Friday, 28 June 2013


Every morning on my way to work, I buy myself a cup of tea from the little coffee stand at Highgate Station. It's my big treat. It only costs a quid, and the blokes who run the stall are the friendliest people in the borough. Tiny little routines like this become incredibly important for a man whose days are very rarely ever the same. 

I stand at the stall for a few moments, talking about the weather and watching the guys simultaneously juggling several different coffee orders. They play Classic FM, so every morning I'm treated to a little snippet of a popular classical music, which invarably takes me straight back to my childhood. I've written in the past about the impact of hearing The Swan, softly yearning out across the gushes of steam, but today's offering was a double whammy; two pieces of music I played in my teenage years. The ending of the slow movement from Borodin's string quartet followed by the Albinoni Adagio. Ah! Bliss!

I was instantly transported to the world of my sixth form; that heady mix of hormones, anxiety and unwavering optimism. In a flash, I saw it all. The car journeys to haunted woods, busking string trios with Fiona and Ted in Coventry Market, the early evening summer walks across recently harvested fields, the thick fogs rolling in from the fens, the crackle of open fires in the front room. Concerts in cold churches. My Grandmother cheering on the front row. 

Sometimes I mourn those simple, carefree times as I trundle across London typing on my iPhone whilst the woman next to me reads Charles Dickens on her Kindle. It's strange how just a few bars of music can trigger such reverie. 

Of course, emerging from the underground at Old Street immediately brought me crashing down to earth. The place was gridlocked on account of the unexpected rain we've had pretty solidly all day. Only yesterday, the BBC were running pieces about Glastonbury. Could this be a five-day festival where punters would be able to bask in uninterrupted sunshine? Apparently the answer to this question was an unequivocal yes. Cut to 24 hours later and torrential rain. I think we're better off either consulting psychics or frankly simply guessing the weather these days. It would seem the professionals haven't a clue. I mean, if I were that rubbish at my job I'd've long since been sacked for incompetence. Why do weathermen get to plead mitigating circumstances? I'd respect them more if they simply said; "um... About this week's weather... Bit embarrassing, really, but, excusing the pun, we haven't the foggiest..."

Still, rain or no rain, everyone should have a 15-minute walk as part of their journey into work. I've been loving the walk from the Old Street tube to Brick Lane over the past few days. The people watching, the graffiti spotting, the peering into buildings and wondering who works there...

Returning home on a Friday night is a somewhat edgier experience, however. Hoxton is a brutally heterosexual part of town at the weekends. The gays who work here clear off to Soho and Vauxhall, the bohemians head to Hackney and the pubs here become cattle markets for city slickers, Sloaney birds who are too cool to laugh, and men who look like parakeets. 

Skinny Bengali lads who spend their afternoons in boxing clubs, stalk the streets, wearing diamond ear-studs, looking for white girls to shag in that all-too-short period before they settle down with a village-girl virgin fresh off the plain from Sylhet. The  place vibrates with testosterone, sweaty, beskinny-jeaned crotches and styling moose. There are more pairs of geeky spectacles and full-sleeve tattoos in this corner of East London than anywhere in the world.

I find myself rushing to the relative gentility of my beloved Highgate. I'm going to buy myself a lovely halloumi kebab to congratulate myself for finishing a hugely gruelling week in the edit suite. 

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