular Cash for Clunkers auto sales program, shot up in August by the largest amount in nearly eight years even though personal incomes continued to lag. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
AP Photo/M. Spencer Green
The upstairs apartment at number 352 High Road, Wood Green, in North London, is the sort of place that changes hands every few months.

Tenants have come and gone and no one bats an eyelid. But this week, armed British police, acting on a tip from the French, burst in and arrested the tenants. When they searched the apartment, they found traces of a poison called Ricin, along with a kitchen laboratory. For making more of it.

Ricin is a deadly poison and it’s been used in London before, by the KGB. 24 years ago, a Bulgarian dissident, Georgi Markov, was walking to work not far from here, when he felt a stinging pain in his right leg. He quickly developed a fever and three days later he was dead. Markov’s assassin used London’s busy sidewalks to brush against him and inject him through an umbrella tip with deadly ricin. His death would have been attributed to blood poisoning had it not been for the determination of his widow and a tenacious medic.

This morning, there’ll be a few bored London Coppers and maybe a hopeful TV cameraman standing outside that apartment in Wood Green. But was any Ricin made in that kitchen? And, if so, where is it now? The Police, remember, only found TRACES of the stuff. So, somewhere out there, someone could be in posession of a quantity of lethal poison. A poison that has no known antidote.

Could someone be planning an assassination attempt on a public figure? Or an attack in a crowded place? While the Police and the secret service widen their search, I guess you’d expect Londoners to be jumping with fear and paranoia. But I have to report that this city is much the same as it’s always been …with the addition of a few snow falls. Maybe it’s because we’re accustomed to some kind of threat. From anarchists at the beginning of the last century to Hitler's bombers in the 1940s... and, more recently, from Irish and Palestinian terrorists.

Whatever the reason, nothing much has changed in British attitudes and I suspect nothing much will. It’s not because we’re particularly smug, but because, as my old Granny used to say of the German bombers, “Life goes on doesn’t it love. You can’t let the buggers get you down”.
By Simon Bates