Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The misted car door opens nervously, a hunched figure emerging into slowly lightening street, walking uncertainly on the textures made harsh by abated rain. Following the house numbers he approaches the break in the terrace. He pauses, walks on, then turns back. Staring with comprehension but annoyance at the Dystrybucja sign beside the wire-glass door restraining a wall of books, he moves back to the building beyond. Bending to read the comms-grid he leans on a low button. Muffled speech as he tries the door. No luck. The late buzz-clack bids him enter, one door relentingly opening inwards after his pumping. He leaves the street at seven-thirteen, back out by sixteen. Returning to the car, carrying the same bag, now lighter, now relieved of a thick, deftly constructed package, hidden within an innocuous, branded ream wrapper, an inapt Niceday. The contents unknown to all but a few; the power ill-defined, uncertain. He breaks the fug of the dripping vehicle, negotiating with shadows. A small box, in tired paper, bearing an obscure message is passed out, into hand then bag. The door closes, deliberately slow. The car pulls away, the man watching, then walking into a side street. A few houses in he stops, leaning the bag on a wall, he removes the small box, in coded wrapping. In the other hand his phone, hunting for details. He walks to the door; an upstairs light, movement slowly starting within. Flap edged upwards, letterbox sighing, parcel falling to fate in a dull double thud. Turning, he heads south; south through streets and parks ever more anonymous, stopping thickening traffic, counting down to the discovery and disruption one of the packages will soon bring.

But that's enough of "how I dropped off my uncle's birthday present while I was in the area" written with a few too many unsplit infinitives and a hint too much Wainwright Rufus [verb noun adjective].

2006-10-20 024 - Black ToplarSo after hitting the Thames at the mid-point of Hammersmith bend I headed downstream, into the water masquerading as air, hence the slightly wearily grey images and cool diffuser effects in parts of some of the images. Low tide so the river was somewhere at the bottom of a muddy hill. After consulting a map near the bridge which contracted by A-Z's claim that there is no path on the north bank as the river heads south, I decide to follow the Thames Path towards central London.

I soon discover my A-Z is right. There is no one true path. Historically there was no path, but modern redevelopments tend to have included one along the embankment. So where the landlord built one, there's a path, and where the land remains unredeveloped or not developed with access in mind, there is not. So the actual path snakes back and forth between the shore and inland roads; remind me to head back to Craven Cottage when there's better lighting and I have a better camera, as I'm sure there are some decent abstract shots lingering under the backs of the stands.

2006-10-20 086 - OmnipresentIt actually was quite pleasant by the time I reached the park down to Putney Bridge (the guess-this church is by Putney Bridge), although by the time I got to the railway bridge the rain was back. Combined with a literally pressing need for the loo, and the discovery that I'm still a long way from anywhere, and that there is no real path I aborted inland, sheltering under the Underground line. Then up the King's Road until it actually became the King's Road, cursing each chandelier shop and bistro for their lack of public conveniences, and mostly for declining to open before noon. I try to find one in Chelsea Town Hall and fail impressively. Checking the map, I decide the museums at South Ken are more likely to be of any use than Sloane Square. So north past the church, past the Cath Kidson shop (oh dear), towards and accidentally through the station for the Metropolitan and District Railways due to being camera led.

2006-10-20 105 - Follow the yellow lined roadUp to the Natural History Museum, diverting buses along the way so I could take a picture of a puddle, where I take one look at the queue, play with reflections awhile including one in the window of the gatehouse, but the security guard shut the window as I tried to capture it. So then east to the V&A, straight in to the junction by the courtyard, look for signs, follow those and then realise that the V&A has never quite got its head round the idea that people who don't know it might want to go round it. So after walking through three signs declaring the area to be only for members or ticket holders, I eventually find them, off what appears to be a service corridor, given the battered doors to the outside at the end and the constant stream of staff.

Then out to massage my feet while sitting on the phone in a stairwell with dire acoustics while on the phone (one of those "Yes Mother. No Mother. Three bags full Mother. What? No, I said 'he's bashful', Mother"; you can tell it's going well when I call her "Mother").

