Thursday, 22 October 2009

A night on the City (part II)

(click here for Part I)
Great metal spikes protrude from the legs of the park bench, which show how the bench was once securely attached to the ground. OK, 'securely' is probably the wrong word. A suited man and glamorous woman approach me, while I get my photo of the orphaned bench. I start to imagine the undergraduate party that led to this most 'uni' of stunts. With Birkbeck College just around the corner, I picture the students - a few lads in fancy dress - wresting the poor bench from its fixtures in nearby Gordon Square and lugging it here, onto the edge of a busy London road. How they must've laughed. Then I realise how much I look like a floppy-haired student who's just lugged a park bench from Gordon Square onto the edge of this busy London road. The glamorous lady gives me a suspicious look. I leave, with a guilty smile.

@Waxingmoonman Students. Birkbeck. Quick, find the glottal stop or be beaten.

Right, I've been walking for about half an hour. I should be back at the event by now. So just another couple of London's squares and I'll return. But no. Of course, instead, not through choice, I lose myself in the labyrinth of London's bloomin' Bloomsbury area.

For the next ten minutes, I stroll around Woburn Place, Tavistock Square, Gower Street, and back and forth and up and down and around the squares, all the time checking my map and looking ripe for a quick mugging. But of course no thieves come near - they see I'm carrying one of the cheapest phones on the market and writing things in a notepad; they're probably more scared of me than I am of them. Lunatic!

woburn food n wine sells tacky london hats

people don't stop and look at things at night

London at night is a strange place. With the sun setting early in the evening in autumn, busyness continues well after dark. Pubs shake with the roar of workers and revellers spending their big money. But as the hours pass, those who live here go home; there's little reason to be on the streets too late. Unless you work night shifts in Tesco Metro. Or you're homeless and you're wrapped in rotting sheets that won't keep out any of this biting cold.

Head down, eyes down. Shadows, made by burning streetlights, pass in silence. Get home, shut the curtains, feel safe.

Keppel Street

I eventually orientate myself when I locate Keppel Street and the very serious voices of Birkbeck's brains quieten to a pleasant hush. Opposite, I find my last new square of the evening. The round one. I walk around it until I reach something very odd. Not another free newspaper distributor or homeless man wrapped in free newspaper. It's a big wooden thing. It looks a bit like something a giant dog might've done that its giant owner didn't spot. But it's not.

"thoughtful, provoking reminder of the UK's inextricable link to the sea"

'Driftwood' is a huge twisty, turny sculpture designed by Danecia Sibingo, a third-year architecture student. It lives on Bedford Square. At night, this creation produces an odd feeling of otherworldliness. As I feel its smooth finish, a woman on a bench stares at me, thinking me mad. So I continue to fondle the plywood structure, now with added fervour and relish, little drips of saliva falling from my mouth. She leaves with her purse grasped tight to her side and mobile pressed to her ear.

london - not mine, not anybody's

I pass the beautiful backside of the 18th-century British Museum as I walk along Russell Street towards the aptly-named October Gallery (it's October). There to my left is the scene of earlier's driver confrontation. Is that blood? Oh no, just some awful streetlight reflection.

I return. I find the gallery, I find Dan, and I'm in. Little victory. To a man who gets lost on a straight road, I feel proud of my skills. Not only did I manage to get myself hopelessly lost with a you-couldn't-possibly-get-lost-while-in-my-company map, I then managed to stumble back into known territory having seen the squares I wanted to see and, as a bonus, chancing upon a giant dog poo. Little victories indeed. 

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