London at night
by Lynda Archard
©: July 2002
After an extremely hot weekend the night has brought out people walking because they can’t sleep, clubbers and the traditional bad tempers. Outside a nightclub in High Holborne, at 2.30am, people stood around watching as police swarmed the area and dragged a man to the floor. I don’t know what he had done to warrant six police cars and we didn’t stop to find out. Gary made a point of telling me that he arrived for work earlier all of last week when he didn’t have to wait for me in the mornings while I was on the Isle of Sheppey with my daughter and her friend Marie. I told him that he should have left me there for the rest of the holiday but he ignored me. (I am going for another week soon though – I just need to find an excuse or irritate him until he agrees!)
The caravan is still dumped near the kitchen and it was much warmer outside the walk-in fridge than inside. I have known it to be warmer inside the fridge in the winter. The heat doesn’t only bring people out, Gary said there were lots of cockroaches crawling across the floor of a very hot shop he delivers to last week. This morning there were cleaners who had not only scrubbed the floor but had also piled up tables and chairs in front of the fridge so that he couldn’t get the boxes of sandwiches in. They didn’t like it when Gary threw them on the counter and told them to do it themselves.
There are now signs in most London petrol stations explaining that driving out without paying is an offence. When I worked in a petrol station around ten years ago we had about five drive-outs per week. If we didn’t see them go, could not call the police with a number plate to report it, the money came out of our wages. These people might think they are stealing from a wealthy business but they are actually stealing from the person working there. Most garages still pay the minimum wage they can get away with!
I was surprised to only see two foxes. I thought they might all be out in the warm night.
Three girls were out in King’s Cross, two in Shoreditch and one in Whitechappel. The girl in Deptford was walking along the rail on the corner of the road and holding the top swinging as she walked. She looked stoned and could have been unaware of anyone who might have tried to attract her attention.
I didn’t go to work this morning and caught up on my sleep while my daughter and her friend Aimee went instead. They were completely unimpressed with London and when I asked what they saw they said only a baby fox.
After the hottest day of the year it has rained all night and brought some welcome cool air to those who can’t sleep in the heat. We are not used to the heat in the UK and when it is stifling heat people complain as much as when it is very cold in mid-winter. We only get unbearable days for about two or three weeks in mid-summer but this year it has been for about five days. On the Isle of Sheppey, in Kent, it is cooler near the sea because of the breeze and people burn because they don’t realise the real temperature. In London the buildings hold the heat and it is usual for me to be spread out on the floor with a couple of fans aimed in my direction trying to keep cool at this time. (Remember that I am the woman Gary calls a reptile because I wear gloves and a coat from September through until June even when others are in shorts and T-shirts!) Tonight I left my shorts at home and wore long trousers and a long-sleeve T-shirt and was comfortably warm with the window of the van open.
Inside Blackwall Tunnel the windows of our van steamed up. It was hotter inside the tunnel than above and created a situation in which our windows had to be open to see where we were going. The pollution was clearly visible in the form of a grey/brown hazy mist above the traffic.
Daylight is now starting around 5am and the nights are getting longer. The weather reporters on the radio have said that there are no more heat waves predicted this summer and I am hoping they are wrong again. Gary is pleased though.
We saw six foxes tonight. One watched Gary taking the sandwiches into a shop in Welling and was dripping wet in the heavy rain at 4am.
There were only two prostitutes at King’s Cross. One was sitting under a shelter at the train station and the other stood at the road edge with an umbrella wearing a very short animal print skirt and a boob tube. It was not warm in the rain!
It’s freezing. I wore a jacket over a shirt and a T-shirt and I had Gary’s jacket over my legs! There was a lot more traffic and not many people about this morning. Clouds still filled the sky after it rained nearly all day yesterday.
Who ever delivered the prostitutes calling cards to the telephone boxes in Marylebone Road must have been in a hurry – they were piled on the floor in a heap and looked like they were tipped in.
Outside a hotel in Park Lane a stone horse head was hoisted onto a stone pillar. We drove passed so we don’t know if it was being placed there or taken away until tomorrow. Just passed that Gary saw a new Aston Martin Vanquish car outside a house. He was impressed so much that he said the hair stood up on the back of his neck. The nearest he has got to his dream car is a model of a Jaguar that I bought him for one of his birthdays a few years ago.
I saw twelve foxes this morning. It seems they prefer the colder nights to warm nights and were in all the usual places that we see them. I have also wondered why they all have straight thin tails. Ten years ago foxes were rarely sighted and had big bushy tails. Perhaps they are a new breed or have mated with other creatures.
There were six pimps at King’s Cross and no prostitutes until we did our second trip passed here at 5am when two were working. There were also three in Shoreditch, one of which who looked like a schoolgirl twirling pigtails at the side of her head on the first glance. On a second glance she looked at least 40 years old and anorexic.
It was either warmer this morning or I have got used to the cold again. Lots of people were out including a young man practising his football skills with two friends watching on the pavement of a Bermondsey Street. Another drunken young man seemed to be directing traffic from the pavement in Old Street just before 3am.
More cables are being screwed to the walls inside Blackwall Tunnel and the workers looked very tired after working all night. Some stared at traffic as if in a daze.
I was concerned about a young woman sitting on the path outside Liverpool Street Station at 4.30am. She was very drunk, dressed for a party and had been sick everywhere. Gary told a security officer about her and that she needed assistance and the man shrugged and walked away. I wondered where her so-called friends or partner had gone. There is no woman deserving of being left alone in that state to fend for herself. She sat with her legs outstretched, skirt hitched up around her thighs and her head bowed into her lap. She was swaying and trying to look around while everyone stepped over her.
At the next stop at King’s Cross two men stood close to the wall. One was doing something that looked like drugs and was trying to hide it. I locked the doors as soon as Gary left and lit a cigarette ready to stab it in the back of any hand that might come through the window. I remember my friend arriving at my home shaking after a man reached into her car window while parked at a traffic light on the Greenwich one-way system at the Cutty Sark. Before he reached her handbag she dug her long fingernails into the back of his hand and he ran off.
On our way to Euston, a two-minute journey, we drove behind an Astra car with the woman passenger rolling a joint of cannabis. There were three people in the back and they were all Asian. Just passed them a nasty accident had occurred since we passed by an hour or so before in which a red Peugeot had collided with a van from a rival sandwich company at the junction of Merton Road and Euston Road. The car was smacked at both ends with a flattened traffic light in front of it. The van was scraped along the driver side and another van driver was transferring the goods into his van. I couldn’t see the driver of the car so he must have been taken to hospital.
At least five foxes were out and one walked across the forecourt of Guy’s Hospital in daylight at 5.45am. I did get pictures, which will be added over the weekend after I have created more space on my server. I don’t get paid for this website and having a free server means only 20mb and I am up to the limit.
A dead fox lay across the road on the roundabout outside Rotherhithe Tunnel. It looked like a young one.
There were five prostitutes at 3am at King’s Cross and another three at 4.30am. One girl had a whistle close to her mouth ready to blow in case of trouble or perhaps the sight of police. She was with a group of men and could have been a prostitute or keeping watch for drug dealers.
Next update Monday 5th August 2002
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