A browse round a shop, a wander round their sole photography gallery, which has a few good shots, but then it has a few images in it. And of course all presented in the best V&A kaleidoscope of reflections, which adds an extra layer of painful confusion to the photograph of a harshly light multimirrored fitting room.

2006-10-20 119 - DefianceInto the courtyard for lunch, choosing the ground over the chairs in the grounds that it had dried quicker, and having been lugging tomes, I needed something more than a chairback with ends at the bottom of my ribcage and there was a nice, handy, sun-warmed building to suffice.

So lunch listening to squabbles in German, shrieks as children discover that water is wet, and young men impressing girlfriends with esoteric bunkum about the architecture (I would suggest she flees anyone who thinks her a fool, but she seemed to believe it, so perhaps they're well suited. Just as long as they never breed). A little photography before leaving, but the battery dies before I reach Tycho (seek and ye shall find... a small plaque and there the answer).

Back out, trying not to laugh at some of the stuff on sale, and back out west to find the results of one parcel, with much connecting the dots of friends' and relatives' houses and former houses. The loop was only about 12 or 13 miles.

And so exhausting my Oystercard with the journey back into town, frantic efforts to meet Sin, proving we are both inept at saying what we actually mean, while trying to do other things as well, but with a body that gave up somewhere before Putney Bridge and a brain that shortly followed. I even managed to think that running from TCR to the RA on an offchance was a good idea.

Collapsing on the Royal Astronomical Society's steps, I break open the emergency flapjack, far too late for it have stopped my body attempting to break down my muscles to gain energy. One look at the Gates of Hell and I realise I'm really not in a Rodin mood, and more importantly not in one suitable for coping with the type of people found inside the Royal Academy. But while sitting on the steps a woman comes out to the glossy, new Mini parked in front of me. Before getting in she blows something off the driver's door. She gets in, reads something while eating, lights a cigarette, rings someone while she smokes, puts the key in the ignition to open the window and fraction, traps the ash out of the window, carries on chatting, then hangs up, finishes cigarette, gets out, locking the car as she walks back to work, leaving a new grey Mini with a new grey pile of ash at the bottom of the window to match the old grey streaks down the door panel.

So on using muscles that feel like they've been under the auspices of Gunther von Hagens, I head for the relative calm of Oxford Street. And please can someone just win the afternoon free London paper wars? I'm tired of having purple idiots flail limbs in my face to try and get my to take their tat. And I'm considering walking round with a flamethrower on my shoulder; any bit of paper-pusher apparatus that gets in the way will be reduced to a smouldering pile of molten synthetics. But perhaps I'm just annoyed by the heightism of the paper-pushers, who must think "I know what I'll do; I'll put my five-and-a-half-foot parasol up here, right in the middle of the pavement on Regent Street".

Into H&M to look for clothes I don't really need*, but that's a nice shirt - maybe next time. I do at least try not buy things when tired as my judgement fades. Admittedly when knackered is the only time I buy anything as it's too expensive, too poor or too not-quite-right on normal assessment.

*I need jeans, but have given up all hope of finding any which aren't pretending that being mauled by sabre tooth tigers is an everyday occurrence, or that it rains bleach hence the map of the Panama Canal picked out in white or disturbing brown running down the legs. The best are those with face-painting whiskers applied at the crotch.

Back east killing time, eventually finding myself in HMV buying £2.99 DVDs (Taxi Driver and On the Waterfront; had seen neither but heard of both and it's cheaper than any other option, including, probably, waiting for them to be on television. Seen the latter now: my god, Brando can speak, and I'd no idea Bernstein did the score), although wandering for an age before going to the cash desk, during which I realised the state of my exhaustion once I found myself an the aisle flanked on side by Musicals and the other by Bollywood. I was quite tempted by Bugsy Malone, which I think shows that even if my body was still standing (just), my mind was definitely foetal.

So out to buy a scarf and hide in a building (which technically I wasn't supposed to be in, but neither probably is the guy I suspect is living there) checking email. Then back to loiter with intent to continue, while waiting for Sin to leave a party he said he was about to leave. Stupidly I waited fairly near I waited last time I waited for hours for someone who never came (near the Old Compton Stockpot, this time outside the closed for refurbishment Thai place; it's quite fun watching all the people walking up, still selling it to their friends, only to get to the dark window and signs). About two hours later I send an slightly arsey text (it underplayed the "so where the bloody hell are you?" aspect), at which point I discover that he's not left yet and is still in the same place "off Oxford Street" and I'm welcome to come.

