Wednesday, 5 October 2011
We get in to London Bridge at 8.12. I kiss him farewell as he travels on to Charing Cross, and join the crowd which oozes blearily onto the platform. At 8.14, as we stumble along, the train to Gravesend pulls in, and as usual it takes all of my (frankly waning) will-power not to climb on it and chug my way back home.
The crowd bottlenecks, then shuffles to the top of escalators, and I grab a copy of Metro from halfway down the pile in a Jenga move. I note that their stands have changed from blue to silver, and I feel a small thrill of excitement and then realise I need to get out more. Everyone else shoves and rushes, but I'm happy to stand on the right as I rummage in my bag to work out what I've forgotten (there's always something).
At the bottom, I cross Tooley Street and walk past the London Dungeon, gaudily unfrightening in the early morning light, and I stop at the fruit and veg stall and buy a punnet of flat peaches for a pound. "I don't need a bag, thanks", I say, and the guy looks pleased and I feel a bit like I've just been given a gold star.
I merge into the wave of bodies crossing the bridge. We pass Evangelist number 1 - dowdy, small and Teutonic, and carries some kind of equipment to amplify his words as he shouts into a microphone that we're all terrible sinners and need to repent. A friend of mine once pointed out that if he was a devout Christian, he'd spend all his time trying to convert the rest of us, to save our souls because he loved us, so I almost feel appreciative of Evangelist number 1's zeal.
We pass Evangelist number 2 - a tall, handsome black man, suited and shiny-booted like the rest of us so it looks like he's just stopped and turned around, he belts out his praise for Jeezoss with no need for artificial amplification. His voice is rich and deep - I'm certain he'd have a bigger audience if he chose to sing the gospel instead of preaching it.
The pungent scents of the City permeate my consciousness. Wafts of cheap and not-so-cheap cologne vie then commingle with the sewer stench rising from the Thames and the toasty vapours from Pret.
We pass the Asian boy in his bright blue branded jacket who proudly hands out City AM. He looks like Tamwar from Eastenders, that is if Tamwar ever smiled, and the look of sheer happiness on his face when someone actually takes a copy is something else. I kind of want to hug him. I never take one from him though. I mean, it's City AM.
We get to the Big Issue seller of indeterminate gender. S/he sits on a fold-up chair, grumpily obese, as frosty as the City AM youth is warm. I wish I were a nice enough person to spend the seconds I go past them getting out my purse, but instead I spend them debating which side of the divide they're on.
The moment's gone, and I stride on, and I manage to mis-step, trip, and stub my toe on nothing. My mother says that this is a sign - that someone somewhere is waiting for me; what it does mean is I'm literally dragging my heels, in no rush to get to my desk. My footwear doesn't help - I bought myself a pair of FitFlops in a fleeting whim of fitness, and the soles are thick and clumsy as clown shoes, though apparently doing wonders for my calves. I have nice shoes under my desk.
I straighten and blush, swear softly at a crooked paving stone that isn't there, but no one spots or cares about my shame. The sea of people simply parts around me, a chastened Moses, then reforms, reswarms immediately ahead.
Their heads are bowed, unseeing as they march along. I'm feeling mildly defiant, so I leave the crowd, and dawdle and look around. On the right is the Gherkin, rampant in the misted sunlight, on the left is St Paul's Cathedral, dwarfed by new builds yet still striking in the skyline, and on both sides, boats glisten gently as they bob upon the river.
I drink it all in, and suddenly everything seems sharper and life seems much brighter. Quenched by these non-mirages, which shimmer in this City of mine, I cross the bridge and continue on my way.