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I step out onto Shaftsbury Avenue but I’m not really met by the Shaftsbury Avenue I stepped in from 8 or so hours ago, I am met by birdsong  and colossal stripes of clear sharp morning light draped across the empty road where I now stand. Is it past home time, or is the rest of London still dancing? It seems no one has got up to go to work this morning apart for the Costa Coffee staff.  I feel timeless, for a moment, and then I am re-orientated by a plumage of clubbers bursting onto the pavement and disappearing down into the tube station. The tube is open, it is officially the next day.

I have not only lost sense of time but also lost sense of place, of myself in central London. The building I just stepped out of is a disused bar in a disused church which had housed a friends birthday party for the night (or morning more accurately).  The building is an ‘empty space’,  if all the world were a city than this would be it’s wilderness and I’m pleased to have stolen a moment in its short autonomous  life before being  scrubbed clean and told what to do. (The building that is, not me, though at this stage in the morning I would welcome both)

I am about to get on the tube when the uniqueness of this no-mans-time strikes me and I suggest to my Brixton bound friends ‘Lets walk home, the light is incredible, lets at least cross the river’. And so we do. We pick a bridge, it’s a toss up between Westminster and Charring Cross and Charring Cross wins in the end. It seems everyone still gets a kick out of crossing the Thames, particularly south londoners, perhaps it’s the affirmation of a boundary, you cant argue with a river, you’re defiantly in south London now.  Perhaps it’s just that it’s a beautiful river and this morning is no exception, she is glistening, in a murky sort of way.  We take a moment on the Southbank side of the bridge to look downstream, East, straight into the blustering winds and morning sun. The tide is low and from our vantage point on the footbridge the river now seems far away and almost outshone by the silvery stretches of beach on either side. There is no hurry, there is conversation and silence, and wind and stillness and then there are two geese! I hear them before I see them, not overhead but from bellow!  A single honk echoes under the railway bridge behind us. The pair swoop up and settle on a large concrete support just below me, they’re not Canada Geese I know this much, they’re bulkier and mostly grey.  They too stand and look downstream, as if like us planning the best route onwards, I envy them for I imagine that they’ll carry on a lot further into the sun and along the river then we will, when at waterloo we’ll  turn south and find a bus no doubt.

‘You shouldn’t live in London’ my companion claims, matter of factly, watching me watch the geese.

‘Why not’  I reply. ‘I wouldn’t get excited about geese in Totnes would I? cup of tea and bus home?’


Rahima Fitzwilliam Hall

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