Saturday, 13 February 2010


Breakfast this morning in the cafe in Tooting, on the end of a road that used to be home.

Sitting in the scrunchy armchairs in the window, I can watch the world go by.

People pour on an off buses. People in uniforms going to work, people with bags, going shopping, mothers with buggies. An old lady, in a matching skirt and jacket, and black patent court shoes, bought when "Sunday Best" still meant something, walks with a stick, looking lost and frail, but when her bus comes in, she barges a teenager out of the way so she can get on first.

Couples walk briskly to the station; men in suits and ladies in dresses, heels and carrying hats, heading to weddings and champagne. People drag trolley suitcases behind them, destined for weekends away, and others walk away from the station, chattering happily with their weekend hosts.

101 men carry furtively carry roses. 101 bargain hunters carry brown paper Primark bags. 101 people with orange Sainsbury's carrier bags bursting with groceries and goodies. 101 nations represented before me, and 101 stories waiting to be told.

A man walks up the road in his pyjamas looking lost and confused, until a nurse catches up with him and gently turns him around. A girl, about my age, I'd guess, wears mittens on a cord which runs up the sleeves of her coat, and she twirls one absent mindedly whilst she waits to cross the road. Two women meet on the street, and greet one another with a hug - they mirror one another's gestures subconsciously, and have similar frames. They can only be sisters. A little girl stands next to her mother, who is reading the menu in the window above my head. I wink at her, and she tries to mimic, scrunching her whole face up in the effort to close only one eye.

A steady flow of people go to and from the hospital. Anxious looking first-time-visitors peer up roads, wondering which leads to the hospital entrance. Nurses and orderlies in uniforms dash up the roads with the confidence that comes only with doing the same journey daily. The walking wounded walk away from the hospital, sporting bandages and stitches new from a wild Friday night out.

My friend Steve walks past with a bag from the supermarket in one hand, and his phone in the other, which he is tap-tap-tapping away on. My old neighbours cross the road with the purpose of people running late, and I now with certainty that they will be heading for a day in an Irish bar to watch the rugby. Another old neighbour walks past in her own personal uniform - fishnet stockings, mini-skirt, plunging neckline, and too much makeup. We never knew what she did for a living, but everyone presumed ...

Cars and lorries shuffle up and down the high road. Horns toot. Mopeds squeeze through narrowing gaps. Three police cars, one after the other, weave between the traffic, sirens blaring, heading to the rescue of someone in need.

I can see into the shops facing me. Drivers and passengers shuffle in and out of the cab office, and the strange, customer-less patisserie gets a huge delivery of cream cakes that no-one will eat. The man in the aptly named "Taki Menswear" redresses the mannequins in his windows with cheap-and-not-so-cheerful shirts and jumpers.

Old and young, tall and short, busy and idle. They're all here. And I'm one of them.

I have a warm affection for Tooting. I love it's slightly grubby edges and it's tight packed mix of residents. I love it's buzz and bustle and the churn of people always around the station. And I love that I'm part of that, and that people were watching me right back.


  1. I've just found your blog via mr london street. This post is so evocative and so London.

  2. Perfect description - what a lovely post!

  3. MLS, I thank you.

    BT, welcome, welcome. Come on it!

    SR, of course, you'll know! There's ALWAYS first class people spotting at Tooting Broadway!

  4. How wonderful!!!! That was a great read; I felt like I was sitting there right beside you...

    Boo! ;)

    Sorry I coudn't resist.


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