The one about my anxiety attack over a cello case

It was a Tuesday evening at around 9pm when my anxiety took hold on the London Underground.  It had been a long day.  Cygnet was with his father and I had stayed late at work.  I sat down next to the window and stared into the distance.

I got on the train at Leicester Square in central London. A man got on at the next stop.  He was lugging a heavy cello case.  He sat down opposite me and next to a girl who I guess was in her twenties listening to her head-phones.  He placed the cello case between his legs.  We went through a couple of stations without event or incident. 

About 6 or 7 minutes into his journey, the man suddenly got up and asked the girl in the head-phones to look after his cello case.  He leaned it against the seat next to her and opposite me.  He then walked swiftly off down the length of the train.  He didn’t say where he was going or when he would be back.  The girl carried on listening to her head-phones with the cello case next to her.


Those of you who travel on the London Underground will know that there aren’t any toilets on the train, so he couldn’t have been going to the toilet.  If he was going to look for a friend on the train then why didn’t he take his cello case with him?

I could feel my anxiety starting to take hold of me.  This incident was only a few days after the attempted attack on a London Underground train at Parson’s Green.  You could fit a hell of a lot of explosives into a cello case, and the owner of said cello case had apparently abandoned his cello case opposite me.

Everyone else on the underground train appeared totally relaxed.  The girl with the head-phones was still listening to her music.  Her breathing was easy and settled, whereas mine, by now was laboured, erratic and fast.  I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.  Why was no-one else panicking?

Our train stopped at its next stop –  Kennington.  I thought about getting off and waiting for the next train.  I couldn’t think straight.  I didn’t get up quickly enough and the doors were closing.  The train was pulling away from the platform.  Maybe he had got off the train at Kennington.  Maybe he had left the train at an earlier stop.  His cello case still sat staring at me.   My heart was still pounding.  I tried to focus on my breathing and to talk myself out of my anxiety. 

About five minutes later he returned.  He thanked the girl with the head-phones and sat down on the seat opposite.  He put the cello case back between his legs and put his own head-phones on.  He didn’t say where he had been.

You would think that at this point my breathing would have calmed and I would have realised what an anxiety-ridden idiot I had been.  But I didn’t calm down.  I was overwhelmed with anger.  How could anyone, three days after an attempted terrorist attack on the London Underground be so ignorant and insensitive as to leave a bag unattended –  and not just any old bag, but a cello case big enough to carry enough explosives to pulverise the lot of us? 

I thought about shouting at the guy.  I thought about telling him how insensitive, selfish and irresponsible he had been.  I thought about letting my anger out.  But that is not me.  I am not an outwardly angry person.  I keep my anger, anxiety and frustration inside so it eats away at me rather than others. 

I sat in silence and focussed on my breathing.

I got off the train a couple of stops later.  I sent a whatsapp message to a group of close friends.  One friend reassured me that my anxiety was normal and that she would have been just as paranoid. 

Another friend told me to go home, pour myself a glass of wine and put Bake Off on.

It was, after all, caramel week.

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  1. September 24, 2017 / 11:08 pm

    I am the same right now a lot of scary things happening in my neighbourhood and I’m super weary and on edge. Hope bake off sorted you out, I’m loving Noel what do you think to him on there?

    • thesingleswan
      September 25, 2017 / 8:58 pm

      Thanks Katrina. Noel is great. Pen x

  2. September 25, 2017 / 10:19 am

    I would have been the same. I’m not familiar with London but have travelled through in the past to get to Kent. I’ve never used the tube because it just freaks me out a bit. I know most people use the tube without incident, but I don’t like that it’s underground, I don’t like that it’s usually crowded, I don’t like that it moves fast and you have to know where you’re going. Add that to the increased risk of terror attacks and I’, definitely not keen!

    I’m in London at the weekend for Britmums, I’ll be getting a taxi!


    • thesingleswan
      September 25, 2017 / 8:57 pm

      Hi Jenny,

      Thanks for your comment. The Tube really isn’t that bad. I promise. Uber is no better! Pen x

  3. September 25, 2017 / 5:06 pm

    OMG I have no idea what I would have done but I do know I would have been panicking big time!!! I think you did really well not to say anything!!! #MG

    • thesingleswan
      September 25, 2017 / 8:55 pm

      Thank you. Pen x

  4. September 25, 2017 / 8:52 pm

    I would have been beside myself if it had been me. I can’t believe the bloke thought it was a good idea to leave his bag like that. Wine and Bake Off are definitely the answer to dealing with something like that 😊 #RVHT

    • thesingleswan
      September 25, 2017 / 8:55 pm

      Thank you Suzy. Everyone else in the train was so relaxed. I thought it was just me freaking out. pen x

