Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Fireworks and fortieths

I’m on a train to Hove, listening to the guard on a tannoy trying to explain that the train we’re riding is due to divide at Hayward’s Heath, and that the carriage numbering system on the dot matrixes is displaying the wrong information. On and on he goes… every time the train stops at a new station. A baby is incessantly crying near his microphone, so the sound being broadcast is like some kind of representation of Dante’s Inferno. Added to the guard’s concern is the fact that those on the Lewes-bound part of the train should expect an incredibly crowded service due to it being Bonfire Night, and Lewes therefore being rammed with pagans and revellers watching an effigy of the pope being burned. I have many friends in Lewes who tell me it’s a tremendous experience which I ought to see one year, but the notion of crowds of people, all letting off firecrackers and behaving like tits fills me with a sense of terrible dread. I once got caught in something of a crush of people in Berlin on New Year’s Eve where people were literally lobbing fireworks into the crowd and causing mass panic. Never again!

Without wishing to sound too cruel, it appears there’s a convention for people with facial disfigurements somewhere in East Sussex. I am sitting opposite a man with an enormous, bright red birth mark which stretches from his forehead to his chin, and there’s a little girl opposite with a nose like a cucumber. A man has just walked down the aisle with no discernible muscles in his mouth, so I’m pretty convinced we’ve either transported ourselves to the Victorian era, or they’re all heading to the same place!

On my way down to Victoria Station I stopped off in central London to meet Nathan for lunch. We returned to our favourite little back street pizza joint, but the ambience was somewhat less subtle than it was on our previous visit. A loud-mouthed Polish woman decided to put all the chairs on the tables and wash the floor with a ghastly-smelling mop whilst talking in a gratingly loud voice to other members of staff. I have never been mopped out of a restaurant before!

I walked to Victoria via Trafalgar Square and was inexplicably moved by the sight and sound of a busker singing Free Fallin’ surrounded by a group of those strange people who dress up as Yoda and that wizard in the Hobbit, using long robes and trickery to appear to float in mid air. I’ve no idea why four of them were working the same patch, but they were all bobbing up and down to the music and I rather liked them for doing it. Sometimes I feel very proud to be a Londoner. I like the way that London presents itself to visitors. 

The man opposite me on the train has worked his way through four cans of beer since getting on. I’m not entirely sure how anyone can drink that much, so early in the day. Neither am I really sure how or why anyone would want to drink beer. The yeasty smell coming off the empty cans is appalling.

I’m heading down to Hove to celebrate Fiona’s 40th birthday with her. She’s in transit today, and arriving at her little flat very late this evening. I figured it would be nice to be there when she arrives with a plate of food and a bottle of wine.

…I arrived in Hove after dark, with the sound of fireworks cracking and spluttering in the distance. The air was thick with a heady mix of gunpowder and woodsmoke, a deeply nostalgic smell which reminds me of my childhood. I’m not aware that we get it that much in London. One assumes it’s blocked out by the stench of pollution.

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