Nighttime London

Here I am again at Caffe Nero, East Dulwich, having a late lunch and attempting a blog post. But, this time WordPress will not defeat me. I am backing this baby up, saving it on Microsoft Word and Apple Text and online and in Gmail and whatever other program I can find on my computer to store text.

I mentioned in my last post that I had ‘many things’ to write about and its true, but I’m feeling more than a little low today (is it because of the onset of an autumn cold? Is it because I’m currently listening to Ben Folds’ ‘Still Fighting It’? Was it because I started the day by watching ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’? FYI, never start the day by watching ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’. That shit is powerful dangerous, like) and we all know what happens when I’m feeling a little melancholy. I end up watching ‘Friends’ re-runs on the telly and comparing my life to Jennifer Aniston’s. Oh, ok, I do that on good days too. But, you know.

Anyway, here I go again, trying to get motivated. I have plenty of things to write about. I could tell you all about my Writers’ Retreat in Suffolk, which was delightful fun and involved much laughter and wine and Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer and feminist discussions and Spotify playlists. I could tell you about my merchandising job, which is not wonderful fun, but at least affords some interesting interactions with people in the supermarket (exhibit A: today a man walked up to me in the store as I was rearranging the cosmetics, shoved a green bottle under my nose and yelled, ‘Face Wash!’ I was uncertain whether or not he was asking if it was, in fact, face wash; or if he was offering it to me to put on the shelf; or was wondering if I, personally, would like some face wash, perhaps to wash my face with; or if he was commanding me to wash my face RIGHT THIS SECOND; or if he was simply bragging that he had face wash and I was clearly face wash-less). I could tell you about my pub job, which I am surprising myself with how much I am enjoying (in my whimsical moments, I like to think that pub work is in my blood, as my aunt and uncle own a pub in Newcastle and the father of my great-great-uncle owned one of the first pubs in Newcastle, which was named, for a time, ‘Help a Lame Dog Over a Stile’. Showing shrewd business sense, my great-great-great uncle -or whatever that relationship is – shortened the name to ‘The Lame Dog’ within a month of opening). But, I’m going to tell you, instead, about something remarkably stupid I did on Friday night.

I went out on Friday night and had a few drinks (with some new friends, not just on my own – things aren’t that bad in the melancholy stakes yet). After some excellent Mexican food and free tequila shots (here’s a little tip: try to figure out what the bar is out of and then order that. Then, when they realise they are out of the only drink on the menu you wanted to drink, they will feel so bad they will give you free tequila for you and your friends. IT’S TRUE), I managed to find myself stuck out in Homerton (really? Homerton? That’s a place?) at 4:30am and needing to get home, showered, fed and out to freakin’ East Dulwich by 8:30am. Of course, I only had to be at East Dulwich so early because I had to be back at Clapham Common to start my pub shift at 12pm, so you can see that the whole thing was like a long line of metaphorical dominos just waiting to topple over and, in fact, I had already given the first domino an almighty shove by accepting a free tequila shot and then drinking three more glasses of red, thus ending up in Homerton at 4:30am in the first place. It was only a matter of time before the next dominos fell too.

However, I made a valiant attempt at keeping the dominos straight and upright. As Homerton is out in East London, underground stations are almost non-existent. Which is ok, because underground services generally don’t start until 6am anyway. I was advised to go to an overground station that would ‘probably’ have trains running. Not wishing to walk on my own out in the dark and deserted streets of Homerton, I ws called a minicab. The minicab arrived and off I headed to the station. Of course, the station was closed, deserted and, to top it all off, down a back alley. I said to the cab driver I didn’t really want to get out at the station and he said, ok, where did I want to go? Having no idea where Homerton was, let alone, whereabouts in Homerton I was, or where anything else of use would be (for example, a bus stop), I dithered too long for the cab driver’s liking. He took matters into his own hands and said he would drop me at the high street. That seemed reasonable, except for the fact that I actually wanted him to drive me all the way home to Clapham Common and I was finding it oddly difficult to ask him to do so. It was probably too far away. It was out of his ‘district’. He probably had other jobs to go to and I had only asked to go to Homerton station.

