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I leave the tower block 8 a.m. on the dot. He's standing by the bus stop, a young version of Paul Simon, sunglasses on, waiting for the No. 488 to Hackney Wick station.

I walk past him and turn left, past the garden centre, Growing Concerns. On the other side of the road, cyclists and joggers wait to cross the bridge over the Hertford Union canal. A shuttered pub looms over them, the shadows of a man and woman etched on its door. In a few months this pub will be knocked down to make way for expensive flats.

I walk alongside Victoria Park's eastern edge – past families dropping off their children at the Montessori school, past builders about to spend a long day painting and plastering, past the middle-aged going for a run or standing by their window, a cup of tea in hand, watching the world wake up. I then turn right onto Cadogan Close and a few steps later I’m up on the metallic bridge over the A12 motorway, breathing in the fumes.

I watch the cars for a moment speeding north and south. A giant poster on the other side of the bridge tantalises drivers with the image of a cool bottle of beer propped on a Caribbean beach.

There’s a mattress and duvet underneath the eastern pedestrian ramp, newspapers and books scattered around it, like a Tracey Emin art piece. Two of the legible novels are David Baldacci’s The Escape and Angela Carter's A Night at the Circus. It was once the home of a black man, always asleep whenever I walked past. He’s moved on, or been moved on.

One day, I notice young Paul Simon following me from the bus stop. I feel self-aware as I take my usual route by foot, as if all my movements are being carefully watched. Maybe he realised taking the 488 bus to the station didn't buy him any more time. Maybe London’s summer is finally nice enough for him to take a little walk instead of relying on public transportation. Maybe he's just looking for a short cut.

I catch him looking in my direction on Hackney Wick’s platform. I can’t see his eyes behind the sunshades.

In the evening, I stop on the other side of the bridge and take a photo of the A12 motorway and the ramp. I then post it on Instagram. When I click on the image’s A12 location, to see what other people have posted, I find a photo of the homeless man on his mattress. The person who took the image comments: ‘How can this man sleep with all the noise?’

Another Monday morning and young Paul Simon is by the bus stop as usual. He looks at his watch with some annoyance. When he looks up and sees me, he spins around and takes off. When I reach the bridge, he’s already on the other side, walking down the ramp with his hands in his pocket.

First published in The Fractured Nuance: Place, issue #4, May 2017

picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

Image by Alba Pena Castro

A bank holiday weekend in London graced by sunshine.

A shirtless young man does pull-ups in Victoria Park. Later, he’ll post a flawless selfie on Instagram. A runner stops to catch her breath and check if her stats uploaded onto RunKeeper. Then comes a group in their twenties, sharing a joke. They’ll have something to tweet about in the evening.

All the benches facing the park’s pond are occupied. Happy young families on the paddleboats upload their photos onto Facebook before they’ve even stepped back onshore.

He wonders what’s the best way to synthesise it all for his online journal.

Vultures

Nov. 13th, 2014 09:38 am
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)


We ran towards São Domingos' mountains a few days ago. Ran right past the Pesqueiro João da Vó (John of Grandma's Fishing Place), into lanes that side bucolic farms straight out of Anne of Green Gables' pages.

The Pesqueiro has been shut for a few years now. I still remember when cars would drive all day past our guesthouse on weekends, heading for the Pesqueiro. People enjoyed spending hours there – football games on a grass pitch, beer, country music and all kinds of fish dishes. Then João da Vó's wife discovered he had a second family and a bitter divorce ripped the family business apart.

The Pesqueiro is now home to vultures. They sit on every fence pole, every tree overlooking the still, dirty artificial lake that borders the abandoned Pesqueiro restaurant. They congregate like penguins by the margins, silent and inscrutable.

As we walked past them, they took flight and complained. It felt like a sequel to The Birds. I stopped to take photos which I hoped to later delight my Instagram followers.

On the run back to the guesthouse, my aunt stopped and lifted her arms to the sky.  We looked at the mountains and she said “doesn’t it feel great to be alive?”

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Ollie

June 2017

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