Impatience in Bright Boots

My eyes take notes as I travel from London Bridge to St Pancras, up and down escalators, through passageways, around curving walls, and along platforms crammed with people like me, all wanting to get somewhere else.

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I want to test how much I can remember once I’ve reached my destination:

First up is Skinny Checked Trousers Man scrambling up the steps at London Bridge station and in through the doors of a train late to depart. He’s too focused to see the nice guard delaying the train just for him.

Two people standing in the busy concourse of London Bridge: a short woman with a tall man. I catch her saying, “I don’t know if I find that boring or not.” I wonder what could be the source of this ennui.

The underground control room is nearby, dimly-lit but alive with swivel chairs occupied by staff running the day, completely inaudible from behind their glass wall. They seem untouchable and important.

There’s a Bold Yellow Shirt on a Great Big Man going steeply down the escalator. And a backlit advert glowing its promise of “Radiant Skin in Just 90 days.”

Which is totally unseen by Impatience in Bright Boots tapping down the moving steps, hissing “Excuse me, please. Excuse me.” Tap, tap, tap she goes.

I see a beautiful young woman with her head wrapped in a scarf. She turns her serious and sad face to look at me. Then she slides off the bottom of the escalator slowly, as if she’s reluctant to go onwards.

A man slumps against the platform wall with a badly ironed shirt and bags beneath his eyes. He doesn’t seem ready for his day either.

Suitcases, crutches, pushchairs. Tourists spread out in groups, staring at maps. People marching by in preoccupied silence.

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Smells of rubber and dirt, and gusts of hot air pushed through tunnels by oncoming trains.

I’m eyed suspiciously on the train by a woman (or am I being suspicious?). At rest, the natural folds of her face conspire to make it look a little unkind. But maybe she has the sweetest smile in the world. I’m not going to find out.

A man in a high visibility vest and work boots stands at the end of the carriage, looking up every so often to check where we are. He’s reading Rilke.

Blonde Lady in Red: her scarlet jacket is intricately embroidered, and she wears matching red shoes. Her earrings dangle huge white squares, and her jeans are tight in blue. She leans against an older man who has a lovely summer tan.

I’m confused by another man and woman who get on the train separately, but are sitting side by side. The more I stare at them (against my will), the more they resemble each other. Until they look so similar I feel they have to be siblings. He gets off at Angel Station, she doesn’t. They haven’t exchanged a single word or look. Can’t be siblings then (unless separated as children).

I alight from the train and emerge into daylight, up a short escalator behind a woman in a long grey overcoat, who may not have realised that the day would turn out to be so warm.

London, London Bridge, train travel, underground, people, St Pancras, city, life, crowds, travel

I’ve been on the go for twenty minutes, watching scenes, and making assumptions.

I guess others may have made assumptions about me – people whom I didn’t see.

London, London Bridge, train travel, underground, people, St Pancras, city, life, crowds, travel

Last recall: an old Chinese man negotiating a long stretch of steps, a walking stick in his right hand knocking against the wall, his left hand clutching the handrail. I move to get out of his way.

No, no, you’re absolutely fine.” he says confidently, but with a strong accent. And he stops for a breather in front of me.

Where are you going, Miss?

I tell him. And with his walking stick, he points out the way I should go, taking his time to pronounce the word “library”.

I thank him and follow his directions to the letter. They are perfect.

 

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