“He’s asked me to sing in a proto-punk band,” said the man in the suit on the phone in the sun on Piccadilly. “I don’t even know what that means.”
The whiteboard at Southgate station says services are normal on all lines except the Central; on the Central, it says, they are good.
“I’ve heard there’s a new park here, where is it?” demanded the man in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park information centre in the middle of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
“Did you know they found a mammoth under there?” She nodded across at the derelict Drummond Street entrance to Euston station I was trying to photograph. “A dead one, obviously.”
“Do I look like someone who needs a sorbet-maker?” he dolefully asks the bleary-eyed flotsam piled up on the N3’s stairs as birthday gifts are passed between strangers for appraisal.
St Paul’s Cathedral gleams, Southwark Bridge looms, and a middle-aged man – grey suit, substantial build – unsteadily dribbles a small purple balloon with silver ribbons down the empty, moonlit, riverside walkway.
At Hampstead Heath station, Christmas bells are ringing – thin silver wind chimes, strung between the London planes. Lights appear from the west. Gusts, a chill, ghosts.
Again he thuds into Percy Ingle’s window; she sighs, scoops him up, tosses him back into Lewisham High Street, and tidies the London cheesecakes; tiny pigeon footsteps dent coconut strands.
As the one o’clock mums race their prams round Wandsworth Park, she suddenly falters, breathless, and – staring down at Archie’s gurgling face – thinks bleakly of sports days to come.
On the 17:10 to Crayford, she suddenly remembers Stockholm, and how he’d smiled when asking her name; and how she’d said “Madeleine”, because she’d known he’d never know it wasn’t.