26
Aug 04

On Monday I set off

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On Monday I set off earlier than usual for work. I was pleased with myself because I had caught a bus just as it was starting to rain. I was going to get in dry and have a nice productive early start. Less than a minute from home, the bus was held up. The Police had cordoned off the road. We all had to get off and walk, in the strengthening rain.

I have started taking the bus all the way to work from where I live by Peckham Rye, to New Bridge Street. The quick way is to take the bus to Peckham Rye station then train it straight up to Blackfriars. Most days, though, the bus only takes ten or fifteen minutes longer and it’s more fun seeing people come and go, up through North Peckham and along the Old Kent Road, all the students at the Elephant, and the abject anonymity of Blackfriars Road. Also, having a single journey gives me more time to read my book, or listen to some music.

As we walked around the cordon I realised there was an AIR AMBULANCE waiting on the Rye itself! I haven’t seen one of these on the ground since a game at Torquay years ago, it landed on the pitch at half time as part of a fund-raising display. There had obviously been some sort of crash on the road. A motorbike was down, a car was stopped. Someone was being cared for, all I could see was his jeans. There were a few people who’d stopped to look: I didn’t. It shakes me, seeing road accidents. I supposed he was going to be alright. None of the watchers looked terribly distressed. People seemed to be talking to the fellow who was on the road. On I went to work. I silently wished him good luck and hoped he was in a state to enjoy his ride in the helicopter.

Making the decision to take a slower, more pleasant form of transport in preference to a faster, nastier one is something which makes me feel like a Londoner. Far more than knowing mostly how to handle three degrees of bus separation from anywhere in London to anywhere else. Far more than knowing the stops on the tube. It’s something about qualitative choice rather than information retention. I like recognising people on the bus, and sometimes even saying hello to those who seem to recognise me. I enjoy the thought of all those wildly different life trajectories held together for thirty five minutes on a 63, all these lives I’ll never touch and likely won’t touch me. I like to be reminded that I’m alive in London, and that they all are, too. Looked at this way, the view inside the bus over Blackfriars Bridge is as exciting as the breathtaker up and down the river.

And this morning, like a kick in the guts, the yellow sign: Fatal Accident. Monday 23rd August. They were appealing for information. Of course, I have none.

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