Life through a lunch hour lens

From the first post I wrote for this blog, my perception of my lunch hour has changed. It’s no longer a simple, self-serving hour away for the desk. As of today we have 19 people following us. Perhaps you are one of them. 19 of you that might read about me traipsing around London. It’s an added frisson of excitement that I hadn’t counted on, and it leads me to experience a part of my day with a fresh perspective; my eyes are wider, I’m listening and attentive to people around me; curious as to what’s around a corner that I’ve never thought to look down. Now, I’m obviously ramping up the excitement of this new found childlike state but on Friday it did mean that I did something that I’d never done before…

Scratching around for something to do, I thought I’d let my mind and legs take a wander – Jah Wobble wrote about walking and thinking very eloquently in his book “Memoirs of a Geezer” which was playing on my mind. I had half a thought that I’d walk down to the river and then go to the Tate Modern, perhaps stopping to talk to the bloke who plays the steel pans on the South side of the Millennium Bridge.

Millennium bridge steel pans man

The steel pans man on the Millennium Bridge

As it was he was deep into the pans when I turned up and in no mood for idle chat, so I listened for a sec and then strolled down the ramp. It was another sunny day and a band were playing a strange, tango infused gypsy music. Turns out it was this lot

Popa Sopka outside the Tate Modern

I quite liked it. It reminded me of the Gotan Project and Gogol Bordello. I stood there for about 5 minutes and a tramp walked by, muttering something to me as he walked past. My wife used to talk to tramp in Enfield Town until he waggled his tongue between a “v” of his fingers at her and her mum one day. And this experience, added to my general feeling of panic when in an unfamiliar situation, meant that I’d normally ignore any street conversation.

So I was surprised as anyone when I asked him to repeat himself.

Turns out he was listening to the radio and a song had just told him that you have to live today as if it’s your last.
“Good advice” I said.
From there, the verbal floodgates opened. I knew how long he’d been on the streets, how much he drank, that he was trying to cut back, where he normally begged, what he’d been doing that day, what he was listening to…and he didn’t waggle his tongue at me or anything. I wished him well and got back to work, thinking about it all the way. I find conversation very difficult to come by in London. No-ones that interested in a chat because it’s a busy city with busy people. Millions of lives bumping into and ignoring each other. It was quite nice to be able to listen to someone who wanted to talk.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that you don’t always have to do something amazing in your lunch hour. You don’t have to visit galleries or walk somewhere different all the time. London has a population of over 8 million people. Sometimes it’s nice to talk to one of them. W


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