Aug 182013

or Adventures in Book Delivering

London Bridge station, First Capital Connect service to Bedford

The woman by the window is wondering what the big glass skyscraper is. Her boyfriend, facing her, is wearing knee-length shorts almost entirely composed of pockets, and has a cobra tattooed on his calf.

“Where are we?” he says, when she tries to confer. “King’s Cross?”

“Not sure.”

“It’s the Shard,” says the man in the suit, not raising his eyes from his crossword.

They look at him, then back out the window.

“So, what is it,” says the boyfriend, “Canary Wharf?”

“No, it’s the Shard.” He’s trying to work out an anagram; neatly biro’d letters are arranged in a precise circle beside the white and black grid.

“So, where are we?”

“It’s the Shard. You’re at London Bridge.” His pen traces a circle in the air directly above the circle of letters.

“Right. Shard.”

“We’ve only been in London three years,” his girlfriend explains.

5 Caledonian Road, N1 9DX

Along the Euston Road

The caffs round King’s Cross are full of downcast Scotsmen eating breakfast. Outside O’Neill’s, others stand in kilts and saltires, pints in hand. Soon, it will be time to cross the Euston Road and catch the train back home.

183 Euston Road, NW1 2B

Passing Gordon Square

They have a farmers’ market in Bloomsbury. In Bloomsbury. A farmers’ market. I just saw a sign.

14 Bury Place, WC1A 2JL

In front of the British Museum, Great Russell Street

How can you possibly walk this slowly? I’m carrying a box full of books and I’m still walking faster than you. Or I would be if you weren’t in the way. Right now, I’m walking at exactly the same speed as you.

16-18 Ramillies Street, W1F 7LW

Eating a muffin on the steps of the National Gallery

I’ve decided I like the big blue cock.

39 Bear Lane, SE1 0UH

Baker Street station, attempting to reach the Hammersmith & City Line platform

I really can’t get past you if you insist on walking five abreast, you know? Being Spanish is no excuse. Oh, God – is this a Gibraltar thing? Look, I haven’t got time for this – can’t we just let the monkeys decide?

130 Talbot Road, W11 1JA

Turning into Blenheim Crescent

Ladbroke Grove smells rather lovely in the rain. Hey, Joe, where you going with that ’66 sunburst Telecaster in your hand? First time I’ve seen that mural. Without people you’re nothing. Nice. Oh, the old Travel Bookshop is still open. I thought it had closed. Damn. That means I’ll have to come back. Maybe I should have brought spare copies, but… I’m still not sure I can carry the ones I’m carrying…

21 Kensington Park Road, W11 2EU

On the 277 bus, Grove Road, Bow

“No,” he says, grabbing the Kronenbourg from his mate and taking a swig, “leave it out.”

“Come on, one photo. I just want to show her.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” He hands back the can, and rolls up his trackie bottoms to reveal a scarred mess from knee to ankle, thick with congealed blood. “Just one, yeah? And just on Facebook.”

174 Victoria Park Road, E9 7HD

On the 388 bus, waiting to turn right from Mare Street

Yay, there’s a vintage dress shop called Frockney Rebel!

166 Brick Lane, E1 6RU

Quaker Street, walking to Shoreditch High Street station

Maybe I could try repeating the phrase “Can I get past please?” at increasing volume, until you finally hear me over the sound of whatever too-cool-for-school Hoxton soundtrack is playing in your earphones. Would that work?

50 Westow Street, SE19 3AF

On the front seat of a 249 bus careering down Beulah Hill

Bloody hell, they still have Harvesters out here!

120 Clapham High Street, SW4 7UH

Footbridge onto Wightman Road, Hornsey station

I wonder if anybody’s ever been from Crystal Palace to Wood Green before? You could string a wire between the TV transmitters. Crystal Palace to Ally Pally – now that, Boris, would be a cable car. My God – Wood Green has a cultural quarter – look, there’s a sign!

1 Brampton Park Road, N22 6BG

First Capital Connect service from Hornsey to Moorgate

My box is empty!

Now I can turn it upside-down and wear it as a hat.

First Capital Connect service from Hornsey to Moorgate, currently on diversion to King’s Cross owing to signalling problems at Old Street.

We’re held in a queue, on account of all the extra trains having to terminate at King’s Cross.

I don’t care.

I’m wearing an empty box as a hat.

Matt Haynes

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