It is late. The city hums softly, in standby mode. The day’s frenzy has subsided, and the crowd of tourists and office workers have given way to crowds of men and women spilling out of theatres, pubs and restaurants.
I walk along the river. Across, St Paul’s, its dome illuminated, glows a tarnished gold . The river laps gently at its sides, the lights from Victoria Embankment, Charing Cross, Westminster glimmering, reflected on its dark surface.
A swirling, noisy, laughing, crowd sweeps me up and carries me along – to decant me gently at the steps of the National Theatre. The crowd flies off and vanishes into the night, as suddenly as it had appeared. Where had it come from, which theatre, which pub? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. The night is still again. On its edges are the lights of the cafe, where late-night theatre-goers in evening dress are dining alfresco on the terrace.
I turn and walk towards Waterloo Station.
The underground passageways that connect the South Bank to the station are home to some of London’s homeless. The men lie bundled up in blankets and sleeping bags, fast asleep. The bright neon lights of the passageways show up the peeling plaster and scuff marks on the walls. I read Sue Hubbard’s poem backwards as I ascend once more into the night air.
Then a run for the train on Platform 2, and home to quiet suburbia.