online: 2004
modified: 5, 6 october 2004

4 october 2004 different people

15:43 Outdoor cafe. Suddenly the sky is blue and the sun warm after grey sky and heavy showers this morning. Nearly everyone here is sitting on the sunlit east side of the tea garden. I see a man holding a pen in his mouth - is he doing a crossword? A late wasp lands of my jacket and, in a habit of long ago, I push it off with this scriber (if that's what one calls the inkless pen for writing on a screen)... I sip some camomile tea, now cool, and look up and see still-green leaves shining in sunlight below pure blue sky in which there is a very short vapour trail. The plane that precipitated it is about 50 plane-lengths ahead.

A small child is speaking to itself words that I don't recognise - and then it points to a pigeon. Its parents speak to it in French. A few decades ago French people would be rare here but today there is a mixture of nationalities in this tea garden - or anywhere else in inner London. This could be the biggest change in my lifetime. Resisted by many of us but surely irresistible despite ethnic violence and defensive legislation... I suspect that both mixing and separating will continue for centuries, each with good effects as well as bad... Another wasp flies past my face but it doesn't land on my skin.

The garden has moved and now only a narrow strip is in sunlight. Small white clouds are gathering. The wind is from the Atlantic today. I am ... happy when it blows from the west.

At the tumulus. Sitting beneath oak leaves and branches; they are green in the sunlight against blue sky. There is no wind at ground level - this spot is shielded from the wind by tall trees to the west. A crow passes within 2 or 3 metres of my head as it flies silently from one tree to another. I am alone here in the late afternoon with sunlit insects and a hawk-like bird flying low... And now a woman pushing a hightech bicycle walks within 3 metres of where I am sitting... and now the shadows have moved again and the seat is not sunlit. I decide to walk to Parliament Hill to see the city and the distant horizon.

At Parliament Hill I spoke to a man born in Wapping. When I told him I had lived there he treated me as a friend. His father had been a docker and his grandfather a lighterman (one who looks after the lights, he said). How glad I was to speak with a 'real Londoner'! We talked of the view - today the air is clear right over to Greenwich, much clearer than I ever remember it being...

Then I met a woman with 5 dogs, spaniels, they ran about quite wildly but returned quickly when she called. The resigned way she said, 'Yes, five' (when I asked if all of them were hers) implied 'Yes, they are my madness!'

Meeting such people, though only for seconds, is to me a joy. Not everyone is as pleasant as I like to think everyone to be. But these two were!

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