Being Present

I’ve just walked home from work. I did the same on Tuesday, but that time I was plugged into my music, walking in time to the beat in my ears but oblivious to the beat of the world around me. Tonight was different. It was a conscious decision to take in my surroundings, to be fully present in this balmy late September evening in the city I’ve called home for the past eleven years but am soon to leave behind for pastures new. I wanted to absorb its every detail, soak it up like a sponge, so that when I’m no longer here I can conjure it any time I like, simply by closing my eyes and remembering:

The Friday evening chatter as the bars by Borough Market began to fill with thirsty punters, relieved to see the end of the week; intricate brickwork in the arches leading down to the riverfront; tourists in droves slowly ambling with cameras and ice creams, no urgency or sense of purpose; runners dodging walkers like bullets; a man with unkempt hair, a typewriter and a sign saying ‘stories while you wait’ (what’s his story, I wonder); an Aussie in breeches calling ‘roll up, roll up to the cabaret freak show’ on the south bank by Waterloo; photographers waiting for the perfect shot as the sun slid down behind the Houses of Parliament, painting the sky in pinks and oranges like a famous work of art as the water lapped peacefully beneath, its surface soft as velvet; buskers with a range of instruments and abilities, one man in particular by the London Eye whose eye I caught as I walked past and whose voice was heaven wrapped in caramel with sprinkles on top; couples strolling hand in hand with smiles as wide as the mighty Thames along whose banks they walked; a discarded jumper that spoke of being forgotten, or perhaps cast off in a moment of passion or overheating; plants in pots outside offices, wilting and browning in the unseasonal heat; drunks gathered on steps with cans of lager, their pastime more acceptable somehow in the context of a Friday night when all around them office workers did the same; a bouncer underneath the bridge in Vauxhall, trying to entice me into his bar for happy hour; a leaf almost but not quite out of my reach as I jumped to touch it; a Portuguese café called The Three Lions where families spilled onto the street; children arriving home from school clutching violin cases and empty bags of fried chicken.

These are the myriad people and things that make up this special city, bringing her to life in all her kaleidoscopic glory. These are the things I will miss; the things I leave behind.

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Near miss

I’ve just looked at the time and realised to my horror that I haven’t written my blog post today. In truth I’ve been so busy with work, popping in to a friend’s birthday drinks, running club, cooking dinner, planning an exciting holiday (more on that later) and watching Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (I know, I know, not a good reason for nearly failing my daily writing challenge after nearly nine successful months of posting every day) it clean slipped my mind. But at least I’ve remembered before all was lost. Do I redeem myself in any way by saying I’ve almost finished a 2,500 word submission to a short story competition that’s due on Friday, the content of which is of a far higher calibre than any of the rubbish I’ve been churning out on this blog for the past few days? I thought not. In which case I shall simply have to try harder over the coming days to regain your trust – consider my wrists virtually slapped.

So about this holiday…It’s taking rather a lot of my waking attention at the moment as it’s just about the most exciting thing I’ve planned for a long time, besides the amazing travels of 2011, that is. I don’t want to say much more at the moment for fear of jinxing it, but suffice to say my hope is for a mini travelling adventure that will get the creative juices flowing faster and more furiously than ever. Watch this space…