  5. September 26, 2017 / 8:16 pm

    Oh God. I’d like to think that I am pretty laid back, but that would definitely get my sweat glands twitching! It’s difficult to know what to do though… get off the train and then you’d feel guilty about leaving everyone to be blown to smithereens… or say something and everyone thinks you’re an irrational, crazy person! I’m glad it all worked out in the end, I would’ve been pretty pissed too. PR x

    • thesingleswan
      September 27, 2017 / 9:03 pm

      Phew, I am glad I am not the only one. I was sitting on the tube thinking that I was losing it. Pen x

  6. September 27, 2017 / 4:50 am

    First of all, I love the underground but respect to everyone who travels on it every day these days in the ‘current climate’. second of all, I’m certain I’d have been exactly the same. And I totally agree that man was just ignorant and selfish – we all need to be so vigilant. That’s not letting ‘them’ win, that’s being sensible and having a calm approach, I think. #mg
    Carol Cameleon recently posted…Review ~ choconchoc handmade chocolatesMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      September 27, 2017 / 9:02 pm

      Thanks Carol. I agree, we all need to be vigilant. Pen x

  7. September 28, 2017 / 9:05 am

    Gosh Pen, I totally understand your anxiety. I hate the tube. Being squashed into a tube carriage like cattle was the most stressful part of my day and the main reason I decided to move out of London. Now I avoid it if I can. But I was travelling on it at times of high alert eg. when I at uni in London the IRA were the main terrorist threat and had recently bombed Bishopsgate. I used to sit on the tube thinking “no-one knows I’m here, if there’s a bomb and I die no-one would realise I was on this train.” After 7/7 I started riding my bike to work whenever I could!

    • thesingleswan
      September 28, 2017 / 9:11 pm

      Hi Emma,

      I wasn’t travelling on the tube at the time of the Troubles so I guess I haven’t really got anything to compare this most recent spate of terrorist attacks to. These are tough times. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      September 28, 2017 / 9:09 pm

      Yes, I know what you mean. In hindsight it would have been an over reaction, but I certainly didn’t know that at the time. Pen x

        • thesingleswan
          October 4, 2017 / 10:03 pm

          Thanks Jeremy. Pen

  8. September 28, 2017 / 7:38 pm

    I can entirely understand your response. I went to see Take That a week or so after the Manchester bombings and when our friends wanted to wait to meet some other folk in the main entrance, my panic struck mind couldn’t stop thinking it was a ridiculously dangerous place to be. All these terror attacks can really make you one edge.
    Thanks for linking to #coolmumclub – for the record, Noel is enough to put a smile on my face any day of the week 😉
    MMT recently posted…#CoolMumClub Linky week 78My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      September 28, 2017 / 9:08 pm

      Oh goodness, yes I would have been freaked out too. Thanks for your comment. Pen x

  9. September 30, 2017 / 3:06 pm

    I think I would have had a similar reaction in your situation. I am really intrigued to know where he went, but I guess it will remain one of life’s little mysteries
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes 🙂
    Random Musings recently posted…The Secret: A Short Story with A TwistMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      September 30, 2017 / 9:59 pm

      Yes, I still haven’t been able to figure it out. Pen x

  10. September 30, 2017 / 9:15 pm

    I would totally have freaked out too! I hate travelling in London at the best of times and am very sensitive to anything out of the ordinary. I’m glad u managed to calm yourself down, I would have probably collapsed!
    Amy recently posted…Reminiscing wonderful winter memories with familyMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      September 30, 2017 / 9:59 pm

      Thanks Amy. I am glad it is not just me. Pen x

  11. September 30, 2017 / 9:20 pm

    I can completely understand what it’s like! I would have done the same. I’m glad you managed to keep calm #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      September 30, 2017 / 9:58 pm

      Thanks Kelly-Anne. Pen x

  12. September 30, 2017 / 11:18 pm

    That does sound a very weird thing to do and borderline irresponsible in the wake of an attack. That’s the sort of dumb thing that leads to evacuations and needless panic.


    • thesingleswan
      October 1, 2017 / 9:10 pm

      Exactly! Thanks Pen x

  13. October 1, 2017 / 1:42 am

    Well it is weird, where would he have gone??? And if I had an expensive interment I wouldn’t leave it without having a dam good reason, it is bizarre so yes I would be anxious too! Scary! Glad you have awesome friends who give such fab advice! #mg
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…good vibes only #mummyshotMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 1, 2017 / 9:10 pm

      Thank you Mac. x

  14. October 1, 2017 / 6:46 am

    I am so angry at that man! Where did he go?! It was totally insensitive of him and I would have reacted the same as you.


