31 Jul 2010

Sanctuary in the city

The city felt empty yesterday morning. It wasn’t, by any means, still hundreds of people in suits trudging along the footpath, weaving in and out of slack-jawed tourists hauling giant suitcases, tutting at those who cause them to pause in their single-minded get-to-the-office-by-nine scurry. But the air was cooler, cleaner, than it has been for a few days and summer holidays meant the train was less crowded. The lack of closeness in the air, having a seat to myself, the streets free of jostling, shouting school children, made me feel like there was more room in the commuter chaos I find myself swept along with every morning. I wear headphones with my iPod, rather than earbuds, in an attempt to force out some of the ambient noise: other people’s tinny, over-loud earphones buzzing sibilant hip-hop, whining secretaries bitching about colleagues on their phones, housewives incapable of turning off the keypad tones on their mobile devices, which chirp incessantly as they fumble through text messages. Sometimes I wonder if commuting deadens brains to the existence of other people.

The tranquillity I felt yesterday might have been the lack of these distractions Glass and steelon the train. Or the kind of English weather I moved here for - blue sky, cool sun, slight breeze. Or Chris Isaak’s ‘Speak of the Devil’ on my iPod. I felt indulgent as a result and as I was about 20 minutes early for work, I headed to Prét for a coffee and one of their tasty salmon bagettes and snuck up to a place I know behind my office that is usually empty before the working day begins. The building owners have termed it somewhat grandly as a ‘roof garden’ and technically it is a roof and there are things growing, but it’s mostly concrete and steel, looking over more concrete and steel. It’s quite pleasant in a sterile, corporate way, but the best thing is that in the morning there’s no-one there. So I sat, reading, eating my breakfast, looking up at the buildings occasionally when the sun came out. I like my job, I like the work I do and the office I work in, but yesterday, sitting outside, drinking coffee and contemplating the city around me, was by far the most enjoyable part of my day.

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