Bleak House

Such wretched weather.

It was already raining hard by the time I left for work this morning (before 8am, I should add, as per usual). All day long it has rained.

A tedious journey in, the tube running with problems across multiple lines. When it did come we were crammed in like sardines and the windows were misted up with condensation; a thousand others’ breath; unpleasant.

Work OK – busy. I left at 6pm and it was pouring. Tramps huddling in doorways as commuters scurry forth with umbrellas just above their heads. Those without bury themselves in their jackets, some even hold a newspaper over their heads in a vain attempt to keep the water off, though that rarely works.

This is a Dickensian city and it never feels more so than when the weather is like this. And whenever it is cold and wet, with driving rain – the city feels especially dark and brooding. Our building is old – and when our office was built – Queen Victoria was on the throne. Consequently – though our building is lovely – it is not without its problems. Vermin, alas, is one of those problems. Rentokil were in again today to check the traps. In each of the kitchens there are contraptions designed either to catch or repel the rodent population. I’ve been alone in the office occasionally, reasonably late at night, and have heard rustling. Though I’ve never seen a rodent, it unnerves me.

Thing is, this city has existed continuously for 2,000 years – since antiquity and beyond. And deep below ground there is a ruined, forgotten city of ancient sewers and tunnels. I have read that there are 40 abandoned or relocated stations in the city, and vast lengths of disused tunnel. God only knows what resides down there these days, though the thought of it certainly makes me shiver.

Vignettes – 11/10/08

It’s Friday night and I’ve been at a friend’s birthday. Venue was a trendy restaurant/bar in the West End. She’d hired out a small bit of the bar, like an anteroom. She’s Eastern European, really lovely. We’re the same age and have always got on. She had a very diverse mix of friends there – Australians, Italians, Russians, people from other former USSR countries. Really nice people as she herself is.

I left with another ex-colleague as I wanted to be home by midnight as I was tired, having had an exceptionally long week (I’d resigned earlier on in the week, doing such a thing can have that effect). We caught the tube our separate ways.

On alighting from the tube I noticed a middle-aged woman ahead of me. She was maybe 5’2, mid 40s, longish dark hair, petite. Very obviously drunk. For a millisecond I thought perhaps she was a tramp, but she wasn’t. She wore a smart-ish cream coloured trench coat. With a belt. Guess what was tied to the back of the belt? A red (slightly deflated but very much still up in the air) helium balloon. On about 4 foot of ribbon. So this thing ‘bounced’ behind her. And she seemed absolutely oblivious.

I was transfixed. She clumsily moved up the escalators and I saw this red thing bobbing up and down and kind of passing in front of other people. Others noticed it, commented, laughed. Some gave the balloon a flick. She was totally unaware.

Then on the station concourse I saw this balloon bob onwards. With this slightly frumpy rather drunk middle aged woman attached to it. People kept commenting, laughing. The last I saw of her was has she went through the turnstile and onto a train.

I wonder what happened to the balloon and if or when she ever did notice it.