Moment in time

It is half past eleven on the London underground; Oxford Circus, Victoria Line southbound.

A girl stands on the platform, her head swaying in unselfconscious appreciation of the rock music being delivered into her ears by her oversized headphones. She stoops to tie a lace in her steel toe-capped boots, pulls her multi-coloured knee socks up, yawns and wipes a heavily charcoaled eye with the back of a fingerless glove-clad hand, oblivious to those around her.

The train pulls into the platform. Unusually there’s no scrum as the doors open, most of the seats being already taken by tipsy revellers reluctant to miss the last easy way home. The girl walks down the carriage and stops in the middle. She grasps the hand rail and blows a bubble with her gum, thinking of her thesis and wondering if smoking a joint when she gets home will make tomorrow a literal write off.

To the girl’s right are a couple so deeply entrenched in one another’s oral cavities it’s hard to see where one ends and the other begins. When they finally come up for air they entwine fingers and stare at one another with the intense longing of first love. The man mouths the three words his partner is aching to hear. She flushes scarlet and smiles a smile so dazzling her soul seems to shine right out of her cherubic face. She lays her blonde head on the man’s shoulder and they stare contentedly into the middle distance.

Beside the couple a boy is slumped in his seat, his head lolling forward in a comical fashion. He is wearing a baseball cap with NYC emblazoned across it, and his baggy jeans are so low slung the crotch almost drags on the floor. In his hand he clasps a takeaway box, the prize at the end of a long night. Though some are eyeing him with suspicion, no doubt mistaking him for a drunk, he’s just come off a double shift at work and is exhausted.

The doors beep and start to close, but not before the dreadlocked man who has been busking in the station for the past three hours manages to leap through them, guitar case in hand, prompting a mixture of tuts and nods of appreciation from his fellow passengers. He props the guitar case against the rail and starts to hum a melody, not for money but for his own unbridled pleasure.

Further along the carriage an elderly man is engaged in conversation with two bespectacled students, imparting his worldliness over the course of three tube stops. They watch him intently, rapt in his presence as their own worlds pale into insignificance in the shadow of the one he has seen. There is not, they all know, enough time to hear it all.

Opposite the students sits a girl, pale and drawn with tell-tale streaks of mascara running in rivulets down her cheeks. She knows she is a cliché, the archetypal jilted lover, but her heart feels close to breaking and she doesn’t care who sees the emotion etched across her face.

By the door in the middle of the carriage a drunk, middle-aged couple giggle like school children. The woman flicks her chestnut curls and pivots around the rail, prompting the man to grab her by the waist and prevent her from toppling over. She laughs, at once both wild and tamed.

At length the train pulls into the platform at Victoria. The girl with the headphones leaves first, confident now that she will smoke a joint when she reaches home. She is closely followed by the kissing couple, still smiling as if, in each other, they’ve discovered Utopia. Next the busker lifts his guitar case and exits the carriage with an easy hop. The students sigh and bid goodbye to their mentor who is, he tells them, will be staying to the end of the line. The jilted girl drifts through the doors ahead of the laughing couple, who stumble down the platform arm in arm, singing something unintelligible. As the doors begin to beep the boy with the takeaway box awakes. He leaps up and hurls himself through the closing gap in the nick of time, his takeaway box left behind like a casualty of war.

Off they go, into the night. Never will they meet again, but will forever be indelibly joined by that one moment in time.


This is possibly my favourite picture from my travels. I took it from the rooftop of a hotel in Jaipur, India, and didn’t for a single moment think it would come out as well as it did. I think it perfectly signifies the frenetic rush of city living and, as such, is a suitable accompaniment to this post.

Food glorious food

I’m not a natural cook, but stick me in a kitchen with some simple raw ingredients, a recipe book and a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio and I’ll have a damn good crack at producing something that’s half way edible. Without a recipe I’m rather less confident, with a vastly reduced repertoire consisting mainly of, well, spaghetti Bolognese. But to me it doesn’t matter what I cook, it’s the act of cooking I find enjoyable. The problem is that I, like many others, rarely make the time to do it.

The sad fact is when working all the hours God sends its often cooking that drops off most peoples’ registers. And who can blame them? If you’re routinely trooping through your front door after nine o’clock each night the last thing you feel like doing is deboning a sea bass and whipping up a pomegranate and red wine jus. Far easier to whack a frozen ready meal in the microwave, or even grab the nearest takeaway menu and slump onto the sofa.

But the funny thing is that if you can find the strength to drag yourself into the kitchen and create something from scratch, it has an oddly therapeutic effect. I don’t know whether it’s the act of cooking itself – chopping and grating, seasoning and tasting – that is so soothing or the fact the time spent doing it creates much needed space for your brain to relax. But whatever it is I believe that cooking is good for the soul.

And then there’s eating. I’ve often posited that I would be an exceptional candidate for a career in competitive eating, such is my love of (and inability to produce normal-sized plates of) food. Diets have never held much sway with me, for I come from the school of thought that suggests food is one of the great pleasures of life. Why should we deprive ourselves of what we love?

As long as you’re not stuffing yourself with saturated fats at every opportunity the occasional treat is fine – my particular weaknesses being chocolate and Big Mac meals on a hangover (I am eating chocolate as I write this). Everything in moderation, including (and yes, I know this is boring) regular exercise is the way to lead a healthy and contented life – not existing on Ryvita with a hot water and paprika chaser from dawn until dusk. Where’s the joy in that? I’ll take an extra roll of back fat over shoulder blades so sharp they can cut through glass any day of the week.

Now where’s that takeaway menu…


I couldn’t write a post about my love of food without referencing this bad boy: The Breakfast Burrito, which weighs about the same as a newborn baby. The first time I ordered one of these on Koh Tao I was told most people can only manage half. Needless to say I ate the whole thing in minutes and returned most mornings afterwards to do the same. It was, in short, an artery-hardening lump of wickedly delicious ingredients, and if it shortened my life by a few months (as I’ve no doubt it did) then all I can say is that it was very much worth it. So there.