Notting Hill Gate. The 1960s erected buildings with multi-coloured façade remain, doing nothing to cheer up the neighbourhood above the shop fronts. I order a glass of wine from a bar. Notting Hill man walks past, teaming up a pink shirt with khaki shorts and a dull blue pair plastic crocs; hairy calves and shins fill the gaps. Teenage Notting Hill woman walks the other way: skinny with long length cream top over black leggings; an example of how the young wear fashion as a uniform to fit in.
The wine is supposed to be a sauvignon blanc, but doesn’t resemble it, unless possibly watered down. The tab indicates the glass costs as much as a bottle might in the supermarket down the road. There may be time to kill but there will be only this one glass.
Buses toot. Cars toot. All are on the Bayswater Road. No one has any patience as they fight for first place in the queues. Sirens wail and police cars and ambulances are let through, testing the drivers.
A couple reaches the pedestrian crossing, hand in hand. As they approach the island in the middle of the road, the balding and grey man coming the other way turns his head to look back at her. He sees long black hair, long spray tanned legs, high heels and a short opaque black skirt, just reaching the tops of her thighs. The best cover above the waist comes from her oversized red handbag, for she is wearing a sheer black top over a leopard skin print bra made with moulded cups. Yes, that amount of detail is easy to behold and it only takes a second.
He makes it onto the curb and walks parallel to them now, but in the opposite direction. As he continues to wheel his bike, he turns back to look at her again. He can’t stop himself. He too may see a grey and balding man when he looks in the mirror, but he cycles and he’s not dead yet.
Two obese women waddle down the pavement, side by side and in conversation; the one on the left looks like an egg in motion.
The wind is rising and sitting at the roadside is no longer pleasant. I relieve my purse of an unseemly wodge of cash to pay the tab and head for the tube station and two stops only. A woman is engrossed in decision-making on her mobile, ‘Mm. Chicken risotto or chicken burger?’
Above ground, the chuggers are out, but they appear to prefer to chat to one another at this time of day. Below ground, the carriages are packed. All-in-black Goth man, complete with leather jerkin, moves his head from near the rail so that I don’t tug his long, curly ginger hair as I latch on for safety. His hair is thick and wiry against the back of my fingers. One stop gone, he pulls a book out of his pocket. It looks like an old bible but turns out to be Robin Hood. He must read only a couple of lines before he uses his ticket as a book mark, returns the book to his pocket and alights at the next stop.
We queue with no movement on the platform, waiting to get out. A baby cries up ahead and the mother jiggles her about. A man in an orange and white Rastafarian hat plays with the baby, who screams more. We start to move.
At the top of the stairs the baby is calmer and sucking on her own white and pink floral smock dress. The man in the hat is her father, carrying her baby carrier.
We all emerge onto the Paddington concourse. The advertising banners for the Evening Standard greet us and let us know that Gordon Brown has just passed a maths GCSE and that Boris, London’s Mayor thinks a proposal is ‘crackers’. Two people, both wearing earphones, smack into one another as birds might do in flight. Apologies are fleeting as their feet continue to scuttle on.
There may be new buildings, new fashions, new irritations and new car models, but little changes in London.