So, against all my better judgement, I got out of the cab, into the dark, deserted high street of Homerton with not a single clue of where I was, if I was safe or how to get home.

I can only blame the remnants of the tequila shot and the four glasses of red wine and hope against hope that my father isn’t reading this post, because he made me promise only two weeks ago (after everything that happened in Melbourne) that I wouldn’t even walk the 10 minutes home from the pub on my own and I can’t imagine what he would say to such reckless behaviour. In hindsight, and in context of Jill Meagher, it was a senseless risk to take. But then again, I thought that at 13 when I read about Anna Wood dying after taking half an ecstasy tablet. To me it made perfect sense that no-one would EVER take illegal drugs again. It was a point A to point B line of reasoning. However, as far as I know the illegal drug trade is still flourishing, so… I don’t know, further evidence that we’re all kind of screwed up, risk-taking, douche bags with no consideration for the people who care about us. Or, at least I am, and also those drug-users too. Maybe the rest of you are completely rational human beings who never venture out after dark and only take drugs that have been verified in umpteen medical trials (though, really, now that we’re on the topic, many of those medical trials are fixed by the companies anyway, so even you smug rational people can’t know exactly what you’re putting in your bodies, or the effect they’re going to have…)

The thing is, once I get used to a neighbourhood, I quite like walking around the city in the night on my own. Back in Sydney, if I was particularly worked up after… I don’t know, a movie, a bad shift, an argument with a friend, a script that wasn’t working out the way it was supposed to, sometimes the best way to clear my head was just walking out the door and doing some laps of nighttime Newtown. The streets are emptier, the stars are out, the city is lit up, the air is cool. Its calming. And I know that could seem contradictory, especially if you enter into all the fear and anxiety of being a young woman walking around alone at night.

On Saturday morning, I certainly didn’t feel comfortable or calm. I was completely freaked out. Apart from the whole dark, deserted thing, I had no clear idea of how to get home and had no smartphone with which to check where I was. My motto in London so far has been, ‘there’s always a map!’ But at 5:30 on Saturday morning, I didn’t want to be searching for a map and then stopping in front of it for endless minutes whilst attempting to identify familiar sights and orientate myself. I just wanted to be somewhere inside that was warm, light and filled with people I could trust.

Luckily for me, a night bus drove past only a minute or so after I got out of the cab and onto the street. Desperately, I ran after the bus and the driver was nice enough to wait for me at the bus stop (there was no-one else on the bus, so he may as well, but that would never have happened during the day). I had no idea where the bus was headed, but I figured that at least it was a light-filled, inside kind of place with CCTV cameras and a person with a uniform on (even if it was just a bus driver’s uniform and even if you can’t ACTUALLY implicitly trust any person with a uniform on). I figured I could sit in this light-filled, inside-kind-of-safe-place, until, at the very least, it went past an underground station at which point maybe the trains would have started again and I could get back to Clapham Common.

In the end, I got out at a tube station east of the Olympic Park (which is pretty east anyway) and got the (surprisingly full) first train back into the city. I even managed a half hour nap, a shower and some breakfast before having to head out to East Dulwich Sainsbury’s again.

I’m not entirely certain what the point of this blog post was. I started composing it when I was on the bus, relieved and amused by the fact that I had absolutely no idea where the bus was taking me (it also ended up taking me the complete opposite directed of where I had hoped and thought it was taking me). I was thinking about it whilst enjoying the feeling of being on a bus at 5:30am and watching the world wake up. I thought perhaps it was another amusing example of me trying to get used to the city in which I now live. But, after sitting here, writing it all out and maybe its the Ben Folds or maybe it was the Lionel Shriver/Tilda Swinton this morning, but it all seems very serious and awful. I’d really like to go through my life doing the things I like and want to do without having to worry that my life might be in danger.

Image

Homerton Station. Really, would you have waited there at 5:30am on your own? Found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homerton_railway_station

 

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Filed under Introspection, London

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