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London at night
by Lynda Archard
©: July 2002

Monday 8th July

Last night Gary got a call from his boss saying that the kitchen staff had gone on strike, which is not a surprise as they did the same last year when Gary worked for them and the time before that. We arrived at 3.45am unsure if the fridge would be empty or not. But our hopes of going home and back to bed were gone when the orders were all there waiting to be delivered. We do know that the owner of the kitchen worked through yesterday evening in a desperate attempt to keep his business going and for the first time in months the orders were nice and neat and in the right order. Kitchen staff should learn from their boss how to do the job and they wouldn’t need to strike for having to work late to get the orders finished – but then again the boss doesn’t usually work 16 hours a day in freezing temperatures!

On the way to work a man casually walked through the Strand Underpass at 2.30am. The sign at the entrance clearly states ‘No Pedestrians.’ Just the speed of traffic would make me think again if I wanted to take this shortcut.

A packed bus pulled alongside of us at traffic lights in Commercial Road at 4.30. Lots of passengers were standing because every seat was taken. This is a usual sight for 8am and only the driver looked English. Most of these people work in the night because they can do jobs illegally in order to survive. Those with permits also work in low pay daytime jobs and do the night shift to earn a fair wage to provide for their families. Although we have a minimum wage again in the UK, there are still people working for less and employers only prepared to employ people without permits, who can’t complain, and school leavers that get a lower minimum wage than over 21’s.

On a happier note; If you saw a strange man dancing around a white van at King’s Cross Station this morning it was Gary dancing to Neil Sedaka’s ‘Breaking up is hard to do!’ Just after that the security guard caught me off guard while I was singing to ‘Shake your body down to the ground’ by Michael Jackson. It is the first time I have seen her laugh so my singing was not to her liking. She must like Michael Jackson though, because she hung around outside until the song had finished.

’Fox watch’

Two pairs of young foxes were out around Shooters Hill this morning and one on its own. I took pictures as usual and they all blended into the background once again. The one on its own just swiftly disappeared through the undergrowth.

‘Prozzy watch.’

A young prostitute danced around three pimps at King’s Cross at 3am. On our second trip, at 5am, roles had reversed with three prostitutes and one pimp watching them closely from the other side of the road.

Four girls walked or stood in Shoreditch.

Tuesday 9th July

Heavy rain fell until 5am this morning. The forecast for this week is for more cool weather with some rain until Saturday. It has also been said on some reports that the next lot of sunshine might be as far away as the end of August, which I hope is wrong. Many a summer I have been 50 miles away sunbathing in Kent and watching reports of heavy rain, thunder and lightening or cold winds in London.

A young man had just picked up a prostitute in his car, drove to Mile End and pulled up in a nice quiet side street. We pulled up behind him to make our delivery of sandwiches at the same time as a smaller van with two security guards and he quickly started his car again and drove off quicker than Batman in his Mobile. Some London streets are just never quiet for long!

Further along close to Blackwall Tunnel a man was waiting to cross the dual carriageway after climbing over the safety railings. This was yards away from the site where my friend was killed aged 16 years on 11th April 1975, when I was 15 years old. It was rumoured that there had been a rape in the subway and so we always crossed the road if either of us were on our own. That day she was on her own and the young driver has had to live with the fact that his speeding and her in the wrong place caused her death. You never know what is around the corner.

Gary sped up to a green traffic light just as it changed to amber near Euston, saw the police van full of police waiting on the other side and breaked. He slid a short distance and screeched to a halt because of the rain just before the light turned red and managing to stop on the line. The policemen clapped him and I think he was very lucky that they were in a good mood today.

’Fox watch’

A couple of young foxes were out, one in Mile End and the other on Shooters Hill. We rarely see full size adult foxes now the cubs are older. If we do then they are in the distance keeping watch on the young.

This picture taken close up of a fox shows how they can easily blend in to the background when photographed from a distance. I was about six feet away from this one and it was as clear as any animal can be at night to me. In photographs the fox is not even as clear as my black dog taken from the same distance in the same light. In fact I can see the foxes at night, and in the distance, much more clearly than I can see me dog when she is closer to me. Weird stuff eh!

