Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Ghostly shadows

I rushed from Soho to Tottenham Court Road late this afternoon in an attempt to get on the tube before the rush hour started. Of course what I hadn't bargained on was the hideous pre-rush hour I encountered, created by tourists in their neon coats and heavy-rimmed glasses who'd plainly finished shopping on Oxford Street and were returning to their hotels in shitty places like Brent Cross for an early evening meal. The tube station was buzzing like a hive, with huge groups of young girls studying maps, and standing exactly where Londoners are basically programmed not to stand!

The warm weather we've been having becomes all the more surreal in the mid-afternoon. Since the clocks went back on Saturday night, a strange phenomena has started to occur. At about 4pm, the sun seems to drop like a halogen stone from the sky and weird, ghostly shadows creep across the streets. Because it still feels like summer, your body clock tells you it's too early to lose the light, so everything takes on shades of the post apocalyptic.

I got up rather early and decided to spend the day writing in caf├ęs across London, the first of which was down in Borough, where I sat for an hour before, and then again after, an osteopathy appointment. The Starbucks opposite Borough Station is a charming little place. I know we're all meant to pretend to hate Starbucks for not paying taxes and for being generally loathsome for reasons only a Guardian reader would understand, but for some reason the staff in this particular franchise always seem to be in very good moods. They smile. They are helpful. They genuinely appear to enjoy their jobs and this can be hugely infectious. The last time I was there, one of the baristas was singing happily to herself as she worked in the back kitchen. I was charmed!

I ambled into Soho and had my fourth cup of tea in a cafe on the corner of Old Compton Street, where two care-in-the-community old dudes had been deposited by their carer, who'd paid for their food up front and made himself scarce after asking the cafe owner with a sort of knowing wink to keep an eye on them. I assume it was an exercise in independence which was a regular occurrence in there because the cafe owner wasn't at all fazed and carried out his task with great aplomb, particularly when one of the men began to panic because he didn't have any money and wasn't sure how he could pay for his sandwich. The owner told him very kindly that everything had been sorted out and that he wasn't to be upset. "But how much will it be when we next come here?" "You never need to worry about things like that when you come in here," came the reply. It was an incredibly touching moment.

Cafe four was the Starbucks on Wardour Street where there are plenty of sockets for tired mobile phones and lap tops. By the time I exited, I'd achieved a huge amount of work, but was buzzing from too many cups of tea. I met Nathan for dinner in his ridiculously late lunch break - 4pm - and was basically climbing the walls, having been living in my head-phone-fuelled, low-blood-sugar-tinted world of music and tannins for 7 hours! Not the best time to brave a rush hour, but I still seem to be alive.

...Small mercies, and all that!

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