25 hours in London

March 22, 2016

 

Friday night and sirens blare,
I try not to stare but look
As throngs of feet drip past
And there sit two fire trucks.

They pull a dubious u-turn
And almost collide head-on,
The bustle is confusing
For anyone straddling these streets.

The firemen watch me,
fag in hand, they think - 
It's them that burn the houses
Down, whiskey bottle in hand.

Back inside the city hotel
I catch a chat at the bar
Practising my French for a while,
I've almost forgotten where I am.

I fancy a jar to clear my mind,
Addled by the constant buzz -
Normally I'd step outside
To think, but here it's unnatural

Unless, you're an ant.  This
Swarm of perpetual foot fall
Pounds in my ears and rings
Like I've developed tinitis.

I give up, back to the bar,
A double whiskey, a bit more French
And unprepared I head to bed,
My saturated mind to settle.

Down twelve quid only eight hours later,
A taxi drives aimlessly round
Pretending the pitiful length
Of the journey warrants a tip.

And now I'm in a post-capitalist
Wasteland, wondering how
Much it'll cost to buy outright
A measley one bed studio flat

Where the nearest decent shop
Is a DLR stop down the line,
Inflating the price of a pint
Of milk at five hundred percent.

And finally it's time to leave
This desolate, throbbing jungle
As my carriage sweeps through vast,
Crumbling, concrete estates.

Then the descent into the black
Of a train-sized manhole, packed
Until the doors slide open
And I join the wilderbeast

Which stampede toward the central line
And cram me to the wall as I
Attempt to stem the incessant flow
In vain to try and read the map.

Back in the throng, a bottleneck,
Of a fattening queue blocks
The steps of a perfectly decent
But overwhelmingly underused set of stairs.

I skirt the laziness and beat
The escalator, and narrowly
Avoid being knocked to the ground
As the wilderbeast peg it

To the gate, which slams
So suddenly shut that my bag
Was hardly accommodated,
Heaved through and over, before

I realise it's mid-October,
Umpteen feet under the ground
And I'm sweltering, wearing
Only a t-shirt and a Harrington,

Accentuated as I step inside
A burning hot tin of humans
Pressed against doors and squashed
Together, no-one catching an eye.

I ponder the words of Alan
Partridge, who said of London
That you can go there but
You'll either be mugged or unappreciated.

I've never been mugged but
I feel like a muggle, lost
In a mysterious metropolis
I'll never fully understand.

I eventually reach platform six
Of Liverpool Street Station, 
Coffee in hand and I sigh...
Thank fuck I live in Norwich!

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