Westgate and Back
Moving slowly along Portway in a 104 with my brothers on the way to Westfield Stratford City. This is a Saturday and it is the first weekend the shopping mall, Europe's largest, has been open for trading. I'd been here the day before, sitting next the access road. A little over an hour later, we are in The Cow drinking in the sun-lit rain with images of huge crowds running through our heads. The stadium is across the road, framed by a giant car park and the sparse backdrop of Isle of Dogs skyscrapers. We wanted sustainablity, shops, houses, new communities, amenites. We got a giant shopping centre. They say that a society gets the heroes that it deserves: did we fall at the knees of Hugo Boss and beg him to come to Stratford? Jamie has given us linguine for £15 and freed us from needing decent local grocery stores. Onwards, on the Overground, to Finsbury Park, where a friend's housemates show me pictures on their phones of massed humanity out shopping for clothest. A sun dappled Saturday inside an air conditioned shed. I am on the Overground moving West. I am on the Overground, moving West, and get out at Highbury and Islington. I run, flitting in between people – I'm late, I think – catching the Victoria Line. It is hot, humid, I take off my coat on the train. The girl next to me is reading The Time Traveller's Wife and looking around nervously. She is blonde. Her shoes are brand new and suede, a bright citrus colour without London's grey dirt on them. My plimsolls have come loose at the back and they are leaking water. I take the Victoria Line and hope.
Later, much later, after the sun has set and when it nearly up again, Dave gets out a Z-Bed and I stand up woozy from gin and tonics and a 236 ride across town past empty bus stops and later even than that, after a third trip through Stratford in three days, the sun streaming into the top deck of a bus, I am amazed at how much is being spent so that more money can be spent. I know how I spend my days, in love with being in love, fingers gently prising open situations, gradually learning that this is what I can do and this what I can't and this is what I mustn't do and I watch this great City on the banks of a great river turn into a giant shopping mall.
Later, much later still, after a breakfast in Victoria Park Village where the hipster next to me smokes two cigarettes, has a coffee and moves on, after I've eaten an omelette and whizzed through our new international hub of international commerce, down the Bow Road and back through Portway, back down Green Street, where the pavements are exactly the same and the Westfield money hasn't trickled this far, and I look at a new bed through the window of Ashgrove Direct Sales because the old one has too many memories and even later than this as I write that down and get to this particular punctuation mark – there – it is then that I realise that the defence of a well-written sentence is paper thin and –