“When you get there, you’ll forget about all of this,” my friend Gareth states as we walk down Brick Lane. He’s trying to comfort me while I freak out, quite audibly, over the idea of leaving England again.
East London meets the banking district at Shoreditch, just round the corner from this Mecca to curry, a living ghost from the colonial era. Great graffiti murals decorate the grey brick streets. Shrouded in the dark blanket of cloud above our heads, the streetlights awaken in orange glow. The skyscrapers are blinking their scarlet winks early today, a clear warning to any wayfaring aeroplane.
I nod with trepidation. I am in a rut, a comfy cocoon where travel lies ahead waiting either as a chrysalis or Venus fly trap. It’s a rancid dark and misty day, the kind that induces romanticised images of cuddling in warm windows
He’s right, of course he’s right. How could anyone feel nervous about fleeing the cold for a tropical climate? Cumin and curry smells waft up my nose as we walk down the street and I consider this further over mouthfuls of greasy burger, purchased from the Diner in Spitalfields market. The Australian waitress, in the same position as Gareth and I have been on more than one occasion. Any jobs, anywhere, just not back home.
On my way home from work the next day, it is sleeting, so I navigate the rusty carcass of my bike on to a train. “Throw me a line”, sings The Temper Trap in my ear. Later, a BBC show on urban wildlife tells me we need the urban foxes, who rely on our nightly gifts of leftovers, to connect to nature outside the urban sprawl.
Did you know that pigeons strut around with a gang mentality, befitting the Burroughs where they reside? I think that’s a fantastic piece of information. It says so much about pigeons and humans. Everybody and thing eventually adapts to city life. “Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough”, The Shins warble at me.
Through the weaving underground tunnels, we scuttle around like rats in sewers, trains snake in and out, over, through and slither under London, and you couldn’t get any where without them. You spend so much of your time in this city organising where to go- how much of it do you actually spend ‘there’ whenever you get ‘there’. Interaction is becoming a forgotten instinct and corporate Darwinism is taking over. No wonder people leave sausages out for a feral fox.
I walk around in the few open spaces on weekends and breathe in big-city-life fumes, peppered with the smells of Kingston Jamaica. Like so many inhabitants here I walk all over the place, but always rushing, always going somewhere, always to the tube. I don’t take buses enough, an under appreciated form of transport here. Do you know how nice it is to drive over the Thames at night? Big Ben ever present, twinkling a chime by the hour. How many times a day do most Londoners get to see that on their daily commute, I wonder?
Maybe we should all become tourists to our homes. Adapt like an urban fox and out wit the grey to bring back some greenery. Look around in awe the things you see all the time, you never know when your favourite bagel shop might be gone, or you gone from it. Stop being a headless business-man, don’t Mind the Gap, do give your chips to the homeless. Invite a fox to stare in your window. Those foxes are pretty cold and hungry. I wonder if they have urban monkeys in Indonesia.
Lyrics from ‘Trembling Hands’ by The Temper Trap and ‘Simple Song’ by The Shins
My favourite bagel shop is open 24 hours at the bottom of Brick Lane.