City story


I’ve been in London for the last few days. I went to learn more about meditation. I had forgotten about the vast, exciting dusty crazy beauty of the city and all the people who live there.

I learned some cool things, like if you flatten yourself really hard against the teeniest corner of the Tube that can still not be enough for the person standing in front of you with a rucksack on their back, and that if you try to force an automatically sliding cab door shut the driver will lose his shit with you. I saw the Christian Dior exhibition at the V&A, which made me remember that loving clothes isn’t frivolous as they are works of art, ate unidentifiable but divine food at Ottolenghi, drank wine, watched the majestic Emma Thompson and the gorgeous Mindy Kaling in Late Night at an adorably tiny cinema in Crouch End, caught up with my sister (whose ability to make me laugh further revealed the urgency of fixing my postnatal pelvic floor problem) and got the chance to cuddle my sassy little nieces, aged 7 and 4. I was there for just over 24 hours but came back with enough nuggets of newness to make me feel like a plant that’s just been watered.

On the way back to Heathrow, feeling like a Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoon, I watched a stand-off, as a man tried to get on the Tube with a big suitcase. There was another man blocking the door, also with a giant suitcase, and he only had about a centimetre of space in which to move further in to the train. The man trying to get on was like Arnold Shwarzenegger in The Terminator, opting for a monosyllabic and threatening ‘Move’ command. The other man did not move, then Arnie repeated: ‘Move’. This went on for a good two minutes. ‘Move,’ Arnie kept saying and the other man kept not moving. I was sandwiched right there, observing the immovability of each one with wonder and interest. I resisted the urge to step in and negotiate, because my anxious brain is pretty melodramatic and it flash-forwarded to newspaper headlines like ‘Mum stabbed to death on Tube’ or ‘Innocent mum dies in Tube terror stand-off’ and I thought, I’d better not, I’ve got three kids and this Arnie guy seems unhinged.

Arnie was persistent and eventually the whole train carriage rearranged themselves so the man blocking him at the door was able to shift a few centimeters, letting the Terminator and his unwieldy baggage on. Life carried on and I caught the eye of the girl next to me. I made a thumbs down sign and we both started to giggle. God it was hot. The next stop, Arnie was blocking the door while a young woman with absolute comedy luggage tried to get on. Arnie stepped forward and patiently helped her load on suitcase after suitcase, then meekly squeezed himself further in to the weary crowd.

Nobody is a tit all of the time. We are all only tits some of the time. The rest of the time we’re ok. That’s just how it is.