Opposite me on the tube sit two people: a man in his late 50s and a boy in his teens. They look like they originate from somewhere Eastern Mediterranean or Near-Eastern. They both have that puddingy build which is the result of years of being nurtured by a bustling matriarch and are cocooned in a comfort borne of familial love and deep understanding. The father looks at his son with a half smile and eyes which seem to really see the boy rather than just look at him; the son returns this with an upward glance which is cursory but not dismissive - a result of his certain knowledge that his Dad will always be there.
Bustling around me later at the station are hundreds of people, yet the architecture absorbs their sound, creating a preternaturally quiet space where detached observation is easy. A small, slim woman with a severe haircut and tight jeans is standing rigid in the middle of the flow. Her skin-tight outfit, opaque sunglasses and impeccable grooming give her an almost robotic, Matrix-esque quality and for a moment I wonder if the world around me is going to morph into something strange and wonderful as we are confronted with finality by the illusory nature of reality… instead, she purses her lips, looks resolute and strides away, leaving me still sitting in St Pancras station with my coffee and my laptop – reality unchanged.
In a cocktail bar, a man sits alone, waiting for his date. She arrives in jeans, trainers and a shiny parka – an odd outfit for an evening sampling the offerings of one of London’s best mixologists. If an interior designer were given a brief to create a space which evokes Victorian London at Christmas time, this is the bar they would build; we had approached across a cobbled square, door flanked by gaslights which reflected off the iron railings. On entering, we had immediately relaxed – transported to a different, more sedate time and place – yet this couple now create a pocket of tension which threatens to seep beyond the bounds of their table. Suddenly, she stands up and marches out, leaving half her drink behind. He spits, “you’re pathetic,” at her back – his words and tone jarring in context. He watches her through the window, expecting her to turn around. She doesn’t. He leaves shortly after. I guess the outfit should have been the clue that she never planned on hanging around?