Sketches from East Ham: I
My brother, who now works in Moorgate, catches the Hammersmith and City Line from Upton Park every day. Wearing the Phillips headphones I bought him for Christmas, he can’t hear too much of the background noise, especially when the volume is turned high. He told me that his alarm had gone off at the start at the journey and it had been ringing for its entirety. No one had motioned to him, or told him to turn it down, or tapped him on the shoulder. For 30 minutes, his fellow passengers put up with a loud, intrusive alarm that he couldn’t hear. This is the climate of passive-aggressive rage, suspicion and smouldering resentment that lingers on journeys like a mythic London fog.
The 104 bus pitches up outside the barbers and opposite the furniture shop. There are a number people who want to get on, but although upstairs is relatively empty, everyone bottlenecks at the foot of the stairs. The driver lets people on up to a point, then shrugs and shuts the front doors on people without even announcing it. I wonder what passes through his mind as he presses the close button without getting people to move down the bus. The 104 bus moves off and people are left standing in the cold looking at the bus drive off, half empty upstairs.