Thursday, 6 November 2008


Up the slope that leads from the platform to the station concourse a swarm of commuters bustle. In their midst, I spot a small boy, dancing along, his gait an exaggerated strut that frequently breaks into a run as he struggles to keep up with his father. The man who holds his hand is a giant; well over six feet tall and almost as wide. His hand swallows that of his son, and his long, low, loping strides are an oboe to his son’s piccolo trot.


Annie is formidable. Despite her advanced years, she walks to the shops early each morning and we pass each other on her way home as I’m running down the hill to the train station. We greet each other warmly, exchange pleasantries about the weather, and however much of a rush I am in, I always slow down to talk to Annie.

Annie belongs to another age. She has lived on the street for many, many years and her sense of civic duty and pride are an example to us all; she's often seen carrying a piece of litter she’s just picked up. I couldn’t imagine my street without her; the round grey hat she always wears, the blue anorak and burgundy scarf, her spindly legs and sensible shoes, and the ever-present orange carrier bag of shopping. She stops to talk to everyone, and everyone looks out for Annie. When her cat died, we all worried about her, but she still climbs the hill every morning, and we still talk about the weather.


‘Hello, love. It’s supposed to clear up later.’

‘Good news! It’s been so grim.’