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She was wearing grey  patterned tights with brown boots. Skirt with early 90’s print, oversized jumper that was attempted to shape with a wide double belt over it, hoodie on top and a bag that had the kind of plastic fabric paint splodges over it – like you used to DIY back in the day. The nineties. It is 2011 and the nineties are retro but 14 is still a hard age.

Her mate was really just a very tall child. A boy, the only hint of man was his size. Desperately in love with her, trying to make her laugh, attempting to get closer to her, to touch her hair then losing his nerve and stepping back. Pretending to find out which way they were going.

The gooseberry was a clueless boy, big hair frizzy hair that in 10 years will look cool or will have disappeared, oversized clothes, unwashed, skin-issued, uneasy and clueless about his mate’s attempt. If he was in the way, it wasn’t his problem.

Three children were sleeping on the Tube chairs, Dad manages to wake up the elder two but the littlest one cannot wake up. He’s maybe three and no matter how much his father shakes him, his eyes do not open. Dad even attempts to just stand up his sleeping son. This, for obvious reasons, does not work. I want to shake the father and tell him to pick up the child you lazy bastard!

A man bending over to grab his gloves from his bag shows the world his lower back hair – unnecessary. Still he wears a wedding ring. A contradiction personified.

Friends say goodbye to each other a little too soon, there is that awkward two minutes where everyone’s been hugged and hands are shaken and still we haven’t arrived at the tube station and the doors stay closed. A quick touch with the fists when they finally leave seems contrived for their age and ethnicity.

When I pick up some milk at the cornershop, the man looks at my suitcase and asks me where I have been. Home I answer. Am I studying here? I was but now I am looking for a job. What kind of job? I’m a writer I say. He thinks this is funny and starts to laugh out loud. I’m not sure how to react to this and pay for the milk. When I leave the shop, he is still laughing.  Whatever it is that has set this off I hope that it makes him happy. I might have to find another cornershop though.

Ah London. Bittersweet, extremity and contradiction filled city. Welcome back.

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