After-work drinks, and I think the first of those in about three years. I had foolishly expected the bar to be quieter, and the busyness made me feel like I was stepping into my past. I feel a bit old for all this. I now prefer places quieter, less frantic.
The barman is a whirlwind, serving three people at once, glasses criss-crossing, taps pulled down and up in intricate sequences, card machines presented and withdrawn in one movement.
There’s a customer at the bar who is the fall guy for his group. He calls out his order to the barman. And as the barman presents the first drink the customer has one of his party in his ear, and he adds to his order. The next drink comes. The customer has been prompted to add again. Drink placed down. And again. Drink down. And again. He pays up. A word in his ear Then he asks for more. Pays up again. Can I now have a receipt? The barman takes a deep breath.
I’m next and I try to make my request as succinct and clear as possible. The barman looks pleased. “Finally, someone know how to order their drinks!” It’s a proud moment – I haven’t lost it!
I walk through London, make my way home. It is dark, but it is not late. I make my way past the old buildings where great writers and thinkers once lived. Now these buildings are offices, or university space. The strip-lighting that illuminates their windows gives them away.
I have also struggled with the idea that people actually live in Central London. It is unfathomable to me. It has always been a place to go to, to shop or work, not to live. But obviously many people do. I see that people live above the tube station. That seems particularly surreal. Settling at a place of movement.
There’s nowhere to buy a newspaper anymore. The train takes me home.