Calmly, well, ok, with barely suppressed anger at the sheer inability to communicate, I ring him to ask where, pray, is off Oxford Street, while trying not to use most of the swearwords in my vocabulary. Fortunately he doesn't answer. I'm strongly inclined to send him a text telling him to sod right off and disappear home, but my legs hurt too much for me to stop me best caryatid impression.

He rings back, blithely oblvious to the death-beams which would be streaming from my eyes if only I could keep them open (perhaps getting up at 5, then forgetting that there's two different scales used on maps in the A-Z, aren't the best ideas). Begrudgingly, I agree to go up to join them if only to save me having to think of anywhere else to go. So after getting an address out of him, and then ignoring his route instructions (where on Earth's Bowland Street? No, repeating it doesn't help. Letting me realise a few seconds later that I'm mishearing Poland Street might), I head up, hoping the restaurant will survive the sudden removal of a buttress, and discover that navigating in Soho does involve being able to remember where things are.

I get to the bar. The guys on the door take one look at me and ask "are you alright?" I explain I'm just tired, and that I'm supposed to be meeting some friends here, in the upstairs bar. They look confused, tell me I've got the wrong entrance and send me up the street. But halfway there they call me back (you know that whole limping thing? All this yo-yoing isn't helping) and ask if I said the upper bar. They then let me in, informing me that the upstairs bar is straight ahead, and the other bar is downstairs.

A room, a wall of people, a slightly vacant look, then sudden realisation that I haven't slept in about a month, I haven't shaved in about a week, I haven't had a haircut for ages (and it's clean and been rained upon, so it'll be finest Brillo pad), I haven't stopped since 7 am, and am not really dressed for this type of place, having been wearing the same clothes all day including under a mac in the rain, hence the slight smell of eau de deodorant passé, exacerbated by being unable to take my jumper off due to strategic holes in the misshapen t-shirt underneath. It wasn't so much that I wanted the ground beneath to swallow me up as it felt like it already was. Oh sod it, he can come and find me.

A becapped figure emerged, all slimming lines in black, red and white. After a brief "how are you", in I naively, though valiantly tried to give and accurate answer, and the offers of drinks, introductions, including to a guy whose name I didn't catch but who made various comments about his name being a good name; so I'm guessing it's the same as mine then. Somehow I'm offered a tall shot glass with pink things in it, trailing dissipating colour like jellyfish. God knows. It's alcohol, with luck it might have sugar in.

So then off to our own private cubicle to sit and chat even though it's a noisy bar which limits my ability to distinguish words, plaited in with being utterly fagged out (insert Sin or Soho joke here, and yes that was the only reason I used that phrase), being inept at small talk anyway, and constantly translating the accent and vocabulary, hence delayed responses to comments about Kali, because I'm having to work backwards, eventually getting to "Oh Diwali!" No wonder he resorted to sending texts (he is very text heavy).

Though at least I learnt what a Yutz is; it's like a Putz but somehow different. Somehow we go through a lot of words in realm of golem-goya-gura or thereabouts, meaning someone how is not Jewish which is not the same as the thing from the Hobbit or claymen, which I noticed was like the Romany (and so Gypsy and thus Traveller) word for outsiders, which is very similar to the Hindu for the white people. I just can't remember what the actual words are, which sort of limits conversation a bit.

Google leads me to 'gadjo' as outsider in Romany, which isn't as near what I thought it was (perhaps there's something else).

Anyway, so we chatted, then left as he had to be elsewhere, so therefore managed to walk into a bookshop instead of leaving (to get something to read on the way; sightreading must be a pain). Cue searching for Sin in some gay guide to London (not, I should add, as an entry in his own right, rather disappointingly), discovering that our tastes converge solely on Pratchett (possibly because I've never heard of any of the other sci-fi/fantasy authors). And then going to Starbucks at the top of the shop because they had a loo (see, it's not just me), having a friendly discussion on the merits of hazelnut hot chocolate, Nutella and Marmite (the boy* cannot be human; he does not like marmite. But then he seemed shocked that I wasn't addicted to Nutella), and trying not to laugh when Sin knew the chain's lexicon better than the girl serving.

