London at night
by Lynda Archard
©: June 2002
I missed all of last week’s festivities in London and watched the Queens Golden Jubilee on TV from the Isle of Sheppey in Kent with my daughter and her two friends. Gary still had to work and said that Monday and Tuesday in London were just like daytime with people waiving Union Jack flags and enjoying the party atmosphere all through the night. Some even slept on the pavements to be closer to the barriers that stretched for miles around the city.
Today, however, things were back to normal except for our radio, which kept switching from radio 2 to radio 4, a 24-hour news channel, every few minutes. We then discovered that Tony Blackburn does the night shift on Capitol Gold and so we listened to 70’s music all night instead.
The abandoned Sierra on the garage forecourt in Waterloo Road has now lost its wheels and sits on bricks. The bonnet and boot are open and the windscreen smashed. I think it was about a month ago that we first spotted the car and still no one has thought to move it. I’m sure that if the police could find the owner it would have been towed away on the first day and cost a small fortune to retrieve it back.
The protesters are still sitting outside the houses of Parliament at 4am. They are on the right-hand side of the road sitting on deck chairs behind their banners.
The lorry in the centre of the picture pulled out through a red light into a busy road in the docklands.
It also seems that bad driving habits are not confined to car, lorry and van drivers. A cyclist rode through a red traffic light in Stainer Street in SE1 into a busy main road and then rode in the centre of the road in front of cars that were forming a queue behind him. He lost the queue at the next traffic lights as he went through another red light leaving the traffic to wait for a green one.
I also received a letter from a support worker last week which is much appreciated to give a balance of opinion.
I thought I would do a seperate daily 'fox watch' to bring you the latest on this animal community. I hope to get clearer pictures for you and until then I will continue to tell you how many are running about or how many careless drivers have killed. The lone fox cub in this picture played on a busy roundabout in the docklands at 3am this morning.
Three girls stood at King’s Cross Station and one had just stepped into a parked limousine with blacked out windows in Shoreditch. Most of the regular girls have not been around for the passed few weeks. The police presence has been high all through London since the run up to the Jubilee celebrations and with several police cars in this area each night some girls could have been arrested.
Another driver was in the walk-in fridge collecting his orders this morning and coughed and spluttered into the cold mist that circled the entire area. He blamed it on hay fever, which is difficult to believe at 2.30am on an industrial estate, inside a fridge. There is a tree outside but it isn’t a big one and has no blossom. Now Gary knows about hygiene and keeps himself and the van clean at all times. I have certificates in hygiene and trained to be a chef so we know and understand what can and can’t be done. It is worth pointing out here that not one of the people working for this sandwich and snack company has been offered training or a course in hygiene. Most workers come and go after working in freezing temperature for a low wage while they adjust to living in this country so the employer does not know too much about his staff. The toilets are often filthy, have no light and rarely do the female workers even close the door while using the toilet, which are closed at night and I have used in the day when Gary worked for the company in the past. I have walked in while a woman is on the toilet and another standing outside having a conversation. No I am not exaggerating at all, these people actually make and package your sandwiches! When Gary leaves this unsociable job I might actually give details of where we actually deliver to and the brand so you can avoid them. Until then I have to be good.
Anyway getting back to our journey through London, Marylebone Road, NW1 must hold the record for the most traffic lights in Europe. They are every few yards whether they are needed to allow traffic from side roads or not. I assume some might be to slow traffic in the daytime but they certainly are not needed in the early hours of the morning. Some could easily become part-time lights after 10pm until the traffic builds up at 6am. It is debatable if traffic would actually get through London in a less than chaotic way if most obstacles were actually removed but I would like to know why we must sit around when roads are close to empty.
At the other end is Pentonville Road, Pentonville jail is somewhere off this road but I have never been able to see it among tall buildings. There is a traffic speed camera at traffic lights that flashes on and off to irritate drivers pulling up at red lights at a speed close to 10 miles per hour.
Because football is the main topic in London after our Queen’s golden jubilee, a few cars can be seen with red crosses painted onto bonnets. I assume they will be painted over if we lose and a car paint-sprayer will earn lots of money.
