London – Paris.
A short march compounded my aches. I must endeavour to keep up my momentum and burgeoning strength. I arrived at Victoria coach station to find festival mess. No, Chaos. And beautiful promising teenagers. Stealthily tallying their prospective counterparts. Contending with the new liberations of adulthood and residual hesitance of institutional adolescence.
Meanwhile I stood stoically sweating in the queue for a check-in that materialised malevolently as all desk systems went down...
T-minus 10 ('Have Love' on shuffle)
I shook the clerk's hand for both our reassurance, he was one of the responsive ones. I gave my bags, a load more suited to a Herc aircraft, to the insistent driver. He gave them clemency, urged to escape the pandemonium back to the relative nail filing and tethered autonomy of his cabin. The young steward's eyes flamed with the weight of my luggage and his impulse to domineer in return. “Bonne Journée Monsieur.”
I took the back middle seat. An indistinctive girl in airy frock refrained from the risk of conscious decision by taking the window in front. She shelved her carry-on blooming, nonchalantly feigning awareness of her cinematic entrance.
I flooded and stared with awe and loyal indifference like a barnacled old cad or a leisurely full bellied leopard in shade.
My contented soul conceived a French farmer's daughter, perhaps, from his fishwife. They all promptly evaporate and I realise,
in mind and form, I am on holiday.
We passed LCC but did not see Roger outside with my pint or a cigar. It shrank away.
Only a coach's back window and ship's stern can shrink a landmark so.
To my right plays Van Zandt, left plays candycrush, I read East Of Eden.
We ebb and flow with involuntary essential dependence and outside tumbles by with perpetual well intentioned turmoil.
I've looked up four times, each a flicker of Kodachrome.
Framed by sleeping Africans and old fishwife's hair.
An Asian shopkeeper, in his adorned doorway, smokes ruefully as small boys pass with a ball and no air of playground anxieties.
A Hopperesque waste container, extra gnarled and brush-stroked by servitude and unrequited loyalty.
Another, pure-red crane arm buckled in on itself like many an unearned festival tent, atop its gurney awaiting diagnostics.
Signage hitherto unnoticed on bitter work-home routes.
Finally Blackheath. Dry, the balmy porridge and cinnamon of Arhüs' abandoned track-sides, scarcely punctuated by couples and dog-walkers, skivers and pensive meanderers. Dangling and bucking horizontally on the breeze, defying its forsaken destiny to be buried in society's misgivings, clinging to an insubordinately tall weed as yet regimented, for its life and soul and ours too.
I saluted the flag of the undeterred....One. White. Bag.
Words: Ben Palmer
Photography: Ben Palmer