    • thesingleswan
      October 1, 2017 / 9:08 pm

      Thanks Nicola. I wish I knew where he went. It is curious. Pen x

  15. October 1, 2017 / 7:39 am

    I think your anxiety was justified considering thenhorrendous events that happen more and more regularly in our world. I don’t live in London. I live in a small City in Yorkshire outside of Leeds but still wonder about attacks more and more when it never crossed my mind before. Your friends sound lovely and have great advice #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      October 1, 2017 / 9:07 pm

      They are lovely Becky. Thank you. Pen x

  16. October 1, 2017 / 1:43 pm

    JEBUS!!!!! I was holding my breathe just reading this. Even though I know nothing horrifying happened. It literally made my chest hurt just thinking how you felt.

    He was completely in the wrong but isn’t it also sad that we’ve all had to become so suspicious of our fellow man.


    • thesingleswan
      October 1, 2017 / 9:07 pm

      Thanks Cassie. He was totally oblivious. Ignorance is bliss! Pen x

  17. October 1, 2017 / 2:28 pm

    I would be the same, it is a scary time to be living! X #thesatsesh

    • thesingleswan
      October 1, 2017 / 9:06 pm

      Thank you. Pen x

  18. October 1, 2017 / 4:40 pm

    With as much happening in the world today as it is, I would have felt exactly the same as you. Maybe even gotten off and picked up the next train. Truth is, it’s just plain hard to feel safe. You’re not nuts, you are just alive and aware on this planet we call home. xoxo #thesatsesh
    Lisa Pomerantz recently posted…Busy, Shmizzy: Eat Together for a Better WorldMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 1, 2017 / 9:05 pm

      Thank you Lisa. Pen x

  19. October 1, 2017 / 8:24 pm

    I would have been exactly the same and totally agree it was idiotic of him to leave it unattended. I worked in London at the time of the 7/7 attacks and vividly remember the fear and paranoia every time someone got on with an oversized bag. My husband recently had a bit of a panic attack at an airport when I’d taken our youngest to the toilet and left him with the bags and our son, the man who had been sat at the table next to us got up and left his bags without saying a word. Hubby was just about to try and get all our bags together and come meet us at the toilets when the guy came back and collected his bag and left.
    Alana – Burnished Chaos recently posted…Monthly Bucket List: October 2017My Profile

  20. October 2, 2017 / 10:34 am

    Goodness I would have been FREAKING out and I have actually got off tubes and buses before (after 7/7) because I was panicking about a bag etc….. you paint the picture of your emotions changing from fear to anger brilliantly and I can see that I would be exactly the same and I too would be focusing on my breathing to help me. I love your friends’ advice at the end – both valid and both spot on – caramel week was fab wasn’t it?! xx #thesatsesh

    • thesingleswan
      October 2, 2017 / 9:19 pm

      Thank you Hayley. Pen x

  21. October 2, 2017 / 1:07 pm

    Oh bless you! I would have been terrified too! And had a million terrifying thoughts running through my head! Here’s hoping people aren’t as inconsiderate and ignorant again! #KCACOLS
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    • thesingleswan
      October 2, 2017 / 9:18 pm

      Thanks Amie, Pen x

  22. October 3, 2017 / 7:31 pm

    I think I would have felt exactly the same. Unfortunately these days we feel like we need to be on high alert whilst trying to carry on as normal!
    Thanks for joining #kcacols

    • thesingleswan
      October 4, 2017 / 10:04 pm

      Thanks Helen. Pen x

  23. October 4, 2017 / 8:56 am

    I would have reacted in exactly the same way as you. I don’t think you were being paranoid at all! What an insensitive little sod that man was. Hope you are ok now and enjoyed watching caramel week. Thank you for sharing with #StayClassyMama

    • thesingleswan
      October 4, 2017 / 10:03 pm

      Thanks Pat, that’s really kind of you to say. Pen x

  24. October 7, 2017 / 7:09 pm

    With everything going on at the moment, I am surprised that no one else seemed to be worried. I think I would have probably reacted the same way. You just never know what is going to happen. It is a scary world we live in.
    Ali Duke recently posted…September Review & October GoalsMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      October 8, 2017 / 7:53 pm

      I know! When I looked at everyone else on the train they were all perfectly relaxed. Pen x

  25. October 8, 2017 / 7:34 pm

    I’m quite paranoid at this sort of thing too, the way I get through is it is that I remind myself that I live in a rural area no one would attack. #kcacols

    • thesingleswan
      October 8, 2017 / 7:50 pm

      This is true. You’ll be fine. I am relieved to read so many comments where others have said that they’d feel the same though. Makes me feel a bit more normal. Pen x

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