Sunday, 29 June 2008


London Underground offers the zenith of British passive aggression. Despite not having lived in Kentish Town for a decade, habit has me turning right to the northbound Northern Line platform as I wind my way through Embankment station. Turning to walk against the flow, I correct myself and head south, stepping on to a train where a woman with shiny, black cowboy boots and a brown handbag scowls at me. It is powerfully hot and stuffy in the carriage but a young woman with patchy fake tan insists upon reading her paperback – despite the crowded conditions – holding it at eye level, the pages just brushing my nose every time the train brakes as it enters each station. I consider asking her to move it but realise that if my breath ruffling the pages doesn’t impact upon her, then addressing her directly will only result in denial and confrontation. In my pre-menstrual state, that wouldn’t be fair on anyone, so instead, I join the party, allowing my full handbag to bump unapologetically into her knees with the motion of the train. It’s not big, it’s not clever, but it is British, and it is satisfying.

Friday, 27 June 2008


The concourse at Victoria station is a bustling muddle come lunchtime; I pass an earnest group of young Orthodox Jewish men beside a stroppy-looking group of young Muslim women in a variety of burkhas and headscarves. Dodging the tourists with suitcases on wheels and undeterred, I stride on in search of French bread. As I near my destination, a man with a shaved head and a football shirt double-takes, stares at me and says ‘Cor!’ very loudly. I only catch him and the small boy he’s with out of the corner of my eye, but I notice him turn as I pass, his eyes following my rapidly retreating bottom. It takes a moment for the word to register, and when it does, my amusement is caused as much by the use of such an archaic exclamation as it is by the compliment. The bread is delicious.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


The Powers That Be have placed netting across the inside of the station concourse roof to prevent pigeons nesting in it. It’s a glorious Monday morning, too nice to be commuting to work, and I am groggy from a poor night’s sleep. Waiting for my train to arrive, a sparrow flits down onto the platform in front of, hops about, then flies up, pausing momentarily to aim his little, brown body accurately through the holes in the netting where his nest lies. Once again, nature thwarts man’s attempts at containment. I smile; this is as it should be.


The circus is in town; there are posters everywhere and flyers come through the letterbox announcing the ‘number 1 circus with animals’ is here for one week only. Not agreeing with the humiliation of lions, tigers and elephants for human pleasure, I do not attend and throw the flyers away.

Then, ascending the hill after work the other evening, I see a group of young girls in school uniforms coming towards me. They carry placards and are clearly excited, milling around each other as they wait to cross the road. As I pass them, I see what’s written on the placards; ‘Animals Don’t Belong in Circuses!’ I agree, and am touched by their youthful conviction, for none of them look old enough to attend secondary school. I send them supportive vibes, and hope their protest is successful.

Overheard X

Two little boys are playing at the bottom of my street.

‘Edward!’ cries one in exasperation, ‘Haven’t you got a brain?’

‘I think so,’ Edward replies, dreamily, ‘Somewhere.’

Heavy Load

The train passes over Borough Market and as I glance down at the hustle and bustle of the street below, I see a pallet piled with five enormous wheels of cheese, sitting in the road outside Gastronomica. A black cab drives past the unusual obstacle and I wonder how they’ll get it inside the shop.


I decide to wear the green dress. Truth be told, I’m not sure about it – bit too much cleavage on display, and I suspect the empire-line cut makes me look fat while the too-yellow green does nothing for my skin tone. But I arrive in the office and quickly receive two compliments on it. Then later, as I wait to see the physiotherapist, a woman asks, ‘Excuse me, where did you get your dress? It’s lovely.’