Unseasonalness

A tree blossoms pink in this mild December, on a street in Southwark, lined with victorian townhouses, converted into flats.

December’s a strange time for blossom.

Among the milling throngs of Oxford Street,  fake snow brushed my cheek, disseminated from  above the entrance of the flagship Topshop. A woman who passed looked up at its source, her face illuminated in passive delight.

December’s the right time for fake snow, I guess.

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Poor Woodstock Children

I sat on a bench along a footpath that shoots out eastward between meadows from University Park. Clearheaded from running, I felt elated by endorphins, the sepia autumn sunlight, and pride at having recently become a graduate student at the University of Oxford.

Then, a woman and her son – a chubby boy of around eleven or so – came walking along the path.

“They were poor Woodstock children!” the boy whispered theatrically.

“What are you saying?” the mother replied, flustered, possibly embarrassed by my presence and not wishing for a stranger to judge her by her son’s nascent snobbery.

A few seconds’ later, two Labradors came bounding along, followed by two women. One of the dogs panted toward me, and began sniffing enthusiastically around my groin. Thankfully, one of the women then called it away, smiling to show her embarrassment at her dog’s wandering nose.

Getting up, I walked in the direction from which they had come. Toward me came two young girls, also of around eleven. One was small and blonde, the other was larger, with black hair in cornrows that cascaded down to braids.

“Keep running mate,” the latter said, sarcastically.

I attempted an expression that conveyed disapproval yet also wry amusement at her remark. I then broke back into a run and kept going along the long, straight path, where the trees provided coolness yet obscured the view of meadows on either side.

Crystal Palace Rd

Planes whistle low over the austere Victorian housefronts and gables of Dulwich, somewhere up in the thick grey cloud cover of a balmy Summer night.

I pass tall, square, three storey town houses. The ones which have kept their integrity as homes have well-kept paintwork; jam-packed bookshelves and stylish light fixtures visible through ground floor bay windows.

The ones which have been divvied up into flats are drabber, less preserved. Off-white net curtains guard the privacy of tenants in living rooms-cum bedrooms, the tenants who are summoned separately by the different bells lining the front door.

Among these homes are private flats that used to be public shopfronts;  bouji gastro pubs that used to be east end boozers.

We’re not getting a cat

I was sitting on the top level of the double decker bus going from Blackbird Leys to Oxford city centre, on my way to work. We were going down a road of semi-detached, 1930s houses, between the bridge over the ring road and Temple Cowley.

I had just taken my earphones out because I was getting a slight pain in one ear. I got The Fountainhead out of my bag. I was on the last 50 pages or so, and keen to try and sprint to the finish of such a marathon read.

I then heard the conversation between the mother and young boy sitting across the aisle.

“Mum, I wish we lived in one of these houses, because then it would be a proper house, and it would be cold, but its made of stone so it would be okay, oh look at that bird!”

“Stop going on,” she replied.

“Mum, imagine if one day the top of the bus slided off and landed in the middle of the room.”

She tutted.

“Look at the lovely grass and the cat. Mummy would you like a cat?”

“We’re not getting a cat.”

A few moments later, they got off the bus. I saw them walking down the street from the window. He was skipping, and she looked down at him and smiled as she took his hand in hers.