* I know he's older than me, but...

Back down, spotting cabs for him, then a quick farewell, as he trundles down Oxford Street, while I plan the route back to Waterloo, wondering if he ever takes that cap off, whether it's glued on, held on by press-studs or velcro, or just stubble, realising that the vile mood and inability to move seem to have abated even if my legs aren't fully functional yet, trying to work out if that is the alcohol, the hot chocolate or just the power of Sin, suddenly becoming aware that I'm now one of the freaks who walk round with an overpriced container held out at chest height, and I don't suppose pointing out that it's hot chocolate and I didn't buy it would really count as mitigation. I also soon discover my gait, albeit unbalanced by a painful body, isn't designed for keeping fluids in a cup, even with a lid on.

I head to the station, thoroughly incongruous though Friday night Soho, causing confusion down Wank Alley (I know it must a have different name, or at least one more accurate, but it's where all the hetero sex clubs display their wares, off the end of Berwick Street), pausing by a bin on Pall Mall while I finished the drink and licked my thumb (it didn't slop that much after I downed most of it early on, but occasionally it still did, and always in the same place. Sometimes have someone around to overcome my innate puritanism can be quite useful. Note to self: sugar is not always bad). Then diagonally through Trafalgar Square, onto Northumberland, which I don't even remember walking along, across Hungerford, which I do because I discovered my phone wasn't in my pocket (must have been tired, because I don't think I even looked at the view), but realised heading back to the various places to hunt it down would stop me getting the train home.

A short "oh sod it; I've had it for ages and haven't lost it so far, which isn't what I'd expected, so I'll cope" later, I continue on, and I'm on the York Road Bridge when Big Ben strikes 11. Ha! Told you so. Well not quite. But Sin looked aghast when I mentioned walking to Waterloo from Oxford St, and my protestations that it was less far than walking there from Camden didn't seem to diminish his horror. He also thought it would take me a long time, as he and Stairs did it in 20 minutes from Charing Cross (presumably Road, or they were very drunk). So as I'd left him at twenty-to and in now was on the hour and I was very nearly there and was nowhere near my normal speed leads me... to realise how pointless even thinking about as this is. Sorry, it seemed important at the time.

Then onto the concourse, walking past the relevant screens because I still expect the left-most to be the soonest leaving. Finding the platform number, I walk to it, then down it, and then have to back up a bit when I realise I'm out of train. Bloody pathetic 6 coach things.

Grabbing a window seat I feign sleep, remember to look for my phone, frantically search in panic after it's not the normal pocket in my bag, the discover it's in the next one back, relax a bit and discover Sin has already sent me a text, which is sweet. I've belatedly discovered it's probably the reason he didn't look up as the taxi drew away. I then feign sleep so I don't have to move my bag and share the seats (I will do it, just not until most of the other empty seats start to fill; anyway they should try putting in luggage racks which take things higher, and with a higher centre of gravity, than a laptop case). About this point I realise I was so distracted by the absence of my phone I might have an absence of something else important for travelling on a train. Oh well, I'll sort it out when the guard comes.

My phone rings as the train moves off (huzzah, a lift from the station) and then I struggle to stay awake though the familiar sequence of dimly light names. Then off again, past the dark stationhouse and through the gates. No sign of the car, but instead I get to see one man walk up to a small silver car, get in to the front passenger seat, closely followed by a second man trying to do the same as the first man gets out making excuses and heads for another small silver car, while I recognise the approaching headlights, jumping in on the road, thus avoiding the clutter of cars and taxis trying to leave the forecourt, driving down the middle of the road to avoid the traditional pedestrians all ignoring the pavement on the other side of the road (it's what we all do and always have done regardless of council attempts to improve the opposite side, and every driver except the fools goes in on one road and out on the other despite neither of them being one way).


PS. Photographs now on Flickr, view the set. And I should clarify; I'm not an actual caryatid, due to a chromosome, but I thought people were more look likely to know of them than telemones or atlantes (and I can't use the singular of the latter as Atlas is a person, not a type, and I'm not sure calling myself an atlas would help clarify things).

Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?