‘Prozzy watch.’

One girl stood under the bus shelter at Euston and two girls and three pimps walked around King’s Cross in torrential rain. Three girls stood in Shoreditch High Street and one in Shaftsbury Avenue. Most carried their coats over their arms.

Wednesday 10th July

It isn’t only full size cows in the London cow parade. We saw the head of a black and white cow on top of a telephone box opposite Baker Street Station in Marylebone Road, NW1 today.

As we turned into Shoreditch High Street a punk rocker looked as though he was pouring liquid over a pile of rubbish. He is the first punk I have seen around London in twenty years and probably was not born when the punk trend began in 1975/6 from a shop in the King’s Road, Chelsea, by Vivian Westwood and Malcom McClaren.

A short distance further in Whitechapel an Asian man was doing his limbering up exercises wearing a tracksuit – and it was still only 3am. A young man across the road was cowering on his knees in the corner of a shop doorway with two large policemen standing over him. It was not clear if he had just been hit by one of them or had been beaten and robbed before they arrived. This area is rough and nothing that I see surprises me anymore. This area of London, between King’s Cross and Mile End, is where more people with no morals live and work than any other part of London I have been and the only place that I have seen women walking around with babies and young children in their arms or waiting at bus stops between the hours of 2am and 4am. Approximately 8 out of every 10 of these young to middle aged mothers are Asian in origin, prostitutes are mainly bleached blonde scruffy white women with bad attitudes and pimps are black Jamaicans with dreadlocks and twitchy people that wear sunglasses and hoods over their heads at night.

On a lighter note, this picture of two passenger balloons was taken from Blackfriars Bridge over the river Thames at 5.45am.

’Fox watch’

On our way back from the docklands at 4am a fox escaped death as he ran for cover after lying in the centre of the road. Gary did not see him until the last minute and nor did I. He must have been sleeping or in a dream watching the traffic go by.

‘Prozzy watch.’

Prozzy land was busy tonight with 3 prostitutes at Euston, 5 at King’s Cross, 4 in Shoreditch and 2 in Shaftsbury Avenue. We saw 6 pimps in King’s Cross and 1 in Shoreditch. One of the Shoreditch girls glared as we drove passed and one in King’s Cross wore a black bra under an open light blue denim jacket with skin tight jeans. She walked along the busy main road with her head up and proud of her thin body. To me she looked as if she needed a good dinner and some new clothes. Some of the girls seem to prefer spending money on bleach for their hair and must spend a fortune on make-up, which can be thick and garish, instead of food and comfortable clothing.

Thursday 11th July

The city was busy everywhere this morning with traffic and people. Drivers were still causing problems by using mobile telephones and straddling road lanes and three police cars were hidden in various side streets ignoring it all. The jeep at Euston has been towed away and there are now notices to tow away the car abandoned at King’s Cross. Liverpool Street Station was packed with people waiting for the Express train to Stanstead Airport for their holidays at 4.30am and a woman walked to King’s Cross station carrying her shoes to give her feet a rest from partying in London all night.

Road works are not yet complete around Trafalgar Square but now they have closed off Whitehall and Northumberland Avenue with more road works. This was causing chaos at 5am so if you are coming to London during the day expect major delays. It causes even more problems for drivers of commercial vehicles, which are not allowed near Buckingham Palace, with detours that can add 10 minutes to deliveries at night and an hour or more during the day traffic. We did spot another cow on our detour outside The Ritz. It is royal blue with ‘The Ritz’ written across its head in sparkly crystals of some sort. I also noticed that the traffic lights had pedestrian ones with horses on them. Usually it is a little red man that warns you not to cross and a green one for go. This was at the end of Grosvener Place, near Buckingham Palace, just before the kind of shops that you can only go in if you can afford £200 or more for a tiny posh hat that you might wear once to an Ascot racehorse meeting. And speaking of the rich with nothing to spend their money on – A painting was sold in London last night for £49.5 million to an anonymous buyer. The Ruebens painting called ‘The Massacre of The Innocents’ was expected to reach £5 million and was painted in 1610. I would be more impressed if the buyer bought a country such as Ethiopia and used his money to feed and help the people!

