In the wake of terror attacks, we are often urged to carry on ‘as normal’, to not let fear stop us from living our lives.
And carrying on as normal, on British shores anyway, always seems to involve a certain amount of wry humour while facing the bleakest of times. Thus, the Twitter hashtag #BritishThreatLevels was born.
This week’s appalling attack by a suicide bomber at Manchester Arena shocked and horrified the world, targeting as it did a crowd largely comprising children and teenagers. The investigation resulted in the UK’s official terror threat level being raised to ‘critical’, meaning “not only that an attack remains highly likely, but that an attack may be imminent”.
The move is obviously unsettling, and it would be easy to take the horrific details of the bombing and the change in alert status as a reason to change your routine, to be suspicious, to be fearful. But while there’s sadness, anger and devastation, there’s also been a wave of positivity, including a slew of uplifting stories of how the city rallied round, how people helped those in need, of more than £1 million pouring in to a fundraising page within a few hours.
And, being British, we met the threat level with self-deprecating humour.
Initially, Twitter user Jeremy Cook posted, “We're British. I don't get scared until the threat level hits ‘Replacement Bus Service’”.
We're British. I don't get scared until the threat level hits "Replacement Bus Service".— Jeremy Cook (@Jeremy_JCook) May 24, 2017
"Sorry, I think you're in our seats?"#BritishThreatLevels— Wardy LIVE (@td_ward) May 24, 2017
"next northern line train in four minutes" #BritishThreatLevels— John Coventry (@JohnnyCov) May 24, 2017
The person next to you on the train constantly texting with their keyboard clicks still on. #BritishThreatLevels— David Schneider (@davidschneider) May 24, 2017
A couple of tea-based missives:
#BritishThreatLevels— Laura Knight (@lauraknight888) May 24, 2017
We're British, you don't scare us until you raise the threat level to: "The only tea we have is Lipton."
someone else putting milk in your tea #BritishThreatLevels— Jonathan (@jenkinscharlesj) May 24, 2017
General British politeness-based issues:
Pretending to be looking at a different item in the shop until the other person moves to avoid saying 'excuse me'. #BritishThreatLevels— Mimi (@mimiookbooks) May 24, 2017
Waiting for approval when you pay for something with the exact change.#BritishThreatLevels— James Melville (@JamesMelville) May 24, 2017
You bump into an acquaintance and it's clear neither of you want to speak but social etiquette dictates you have to #BritishThreatLevels— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) May 24, 2017
#BritishThreatLevels you've already said "thanks" "cheers" and "tah" after someones held 3 doors open for you and have run out of words— Harry Spindler (@harryspindle) May 24, 2017
The dilemma of how long you have to pretend to look around the shop that you have mistakenly visited.#BritishThreatLevels— James Melville (@JamesMelville) May 24, 2017
Not forgetting the bumper category of general British awkwardness-based problems:
"Just give them a ring"#BritishThreatLevels— VeryBritishProblems (@SoVeryBritish) May 24, 2017
Overtaking someone while walking and having to keep up an uncomfortable pace to stay ahead of the person you overtook. #BritishThreatLevels— James Melville (@JamesMelville) May 24, 2017
"Tell everyone your name and one interesting thing about yourself."#BritishThreatLevels— Larry the Cat (@Number10cat) May 24, 2017
Parcel gets delivered to the neighbour meaning you have to speak to them #BritishThreatLevels— clrthrn (@clrthrn) May 24, 2017
#BritishThreatLevels Someone you've said goodbye to turns out to be going in the same direction as you— Margo (@MargoJMilne) May 24, 2017
And a personal favourite: