Monday, 29 December 2014
This morning was the first time I felt like I needed to wear gloves, the chill attacks you to somewhere under your skin. There's a keen awareness that comes with the ache of cold, like you suddenly look down and realise you have legs, and they are taking you to the places you need to go. In this hyper-realism of below freezing temperatures, the autopilot is not on. The morning does not feel sleepy, cosy or quaint. If not for the cold and the pavement's dead leaves, it would be indistinguishable from a spring day. The days are longer now, the sun is up earlier. I'm sure this may not happen seven days after the longest night of the year but that is my perception, that even in the dead of winter the world is waking up again.
The Underground lines spin on a curious shift. The Victoria Line is normally bursting at the seams, making the platform at Pimlico station feel like the bottom of the screen on an 80's arcade game. Commuters rushing from left to right, trying to find a carriage they can cram into and defiantly make a space for themselves with other people who would happily elbow them back out. Today the line is hardly full, and I can rush from escalator steps right into an open door, with no-one to glare at me or give me an armpit of disdain. I am rushed today, like awoken from sleep, a sleep of four days steeped in food, gin, books and blankets.
The reverse today comes on the Piccadilly line, which on other days is much clearer. Only clogged in the circular path towards the line itself, changing from Victoria to Piccadilly, blue to darker still. It is the train to Heathrow and tourists lack a spatial awareness that is magnified by the ridiculously gargantuan baggage on wheels they use to block any available means of overtaking. Today however, the platform too is jammed, animal tensions abound to make sure everyone is first onto the train, like the promise of two minutes of another train will never come.
So I take a step back, and I am rushed on either side by a pack of faceless people, their features barely comprehended before they disappear into the sea of London crowds above.
London has a new smell today, and more sunglasses than are necessary for a day in mid-winter. There have been parties, and gifts that call for a shading of the eyes and the sharp wafts of sandalwood, the sting of amber and crushed flowers. Everyone is sporting their new favourite scents.
I was going to write about death today, however Christmassy it may not sound. You can wake up on a Sunday morning with the lights still glowing softly on the tree, a small ache of the belly from too much food, how much more alive and dreamy could you feel? Yet an entire passenger plane disappears, four hundred people are fighting for their lives on a ship, a homeless man is left outside to freeze. Then there are the stories we left behind a month ago, no longer sexy. Children shot by trigger-happy policemen, a Middle East that Europeans only seem to know as broken, bloody and bombed. There are those who do not even make the news, fighting for their lives on Christmas day from cancer or starvation.
Yet here, "on the pulse of this fine day" to steal from Maya Angelou, I see Christmas lights and warmth exuded from people I know and the grandest pleasure of being alive with legs to feel cold with while browsing for books with no particular time to be anywhere. How are we not gods?
I think of the rush of people on the Underground, and how my brain cannot cope with each person as a singular human life so I shut everything down in order to cope with them as just a sweaty mass of limbs fighting for my space. Things become easier, a little larger and smaller in scope from my living room window, with the filter of glass and the peace that comes in the evening, high above everyone on a ninth floor, where the noise and the dirt and the streets of London look like a picture of light hardly moving.
I see high rise buildings, every light the possibility of at least one human life in each window, in towers costing millions living narratives I could never hope to even understand. Closer still, the building opposite ours offers mini movies at each light, the outlines of figures watching television, smoking, arguing, eating and going along with the choices they have made and the choices that have been made for them. How can I not feel connected, and at the same time, how can I not feel so completely outside the life of everyone else?
The writer in me feels greedy, wanting to capture through my, ironically self-absorbed filter, the people that pass me by every day. I would probably break inside, to hear the thousands of stories that deserve telling. Imagine a season of Serial for each human life you passed by in this city just for an hour, you would have an entirety of library beyond your own mortality.
People drive me crazy, yet they are all I can think about. I pass the flowers on the lamp-post on our street where a teenage boy was stabbed to death by a gang of teenage boys. I always wonder what was missing in the lives of people getting caught up in drugs and vice and violence. Beyond food and shelter and the comfort of a book or film. I don't know if I'm being wise or incredibly naive and stupid. Plane lights flicker above my head, another hundred stories.
Hello Neverland, I'm home.