This huge city

There’s an old railway line up in Crouch End that makes for a surprising and delightful walk. For want of anything else to do this mild show-free winter Sunday, I met my dear friend and we went for a stroll to blow the cobwebs. We were not by any means the only ones to have that idea, but that’s the obstruction that comes with living in this city. You rarely do anything alone here.

We strolled companionably through trees and mud and put the world to rights surrounded by dogwalkers and families and other people sorting out the world for each other too. Then we went for a very fine but expensive sunday roast in one of the many excellent pubs in Crouch End. I don’t think the conversation stopped for a second for the whole time we were together, which was a bloody long time. This is what friends are for. We pulled a lot of stuff out of ourselves, examined it together, and decided what to do with it. A lovely Sunday and much needed.

Unfortunately the tubes stop earlier than I anticipated in Finsbury Park. I missed the last southbound Victoria line train by a whisker and now I’m committed to the long slog on the nightbus.



It’s empty for now and we are already in Highbury, so maybe it won’t be the screaming hellzone that I associate with the night bus. And the roads are empty. It’s just before midnight on a Sunday. Everybody is in bed or working their way towards it. It’s actually rather lovely to see these ancient streets empty. Although the bins go out in Islington tomorrow morning, so there’s plenty of rubbish on the streets.

I remember the first time I was in New York there was a rubbish collector’s strike. It had not been long, and thankfully it was winter, but the piles of flyblown garbage were already astronomical by the standards of what we are used to. It’s so delicate, the mechanism of a city this big. The majority of people have to show up for work every day or the whole place will be uninhabitable in less than a week. Nobody has a clue how to feed themselves, warm themselves, find water, survive. It’s crazy to think how quickly the whole system might collapse.

Nevertheless, this late night bus driver is going to get me home almost as quickly as the underground train driver could have. He’s zooming through the city. We are already at Clerkenwell. It’s amazing, the consensus that makes all of this possible. If there were no more buses I could have found somebody who will pick me up in their own car and get me home for a premium. Even though the streets are empty the bulk of the remaining vehicles are arteries. Buses, cabs and private hire vehicles, seeking the few stragglers like me who just want to get to their destination quicksnap and are willing to pay top whack.

We are coming into The West End now, and I’m going to stop writing and start properly participating in this delightful spectacle of a mostly deserted city. It’s a rarity.

There are so many people in this town, but sometimes it can feel like there’s nobody. I’m glad to be reminded today that there are people who just fundamentally get me. What a lovely day of companionship.


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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