Thursday, January 25, 2007

love in a cold climate

Yesterday morning, before four o’clock, I set out to walk to the bus stop at Putney Heath, about ten minutes away. As I arrived, the first snowflake appeared & in two minutes a steady whirl of tiny flakes enveloped the City. I turned my face up and was tickled by them. At South Kensington, some young Polish maintenance men had come up from the Underground to catch the bus home & seemed pleased to see some snow. When I got off the bus near Harrods, some young Africans were laughing in an unknown tongue, & around the corner in Sloane Street, a young English couple were already waiting at the next stop although no bus was due for twenty minutes.

There was no shelter. He was tall & slim and vaguely old-fashioned in his corduroy jacket, child’s scarf, & Brideshead haircut. Her short jacket and shorter skirt, gave her long body no protection against the cold & she looked desperately unhappy. Neither spoke. He paced up and down the curb whilst she squatted against a shop front, lit a cigarette and shivered. Oppressed by their misery, I wandered off a little way to shelter in a doorway. Then their conversation resumed. His first words were unclear, but her reply was shrill. “Well, you shouldn’t have called me a fucking slag ! What do you expect ?” His reply sounded like, “Oh, do you deny that you are, then ?”

Silence returned for a few moments until another, sweeter, voice approached from the direction of Sloane Square, accompanied by the steady clicking of very high heels striding upon leisurely long legs. The woman was slender & tall & black, and everything she wore was black. Her high-waisted ankle-length coat swung elegantly beneath a huge black umbrella, and as she passed us she was singing sweetly into a mobile telephone, her laughter-tinted voice as deep & melodic as her silhouette was dark.

Later, passing the tenements in Nine Elms, where grass and pathways were now unambiguously white, a young woman with a big anorak lay on the ground beneath a young man with a big rucksack on his back. She was writhing voluptuously, her arms relaxing behind her head, palms up, & her fingers pinching snowflakes whilst she yielded to his passionate kisses.