Wobbly Paving Stones

Journey on the grinding tube station escalator. Through the gates, people skipping to avoid  contact, excited conversations, raised voices, smiles, arguments and hugs all exchanged in the theatre that is the ticket hall. Up the steps, two at a time,  the heat from the warm sun pierces through the mass of bodies. I reach the summit and surface in Brixton. The street preachers are still wasting their time, the kaleidoscope of scents, some pleasant, some not so.  Traffic fumes, spices, flower seller, the trader selling incense sticks whose smoke dances from the sticks and drifts into the bustling street. Then vanishes. The white hipster with his carefully trimmed beard and the elderly Caribbean lady seem to have little common ground.  They pass as if divided by continents.

A gentle tap on my back and I turn. An ex-work acquaintance announces her presence. “What are you doing in Brixton stranger?” she asks abruptly. “Enjoying myself and how are you? I reply. There is a pause. “Strange how the familiar seems different when you have an opportunity to look at it from another perspective,” I add. “Things change John, but nothing changes” she presents her dichotomy with a sense of frustration. She looks tired, slightly pale. “It never ends, dealing with angry people, managing decline, not having the resources, long working hours, the habitual restructure, the cycle turns and turns and turns. “ I have little energy reserves, to be brutally honest, to give much sympathy. She reads my eyes. An uncomfortable realisation that I am no longer part of that world and the conversation loses its purpose. A few more stumbled words, a look of resignation, she smiles says goodbye and vanishes into the crowd for another meeting. The trouble I find is that when things relentlessly keep on moving people tend to lose sight of the simple things. The building blocks, which create the foundations for life, community. At this point, I sense a small movement beneath my feet. I look down and realise I am standing on a wobbly paving stone. The ground is moving, but there are no cracks as yet.

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