By Jennifer Kavanagh
One of the delights of living in the middle of a city is people-watching. When I came back to London after a couple of years of wandering, often in remote places, I wondered how I would cope without the space and peace, the wildlife, of the natural world. But this Fitzrovia street has its own space, surprising peace, and a wildlife of its own.
The first sound of the morning is the gentle, rhythmic brushwork of the street sweeper. It’s an almost Dickensian sound: indeed, I imagine that the practice has continued without a break from then till now, although the dayglo jackets are new and the sweepers are now not children but often refugees. When I am out early, I attempt a greeting and, when language allows, have a conversation.
Drawing back the curtains reveals an expanse of sky, a couple of pigeons, and a world of quiet bustle. Helmeted cyclists and men with briefcases make their way to work; bottles of milk and piles of newspapers trustfully await the shopkeepers; young women in aprons bring out chairs from nearby cafes, and prepare outside tables for the onslaught of the day. A few self-conscious tourists emerge from the hotel, map in hand, ready to greet the unexplored gems of a strange city.
Vans deliver, the dustcart roars to a halt in front of the bins opposite, workmen arrive to dig up the road. Peace is in abeyance. The busyness of the day has begun.
Jennifer Kavanagh is the author of Call of the Bell Bird, the World is our Cloister and The O of Home. www.o-of-home.co.uk