A Day in the City
Up Notting Hill Gate tube station and get tripped up by windy gusts and speckles of rain. Squeak an indiscernable oomph, scarf flipping against your face and flats skipping away laughing, revenge for walking them everywhere all day. Too embarrassed to look around and make eye contact with the witnesses, you recover, pick up your bag and stride on to Portobello Road.
Pass tourists with cameras, the upper glass house with the grand piano, silken earrings, antique sports equipment and a chubby man shoving a posh Hummingbird Bakery cupcake into his face. At house 16, walk up 70 steps and pick up a friend. In leisurely minutes you two are galumphing down the 70 steps to Portobello Road and to the underground. Jump on the Central line to Liverpool Street, and at St. Paul's, you turn your face discreetly towards the glass divider when neighbour to the front pushes first his armpit, then his leaning, hot face within inches of yours. Breathe in the odours of the carriage riders and wonder about the curly-haired man with a puppet sewed onto the shoulder of his suit.
Swerve outside, up an escalator, where sunshine and rainless clouds dip into the shadows of backstreets and spotlight the iconic Gherkin, rising pointy and proud above his peasantry kingdom of churches and wine shops and monuments and Eat.s. Isolated in the quiet sphere of studious business men, you're sucked into the base of the giant phallic symbol, clicking across a pavement of empty tables and dispersed conversation. Enter Konditor and Cook, where latte steam wafts above the crowd and you choose a dark chocolate ganache cake, silky beneath the case light. On your way out to a table, admire the baby Gherkin cuddled in purple frosted flowers and enjoy the crisp afternoon, talking of re-appearing dreams and British actors and tinted window offices.
Into the blustery day again on London Bridge towards Borough Market which smells like the back of a restaurant. Suggest that maybe the cheese shops don't set up on Thursdays, which is why the lot across from Southwark Cathedral is empty. Tempted by the bread but no desire to buy, brush past the samples until you reach the basket of dried lavendar (is £5.99 per bunch a good price?) and the quieter than usual Market Porter pub. When he comes you'll say Market Porter three or four times before he remembers. Enjoy a pint of Kronenburg. Dart to the Slug and Lettuce for a couponed meal, and then to London Bridge underground for a trip north to Mornington Crescent station and The Koko Theatre, site of Charlie Chaplin performances and BBC theatre and Madonna's first ever UK show. Guitarist Simon leads you to the before-show hangout at the pub next door, where you meet your friend's brother's band from LA, Iglu and Hartly, the first band of the night.
After eight, it's time to go in. Your names are on the guest list, so the two of you + girlfriends + sisters enter the dark theatre, gilded with red box seats and chandeliers and three tiers of crowd. Then they come out: guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, drummer, two singers, snapping across the stage and jerking their instruments, their mics, their bodies to symphonic 80's hip hop. Screams. Frisbees. The crowd swells. On the open floor around you people wave and dance to the beat that heaves the air. Finally, calves sore, drums ringing, ears happy, you meet outside the pub again. Say good job over and over again, and hope America will be the next Koko Theatre.
Part ways and home to Putney.