Gary did lose his temper a bit when he realised that not only was Blackwall Tunnel closed but so was the Rotherhithe Tunnel and the Lime House Link. Needless to say we did some more detours today than we have in the past. All the tunnels closed at once meant that we had to go over either London or Southwark Bridge and heavy traffic not allowed over either of these weight restricted bridges had to travel into Essex and cross the Thames using the Dartford Tunnel or wait until the Ferry at Woolwich to start running at daybreak – about 6am even though daylight had been here since 3.30am. It was pleasantly unusual for the Embankment not to be closed at 4am but it did help us to gain some time after opening up early after these regular road works had been completed.
There was an unusual amount of fighting among birds. Pigeons fought at Russell Square and two crows were really pecking at another at Euston. I did get out and scare the one away that kept watch from a tree crowing to its bully friend further along. The bird that was attacked flew under a gate and as I approached it flew down into the car park under the station.
A grey squirrel searched for breakfast at 5.45 am. This one had a good view of London from a road off Shooters Hill Road, one of the highest points in London. It was misty across London from here today and I hope to get you a clear picture of the view tomorrow.
The foxes at Park royal evaded me again. I have been waiting months to get a good picture of a fox in the cascading veiled glow of the street light, mainly because they blend into the background of everything else in London. I have sat behind the wall at least four times a week while Gary loads the van and the only time a fox walks casually under the light is while I am pouring the coffee inside the van. It is getting lighter everyday and I will get a good one soon!
Not only did we see girls out this morning, a man stood waiting in Shoreditch and another at King’s Cross for passing trade. At the end of the road is a gay nightclub and I now think that maybe the men we usually see could be rent boys. The man we saw this morning was very much strutting his stuff for the public to see on a street corner usually reserved for the regular ladies of the night.
Prostitutes are also appearing in other places such as Charring Cross Road, Euston Station and Victoria train station. If they were in these areas before then they were not as obvious as those in Shoreditch and King’s Cross.
It has rained all night and still the night people were out in London. We arrived early at Liverpool Street Station and it was just opening at 4.05am. Even so there were two men wrapped in England flags inside singing and waiting for the 7.30am England match against Nigeria today. Meanwhile a black taxi driver glimpsed a woman standing in the rain and drove backwards until he caught her attention and she flagged him to stop. The streets are still swept and plaques and windows are still cleaned or polished.
The award for the strangest person this month must go to the bare-footed man wearing T-shirt and shorts that walked into Euston station at 4.30am. Up until then life in London was quite normal with rail workers just leaving the night shift.
The rain continued and daylight was delayed until 5am this morning. I am hoping that some June weather is not far away.
Before I posted this I checked my web page statistics for ‘Lynda’s London.’ This section of Lynda’s esoteric web only hit the search engines last month and out of all the meta words I have added to the source code the most searched for words are ‘London Prostitutes.’ I find it amazing that so many search for them rather than ‘journals,’ or ‘London nightlife.’
As you know these creatures are sly cunning and shy, avoiding my camera at all cost. They obviously don’t like the rain and stayed in their fox holes this morning.
Two women, one man and a kerb crawler were out in Shoreditch at 2.30 am this morning. If you are a pimp please email me and tell me what you do while these people are standing in the rain risking their lives to keep you living in luxury. i would like to hear how you justify your cut.
On the way to work a van carrying what looked like bits of wood and carpentry tools overtook us on the Greenwich one-way system. An orange flashing light on top of the van must have made him feel he had a right to be speeding and rushing passed the only other van on the road (ours) at 2am. I’m not sure if it is legal to have a flashing light if you are not a major service such as the police or ambulance brigade.
They excelled in the sandwich-making department last night. This morning a whole pile of boxes had fallen onto the floor. Luckily none of this order was on our round. Not only is it un-hygienic but also delivering crushed sandwiches are embarrassing for the delivery driver who has to explain he is not responsible for the kitchen staff.
