The nights were already setting in dark early with September upon us and added to that it was nearly midnight and the London streets were just a cast of shadows with stark street lighting in the square mile. That time of night the streets are quiet anyway, apart from adhoc bits of traffic, the financial district is more or less closed on the weekend. Just the odd pub or bar that might spill out onto the litter free clean pavements of the city.
I had, as I usually do, spent my time around the Westend, Covent Garden and Soho when in London but that one particular night seemed like a bust. The bar I wanted to stay for the night had, unusually, been a bit quiet and the music was, well, poor. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to leave the noise of the Soho streets and head back to the financial district, grab my camera and take some night time photos that I had so wanted to but didn’t want to break a nice night out to do it.
I carefully wandered the shoreline of the Thames that cuts through the life veins of the city with its currents fighting the tide, covertly covering my camera and staying as much to the busier pavements of people staggering home as some of the surprising early pub licence times expired for the night. I had reached The Shard and stared up in amazement at it’s tall stance in such a small plot of land and taken back at how more difficult the cuts of glass at the top were to see the closer I got to it’s entrance.
I wrapped my white stripe scarf around my neck again to protect from that slight coolness that had set in and headed across one of London’s many bridges. I returned to the north side of the embankments and headed back towards the hotel, taking photos as I went whenever something seemingly mundane would appear starkly different in the greyness of street lamps and empty office lighting.
An anonymous high street of endless office blocks placed somewhere not far from The Bank of England, devoid of traffic due to road works and just a couple walking hand in hand away from me some hundred yards or so away and a drunk man in a light grey suit in front, swaying on the spot and seemingly unable to workout how he was going to get home.
Just as I approached him I noticed a great photo opportunity. I stopped short and crouched down to focus the camera quickly; keeping an eye on Mr Swaying.
“Are you okay?” He blurted out.
“Fine thanks, just taking a photo.”
I continued on realising that I should be quick and move on, it was still very quiet apart from me, a phone box and my new drunk friend.
“Oooooy!” I heard behind me. Sounds like my drunken suit clad white collar worker had found his girl friend or something. “Ooooooooy!” He continued.
“Ooooooooooooooy! You.” I turned and looked, he was stooped over looking at me and shouting for an answer from me. “Oy, you. You a man or woman?”
I thought for a split second, which was probably a life time to our new found friend. My thought was straight to indignant. “WHAT DOES IT MATTER?” I replied snappily. I finished up and walked on quickly heading back to the hotel.
It had struck me that his thought was probably, given his eye sight was too beer goggled to see I had a camera in my hand, that I could have been a damsel in distress and was going to save me, or if I had answered “man”, he wouldn’t have given a shit and moved on or may be something else?
I got back to the hotel easily and that was that. Navigating through the corridors of this complex hotel I arrived back at the room and entered, locked the door and sat for a moment kicking off my shoes.
That was when it hit me. My indignant natural reaction could have been something much worse. May be I should have used intellect and talk my way past the situation as I normally do. “I’m fine buddy, see you later.” It struck me then how, for the first time ever, I found this character not just some drunk bloke that seemed quite funny but now someone a bit creepy. I don’t know what was so different and the feeling didn’t clear until the next day. I suppose I didn’t know his intentions and may be I dropped my guard more than I should have; I said what I said because that’s how I felt at the time and I don’t regret it.
— ❤ —
It was just a small part of my time in London. Those few days were full of places and treats. Visiting glossy shop fronts for the rich, dining amongst vibrant people in a small vibrant restaurant and treating myself to that perfume I kept putting off buying for the last two years because it was about time I did.
While I feel a little defined by my concentrated break away at home I’m finding even my presence on the Internet defining me and slowly changing. We’ve all experience the way we are categorised on the Internet. Whether it’s a highly targeted advert on Facebook or Instagram just because you once browsed something on some retail shop.
These days I’ll get an email from Newlook or Under Armour and four in five times I’ll be promoted female clothes and running tights or the latest sports top. They almost have me to a T (or crop sleeve T?) While much of the time the targeted marketing can become overwhelming as all those shops I’ve signed up to on my last purchase fight it out for that slither of my attention, it does sometimes raise a smile when I suddenly feel a little validated. It seems crazy to be validated by an algorithm but then we are becoming automated.
Until next time.