There were two drunks in the road as I came back from the 24hr supermarket. I walked straight past the first but the second stepped up from the gutter and glared at me.
I said hello, which momentarily confused him, and carried on walking.
‘Who are you starting with?’ he said.
‘Not you,’ I replied.
‘I’ll fight you!’ he shouted at my back. I knew that if I turned round he probably would, so I kept moving, wondering which of the two things I was carrying would make the more effective weapon – the baguette or the tin of beans.
Next to the tobacco counter in the supermarket there was a display stand promoting Fifty Shades of Grey. The man and woman behind me in the queue were talking about it.
‘Is that the book that Molly can’t put down?’ said the man.
‘Yes,’ replied the woman.
‘Have you read it?’
‘And is it interesting?’
‘Parts of it, yes.’
‘Even for blokes?’
‘Mmmm, yes, I suppose so.’
‘Would I like it?’
‘Can I borrow it from you then?’
‘If you want.’
There was a long pause.
‘You know I can’t read though, don’t you?’ the man said.
The Olympic torch was carried by the local milkman. The customers that he rarely sees lined the streets to cheer him on.
Ahead of him there were floats and lorries from Coca-Cola, Lloyds Bank, Samsung and McDonalds. Big screens showed adverts and people handed out flags with company logos on. When our milkman ran past, it was difficult to see him behind the squadron of bodyguards dressed in uniform grey running gear.
In the middle of that there might have been something good, something capable of bringing people together, but it was utterly lost behind the corporate sponsorship and security.
There was a Cockney in the pub for the England vs Sweden game.
‘Kah-mon Sweden!’ he kept shouting. Then ‘Kah-mon Ikea!’ and ‘Kah-mon Volvo!’ He tried singing Knowing Me Knowing You but they were the only words he knew.
When two old ladies came in, the Cockney moved people out of the way, found a path for them through the crowd and called each one ‘darlin’’.
The Cockney stereotype: loud and obnoxious but respectful to old ladies.
When the women were out of earshot, he turned to his mates and said ‘Don’t fancy yours much, she fackin’ lavs it!’
The wooden complex on the quayside is an eco-building. As well as a bar there are offices, a nursery and three wind turbines on the roof.
I was sitting by the river enjoying a sunny drink when there was a bang overhead. A seagull and its severed wing plopped into the water in front of me.
A friend who works in one of the offices says that this is quite a common occurrence. When a bird flies into the turbine that overlooks the nursery, the children in the play area below are showered with blood, feathers and bits of seagull.
Found this in a guidebook I picked up in an Amsterdam hostel a few years ago:
Prostitutes. If you visit one of the women, we would like to remind you, they are not always women. Do not take pictures of the women. Out on the streets, do not shout or use bad language towards these women. Show some respect. If you have any problems with a girl or a pimp, do not hesitate to ask a police officer. We know why you are there and you can hardly surprise us. So have fun, enjoy our city, and respect this neighbourhood.
The wedding was a long day and by the time the party kicked off in the evening, we were all flagging. There was a table at the back with four free chairs next to a pudgy woman in a cardy. My friend’s pregnant girlfriend went to sit down in one of the seats.
‘Those chairs are taken. All of them,’ the woman said.
I watched the table for an hour. The chairs stayed empty.
At the end of the night I saw the woman again. She was on a different table by the dancefloor, four empty seats next to her.
An overweight woman and her even more overweight husband were trying to make it to the train before the doors closed. The man was closer to me than his wife who was several metres further down the platform. She was sweaty and out of breath.
‘Run!’ he shouted to her. ‘Come on, run! Run!’
I got level with the man at about the same time as his wife did. I was near enough to hear him when he leaned close to her ear and said in a low voice: ‘You can’t run can you? Look at the state of you.’
There was a small, drunk Scotsman in the toilets of the pub. He was leaning in close to a tall man standing at the urinal.
‘See, Rangers is a part of life where I’m from.’
The tall man turned away and buttoned up his flies.
‘I am from Estonia,’ he said. ‘I do not give a shit about football.’
‘Think about all the fans, man. They cannae let Rangers go under.’
‘Please understand. I don’t care,’ the Estonian said and walked out.
The Scotsman looked around and spotted me at the sink. ‘Hey,’ he said.
‘Sorry, no English,’ I replied.