When Gary entered the lift at Liverpool Street Station a man was already standing inside. Gary asked which floor he wanted before pressing the button and the man explained, “any one will do. I’m in here trying to keep warm and out of the rain.” When asked if he had been in here long he replied, “all night.” He must have thought Gary was strange after coming in from outside wearing a summer T-shirt.
A man slept in a doorway next to some bags of rubbish outside Euston Station. All that can be seen are his trainers sticking out from under a thick blanket.
While the painters crawled under the canopy to paint the ironwork at Victoria coach station, some early arrivals slept in between each of the doorways. I bet they are glad that they don’t have to do this every night like the man at Euston.
Not a single creature was in sight. They must stay tucked up in their dens while the rain continued to fall most of the night.
One man stood close to the gay nightclub at King’s Cross. Two kerb crawlers pulled up at the same time for the attention of a young prostitute in Shoreditch and she walked straight to the expensive big car with blacked out windows and ignored the scruffy white van driver. Further along another walked along Whitechappel Road.
On the Victoria Embankment at 3.55 am two policemen stood peering into the River Thames. Three ambulances and a couple of police cars were parked close by with flashing blue lights flickering across the water. At first it looked like a serious accident or someone had found a body in the river. When we drove back passed at 4.15am they had gone and then on our third trip along here at 5.10 am I noticed a disco boat was moored where the policemen had stood. Sometimes I have heard of drunken fights on these disco boats and it has been known for people to fall into the river, which is a tidal river, and be dragged under by the current.
Protesters are still outside the Houses of Parliament. The sleeping men and women who love the countryside, hunting and killing foxes and trampling over the land on horses are inside the tent.
Slow or erratic drivers in various sections of London angered Gary again. He calls Holborn a barrier because on one side is theatre land with nightclubs, revellers, tourists busy roads at any time of the day or night and on the other side are quiet streets of closed offices. There are no residential areas and offices don’t open until after 7am, which means Gary and other drivers can deliver their goods to shops and stations easily and quickly.
We had to wait for the garage to open at 6am and get diesel so we took some pictures along the river from a different angle for my graphic section of 'Lynda's esoteric web.' These cleaners were busy hosing down the paths and polishing windows and plaques before the tourists arrive.
One of our cats, ‘Milly,’ is always here when we arrive home to greet us – and today she inspected the interior of the van while Gary did his paperwork. You might remember her from a few weeks ago when she tried to jump onto the bonnet.
A fox sniffed around for food on a grass verge in Deptford, South East London. It looked a bit shabby and quite thin compared to some I have seen that are large, well fed and similar in size to a large dog. I don’t know if they store food for days of rain and bad weather or if they take one day at a time. Another fox crossed the road in London’s Docklands appearing to be limping. It disappeared under a fence and headed for the river, moving quite fast for an injured animal.
Three women touted at Euston and King’s Cross was empty. Two men loitered in between King’s cross and Shoreditch looking into cars as they drove passed, while a well-dressed young woman in Shoreditch High Street seemed to be trying to avoid a man pestering her. One of the main problems of the area is that some men assume every lone woman must be a prostitute and wants to know how much they charge.
Yesterday I met a man who used to be a mini-cab driver in Greenwich. I told him about my website and ‘Prozzy watch’ and mentioned the prostitute in Depford. “Oh, is that the blonde tart by the phone boxes?” he asked. I said yes and he told me this had been her area for at least 9 years that he knew of. She would telephone for a cab to take her home and ask if they wanted money or her in the back of the car. He always chose the money just like she did. I then asked if he had ever seen the black girl in Shooters Hill Road and he told me her name. Apparently she is a junky and prostitutes to pay for her habit. Perhaps she takes drugs before work, which explains her dangerous behaviour of stepping out from the shadows into the centre of the road and flapping her arms trying to desperately stop passing vehicles. She actually worries me more than any other person we see at night because she will either cause an accident one day or end up getting hit and killed. The police should do something even if it is just to protect unsuspecting motorists from having a heart attack. She is so scary!
Next update Monday 17th 2002
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© Lynda Archard