picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Image by Jiri Siftar

I was in Victoria Park this afternoon to say goodbye to a friend who is returning to Brasil for good on the 17th.

We made plans to meet by the entrance gates, near the pond. While I was standing around waiting for her to arrive, two cyclists collided against each other and crashed onto the pavement. One of them was knocked unconscious.
It all happened so fast. Suddenly people were standing around them - couples with children, a woman with her dog, a gardner in a neon jacket. One of the cyclists got on the phone to ambulance services. Tears were pouring down his face, which he kept trying to wipe away as he spoke on the phone. The other guy, face down on the pavement, started twitching. A woman, holding her toddler daughter in one hand and a scooter in the other, leaned close for a good look. The woman with the dog got closer too; the dog, strangely, wanted to move away.

Staff from the café by the pond ran towards the group. A man berated the cyclist that was on the phone. A couple marching into the park spotted the commotion and decided on a detour - to walk past and also take a good look. I felt disgusted. (Was I any better, though, standing slightly apart and watching everything unfold?)

More people from the café joined the circle. I hoped one of them was a doctor. Someone went to the gates to unlock it so the ambulance could come through. Joggers went by, ignoring everything. The woman with the dog took off her jacket so they could put it underneath the cyclist's head. The man in the neon jacket rubbed the man's back, the others gently tried to turn him on his side. His legs kept kicking; I hoped he wouldn't pass away there and then.

Sirens in the distance, a rapid response ambulance car with four paramedics was about to arrive. The man was sitting up now, cradled by some of the bystanders, half of his face covered in blood. As soon as paramedics had their hands on the man, the crowd dispersed.

'Did he fall off his bike?' I heard someone ask me. It was a little old lady, in a pink crocheted hat and black parka coat, with a Jack Russell Terrier by her side.

'No, he collided against another cyclist,' I told her, going into all the details of what had just happened.

'They go so fast,' she said. 'You are meant to go 5 miles per hour but they always go much faster.'

The Jack Russell Terrier had now decided I was a friend and was jumping on my leg. I bent down to pet him and she told me he was called Milo. We watched as a proper ambulance arrived and the four paramedics cut all the clothes off the cyclist and lifted him completely naked onto a stretcher. They then covered him with a grey blanket and slid him inside the ambulance.

'Do you bring Milo to Victoria Park twice a day?' I asked.

'I've got age against me now,' she laughed. 'I take him mostly to a little square near my tower block but if the day is not wet, like today, then I bring him here for a few hours.' Milo had moved away and was now sniffing the café's garbage bins.

She told me she was born in Bethnal Green and lived all her life there and the furthest she had moved was to Bow. She had been 5 years old when the War happened; she and her sisters were evacuated to Suffolk, to live with a woman nicknamed "Nanny". Her parents stayed behind in London but were luckily not involved in the Bethnal Green tube disaster. However, she had a close call in Suffolk. The village they were staying was near the American base and one Sunday, while they were in chapel, they saw smoke rising from the area where Nanny lived. Someone came running in to tell them that one of the American planes had crashed into Nanny's home - the only thing left was a smouldering fireplace. It turned out that during a reconnaissance flight, the plane's engine malfunctioned. The pilot ejected while aiming for the plane to head into the sea but for some reason it turned itself around and crashed into the village.

We spoke of other things - of Victoria Park's old pagoda, of a rumoured murder on one of the park's bridges, of the lads who used to go around with aggressive dogs and who had suddenly disappeared. We said our goodbyes when my friend arrived; we wished each other a merry Christmas. I found out her name was Rita and that she was going to spend Christmas with her son up in Lincolnshire (and of course Milo was going too) but she was very jealous I was flying the next day to Brasil and it was a shame she couldn't be snuck inside a trunk and go with me.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Walk home after work through Mile End Park, Regent's Canal.

Autumn in London has been beautiful so far: sunny skies and crisp days.

I walk through Bow and Peckham on my way to work, listening to recently downloaded albums: the new ones from Erasure, Ghost Culture, Disclosure, CHVRCHES and New Order – plus some old ones too (Pet Shop Boys, 1999; Yazoo, early 80s.)

I have no energy or disposition to exercise once I’m back home; I’m envious of those heading towards Victoria Park. I’ve tried a few times to get off the tube earlier and walk up Mile End Park, following Regent’s Canal. I’m invisible to incoming cyclists and joggers.


Sep. 9th, 2015 07:05 am
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

Image by AmyFTF

Someone spat on me as I walked home from work yesterday.

It happened on Roman Road, E3. I remember it as if I were Jackie Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas. I was walking through Bow, on my way to Victoria Park, and I decided, as usual, to cut across Roman Road. When I reached it, there was hardly anybody on the road, just a blonde girl riding a bike in my direction and, to my right, an Eastern European guy standing outside a fast food joint, observing me. I let the girl ride past before crossing to the shutdown betting shop on the other side.

I was leaden down with groceries. The posters tacked on the betting shop caught my attention: bands releasing albums, playing upcoming gigs. Suddenly I felt something like a piece of rolled up paper hit my left shoulder. I turned back but there was nothing on the sidewalk, and nobody staring down from the flats above the betting shop. I looked across the street and the Eastern European guy was now looking at me with curiosity, as if he’d spotted someone in the Grassy Knoll.

I looked at my shoulder and saw a wet trail. I kept walking and turned the corner, where I stopped to have a proper look. The gob had hit my shoulder and trailed down my jacket and backpack. I put the backpack on the sidewalk and took my jacket off. I always carry a pack of tissues with me; I fished one out and wiped the mess as best as possible. Then I started to walk again, joining the smiling couples heading for the park for an evening jog. I thought of the times I’d returned home late from drinking out with friends, and how I knew which flat exactly the attack had come from, and wouldn’t it be nice if a hefty rock went through their window in the early hours as they slept.

When I got home, I put the jacket and the backpack in the bathtub. As the water ran over them, I added washing powder. I thought of the person who did this because I happen to have started a job with a mental health charity in South London. Did they happen to spit out of the window and hit me by accident? Or were they lying in wait? How abnormal does your life have to be to make you want to spit on random strangers? Was it an adult or a teenager? Would they share it with a friend, or keep it a secret? In any case, they'd only hit my jacket; they'd missed my head.

As the jacket and backpack soaked, the water turned into a rusty brown, as if blood was being washed off it. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d cleaned them. “It’s London coming out of them,” my boyfriend said looking at the water.


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