A Jesus look-alike nearly met his maker as he stood in the road with fast traffic in Shaftsbury Avenue.

A while ago I photographed a man living rough behind the railings next to the Embankment Underground Station. He slept on a concrete step wrapped in a sleeping bag but he has now improved his life slightly by sleeping in a tent now. Who is it that spent all that money on a picture when so many are grateful for just a few coins for a meal?

The cable drum that was in the road near London Bridge train station a few weeks ago has been rolled backwards and forwards over the past few weeks. It is now on its side next to the road close to London Bridge again.

’Fox watch’

There were two young foxes outside my house when we left for work at 2am. They sat in the middle of the road watching us get into the van. Most of the foxes we have seen recently are young adults and often seen in pairs. There is a lone fox living either on the roundabout at Mile End in the bushes on top of the bank or it lives close by and visits each morning. I have photographed it several times, with and without the flash but it even blends into the green grass. The only other place we see a lone fox is at the top of Shooters Hill. The fox in the picture was on the grass bank along side a busy petrol station at North Woolwich.

‘Prozzy watch.’

There were three girls at King’s Cross at 3am and another three had joined them by 5am and two that walked along Shoreditch.

Friday 12th July

The city was busy again this morning. A few drivers had not expected so much traffic and braked constantly slowing down the usual night traffic. Before we got to the end of the Old Kent Road a man ran across in front of cars and back again, which nearly got him hit. Another man cycled along the pavement while pushing another bike and youths stood around in small groups.

At the kitchen another van had parked the right way around so that more vehicles could pull in beside it. I said I wished he parked like that everyday, instead of at an angle that allows exhaust fumes to bellow through my window, and then realised it was someone else. It was a driver I had not seen since Gary worked for the company delivering to airports at weekends. Now delivering to airports was an interesting job. People would stare at you walking towards them with ten boxes stacked on a trolley until you asked them to move. This was in an aisle no more than three feet wide, boxes two and a half feet wide and people who didn’t realise they were in the way. I think some might have been standing or waiting for far too long. By the way, my inspiration for the entrance to this site and the pages with spider legs at the edge is from a sign outside Gatwick Airport that advertised a web solutions company. It had giant spider legs hanging over the top and I thought it was a great idea to do something similar for my web.

Police surrounded a house in Shooters Hill at 4am. A woman stood at the door in her nightclothes while police peered through the window and sat in cars in the next street. It looked like a siege situation as we drove passed.

At 4.30am we arrived at Liverpool Street, which was being hosed down to rid the street of dust. The hose was fitted to a hydrant at one end of the street and stretched to the other end with some to spare.

Next we made our way to deliver a £5.71 order of nine sandwiches to Euston Station. After Euston our detour to avoid Trafalgar Square took us along Oxford Street, which I have shopped in many times. I did not recognise any of it without thousands of shoppers, jammed with traffic and buses and Gary had to tell me where I was.

Near Victoria was a gang of oriental youths carrying thin leather pouches over their shoulders across their backs. I thought they might be fishing rods but it did cross Gary’s mind that they were teenage triads with machetes.

These men at King’s cross made a mess of loading a heavy package onto the lorry. First the crane was not low enough and so one got the chain out. Then two spent 5 minutes trying to untangle it before trying to hook it to the crane only to find it had then been raised too high. They had just started lifting it when we left and I must say that it was hard for me not to offer to do it for them.

’Fox watch’

A few foxes were out in the usual places this morning. I caught one on camera against the light of a carwash that was eating from a Kentucky Fried Chicken packet that someone had thrown from his or her car.

‘Prozzy watch.’

There were five girls and three pimps at King’s Cross and three girls in Shoreditch. I have only seen the girls in Shoreditch solicit every man that walks passed them. As far as I am aware they will not be arrested for selling their bodies but they will be for pestering people.

Next Update Monday 15th July

More photographs are at the ‘Best of Lynda’s London Photograph’ section.

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